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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
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.
AppleAndroid