Saturday 6 February 2010

More information on 2008 Taliban talks in Mecca

With the possibility of talks between the Afghan government and its Taliban foes now taking a central role, it is worth taking a look at an article by Hamid Mir, published in The News, which gives the fullest account published so far of the talks that took place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in September 2008.
According to Mir:
"The Afghan Taliban in the Makkah talks were represented by their former foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, former minister Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, and Afghanistan’s last ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef. It is said the trio had travelled to Makkah to perform Umra, but sources said they were hosted as official guests of the Saudi government. They were also among those who attended the Iftar-cum-dinner party of King Abdullah on September 29, 2008. The Afghanistan government delegation was led by former chief justice Maulvi Abdul Hadi Shinwari and included, among others, Abdul Salam Rocketi, a Taliban commander under Mullah Omar who eventually surrendered to the US."
Mir says the talks foundered over Taliban demands that all US and foreign forces leave the country before they would consider such questions as handing over Osama bin Laden or signing up to support the Afghan constitution.
He also says that Prince Turki al-Faisal played an important role in convening the talks. Prior to the talks, the Saudis also sent an emissary to North Waziristan to meet with the Afghan Taliban leadership. At one point it was hoped the emissary might be able to meet with al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri. The meeting never took place and only lower-level Taliban leaders made themselves available, possibly for security reasons.
The make-up of the Taliban delegation to Mecca explains how the Taliban can claim that no official representatives were present at the talks. All three men are former Taliban ministers who live under the Karzai regime and have renounced violence, but who retain links with their former comrades.

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