Afghanistan: US in ‘secret’ talks with Taliban



Afghanistan: US in ‘secret’ talks with Taliban

Kabul, 19 June (AKI) – The United States is alleged to have stepped up secret talks with the Taliban in a bid to resolve the escalating conflict in Afghanistan, an Italian magazine claimed on Friday. The latest edition of Panorama said that the Obama administration had given “new life” to a strategy begun by the previous Bush administration last September to negotiate with “moderate” Taliban leaders.

Despite the imminent arrival of 21,000 new US troops in Afghanistan, the US state department and the monarchy of Saudi Arabia are reported to be working together to improve dialogue with the Afghan Taliban.

Panorama said since late last year it was an open secret that western officials and representatives of Taliban leader Mullah Omar had met.

“You should not think of these as peace talks like the Paris peace talks between (former US secretary of state) Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam,” said Ettore Sequi, European Union special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“There are channels of communication that exist with the fragmented Taliban groups. The main question is: can we fight for years excluding that portion of these groups who are part of the fabric of the country?”

The popular weekly magazine recounted details of a meeting involving representatives of Mullah Omar and founder of the Hezb-i-Islami (or Islamic party), Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, senior Afghan officials and the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Saudi “facilitators”.

US businessmen, diplomats and European and Arab intelligence services were also involved.

Arsala Rahmani, a former Afghan prime minister, now supports reconciliation and asked King Abdullah to invite former allies of Mullah Omar to meet for talks.

In November the Taliban met again in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Karachi deciding to continue negotiations.

According to Panorama, the Taliban is demanding a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign troops from their bases and evacuation within 18 months as well as the creation of a provisional government and a Muslim peacekeeping force.

All these demands are unacceptable to the international community but the negotiators are reportedly working on an alternative ‘roadmap’ to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan.

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