News / Asia

Analysts Cautious About Chances for Taliban Peace Talks

A former Taliban militant, center,  holds the national flag of Afghanistan as others stand while they are seen during a joining ceremony with the Afghan government in Ghazni, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, January 16, 2012.
A former Taliban militant, center, holds the national flag of Afghanistan as others stand while they are seen during a joining ceremony with the Afghan government in Ghazni, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, January 16, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Gary Thomas

News that the Afghan Taliban will be opening an office in the Gulf state of Qatar triggered speculation about possible talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan, but analysts caution against excessive optimism about any deal.

Announcement of the Qatar office came in a statement earlier this month from the Taliban group believed to be based in Quetta, Pakistan.  Many of the insurgents who attack U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan have safe havens in Pakistan.  

Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute says the U.S. has been talking not only with the Taliban about opening a political office, but also has been prodding President Hamid Karzai to accept such a setup.  

"I'm surprised it took so long," Weinbaum said. "This has been an American initiative."

The U.S. currently plans to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2014, assuming that Afghan military and police forces are able to assume security responsibilities.  Analysts say the Qatar office will give the U.S. a channel to talk to Taliban leaders in a neutral area.  

Karzai said he agreed to the Qatar arrangement, but would have preferred a Taliban office in Turkey or Saudi Arabia.  There is considerable suspicion that the Taliban is not really interested in a political settlement that would lead to some kind of power-sharing arrangement, such as division of government ministries.

"Why on earth would they compromise when their end goal is a sharia [Islamic law] state?" Weinbaum said. "They're Pashtuns, sure, but they're Islamists first."

U.S. officials have repeatedly said any political settlement should be "Afghan-led."  But the Taliban pointedly made no mention of the Kabul government when it announced the Qatar oiffice.  It said the two "main parties" in the conflict are the Taliban and the U.S. and its allies.  It also called for the release of several key Taliban leaders from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Taliban also made no mention of Pakistan, which sees itself as having a major interest in any political settlement in Afghanistan.  Pakistan is an erstwhile ally of the U.S. in fighting extremism, but the U.S. has also accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban elements as a hedge against India's bid for political and economic influence in Afghanistan.  The Washington-Islamabad relationship has deteriorated considerably in recent months.

Larry Goodson, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, said the Taliban considers the Karzai government illegitimate.  He believes opening the liaison office is simply a bid by the Taliban to buy time until the U.S. and its allies leave Afghanistan.

"I think it's a gambit, if you will, by the Taliban, but also by their Pakistan supporters to prepare for the situation as the U.S. prepares to withdraw," he said. "I absolutely think they are trying to present themselves as independent from Pakistan.  But having said that, I don't think they really are."

Goodson, who has long experience in Afghan-Pakistani affairs, also notes that Pakistan has supported one of the more lethal Taliban factions, the Haqqani network.  He says it is possible Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, may play a double game, supporting one faction in negotiations while supporting the Haqqanis' military operations.

"[The Taliban] have us over a barrel because, regardless of any liaison office the Taliban seek, they still get rest and recuperation and resupply in Pakistan," Goodson said.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid