An unsigned statement that appeared on the Taliban's website on Friday offers some interesting food for thought. The most important sentence in the statement reads as follows: "The Afghans, particularly the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, has no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan."
This is new and worth exploring in greater detail. Does it mean that al-Qaeda will be held to the same guarantee? How could it be enforced? Is this the majority view of the Quetta Shura? What about Hekmatyar and Haqqani?
The statement goes on to blame foreign forces for what it calls the "chaotic situation" in the country. "They handed over power to notorious warlords, venal officials and mafia-linked governors," says the statement.
It continues by noting that ISAF convoys are being escorted by "murderous militias involved in kidnapping and extortion of arbitrary taxes" who use official vehicles to transport heroin.
This latter point is undoubtedly true, and was the subject of an article in the Army Times on Wednesday (which is where the person who wrote the Taliban statement probably saw it). Sean Naylor's article refers to convoy escorts "wreaking havoc as they pass through western Kandahar province, undermining the coalition's counterinsurgency strategy".
The Taliban article also castigates the Karzai government for giving government land to warlords. "Government land in Shirpur, located to the north-east of the Kabul city is a good example. Once a property of the Ministry of Defense, now it is a posh area usurped by the warlords who have built luxurious houses there."
Again, this is true, but an old story, first reported in 2003 , when Karzai allocated government land to 30 of his ministers and officials. Squatters who had lived there for 20 years were evicted.
The statement makes it clear that even if the Taliban accept the principle of negotiation, they will not lay down their arms until all foreign forces have left the country.
One final point to note about this statement. It says that Afghanistan has become the location for a proxy war between different intelligence services. "Bomb blasts in public places are the work of these agencies," it says. India and Pakistan take note.
14 hours ago