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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More