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.
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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs