A new publication from the Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics provides a useful summary of the background to the discussion on negotiating with the Taliban.
Negotiating with the Taliban: Toward a solution for the Afghan Conflict, is largely written by Talatbek Masadykov, together with Antonio Giustozzi and James Michael Page.
Masadyakov is currently Chief of the Political Affairs Division of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). In order to prepare this paper he took four months research leave in 2008, which he spent as a Visiting Fellow at the Crisis States Research Centre and travelling around the region.
One section of the report stands out and I will quote it at length:
"(The United Nations') List 1267 − expanded after September 11, 2001 and last updated on October 10, 2008 − now features 142 individuals associated with the Taliban,and 243 individuals and 113 entities or other groups and undertakings associated with Al Qaida. Despite reconciliation with the Karzai government by senior listed Taliban such as Mullah Mutawakil, Mullah Zaeef, Mullah Salaam Rocketi, Mullah Khaksar and others, none has been de-listed, largely as a result of differences among permanent UNSC members.
"Up to one third of those Taliban now on the Consolidated List also feature on ISAF and OEF target lists. Several have been killed in combat. Under heavy pressure from the US and the UK,Pakistan has placed a small number of anti-government elements under house arrest in Quetta and elsewhere. This has not prevented them from continuing to exercise authority in their respective organisations.
"The vast majority of insurgent commanders now operating in Afghanistan are not listed: they are too young to have participated in the Taliban regime. Apart from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani themselves, almost no Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin or Haqqani network commanders feature on the Consolidated List."
A very useful and timely publication, particularly in the light of reports that the UN head of mission in Afghanistan, Kai Ede, met with representatives of the Taliban in Dubai earlier this month. Today, the Taliban's Leadership Council denied the reports: " The Leadership Council considers this mere futile and baseless rumours, being a machination against Jihad and Mujahideen who are waging Jihad against the invaders. The Leadership Council once again emphasises continuation of Islamic Jihad against all invaders as a means to frustrate these conspiracies."