Talking with the Taliban

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Click here for part 2 of this Al Jazeera Inside Story report on the beginnings of peace negotiations in Afghanistan.

Negotiated peace takes tentative step

Former Taliban envoy describes meeting on Afghanistan as an ‘icebreaker’

Peter Goodspeed, National Post Published: Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The first hint surfaced three weeks ago, when France’s Prime Minister told a parliamentary hearing he favoured a negotiated peace in Afghanistan.

“We must explore ways of separating the international jihadists from those who are acting more for nationalist or tribal motives,” Francois Fillon said. “Efforts in this direction are being led by Sunni countries, such as Saudi Arabia.”

Over the next few days, Taliban leaders and officials in Afghanistan denied categorically any peace talks were taking place.

When The Observer newspaper in London reported Saudi Arabia was already engaged in brokering secret peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, everyone allegedly involved denied it.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the Taliban slammed the report as “false claims by the enemy” in a propaganda campaign designed to create divisions among Muslims.

But a day later, on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan

President, told reporters he wants Taliban leaders to return home. Article continues . . .

Obama and McCain’s Goofy Afghan Bluster

By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch, October 7, 2008

The first serious talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban took place ten days ago in Mecca under the auspices of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. During the discussions all sides agreed that the war in Afghanistan is going to be solved by dialogue and not by fighting. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar was not present but his representatives said he was no longer allied to al Qa’ida.

The admission by a senior British General Mark Carleton-Smith over the weekend that absolute military victory in Afghanistan is impossible has been overtaken by the talks in Mecca. “If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that’s precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this,” said Gen Carleton-Smith. “That shouldn’t make people uncomfortable.”

This sounds as if Britain’s latest military venture in Afghanistan is going to end in a retreat with none of its ill-defined objectives achieved. In the US an understanding of the real situation on the ground has been slower in coming. John McCain and Barack Obama still speak as if a few more brigades of American soldiers sent to chase the Taliban around the mountains of southern Afghanistan would change the outcome of the war.

US policy in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has been constantly denigrated as a recipe for self-inflicted disaster. But President Bush’s policy in Afghanistan on the wake of the fall of the Taliban was just as catastrophically misconceived. In both countries the administration’s agenda was primarily geared to using military victory to make sure that the Republicans won elections at home. Article continues . . .

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