Monday 10 September 2012

Further indications Taliban wants to negotiate

A RUSI paper examining Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation, written by Michael Semple, Theo Farrell, Anatol Lieven and Rudra Chaudhuri, can be found here.
Like Semple's last paper, it relies on his extensive contacts with elements of the Taliban leadership to explore three issues: Taliban links to al-Qaeda; the potential for a ceasefire and the continuing presence of US forces in the country.
Last time round, in July, the Taliban wasted no time in characterising Semple's contact as "mentally insane" for suggesting that many Taliban supporters regarded al-Qaeda as a "plague". 

This time, the four unnamed Taliban figures interviewed say that the organisation's leadership and base deeply regret their past association with al-Qaeda and that they would obey a call by Mullah Omar to renounce any links and prevent them operating on Afghan soil. They are even willing to allow US forces to stay on Afghan soil under certain circumstances.
It is clear that there is a strong faction within the Taliban that is willing to discuss a ceasefire. Only yesterday, in a statement issued to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban reiterated its attitude towards al-Qaeda: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again clarifies to the entire world including America that we are neither a threat to anyone nor will we let our soil be used to harm anyone. It is our due legal and religious right to defend our homeland and establish in it an Islamic system and we shall continue with our sacred struggle and Jihad against the invaders until we attain this right and we sincerely believe in being victorious in achieving this ambition and defeating the enemy."

The only thing now holding up negotiations is the American political process, where it is considered bad form to negotiate important deals that a successor administration may have to implement. Even if he is re-elected, Obama's team will no doubt waste further months attempting to ensure any settlement does not look like a military defeat for US forces.
Update: Predictably, the Taliban quickly issued a statement denying that it was willing to accept the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, calling it "fatuous jibber-jabber". The statement continued: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this malicious and strictly propaganda based report of the said think-tank and declares it has no plans of prolonging the American invasion of Afghanistan even for a single day. Our religion, national interests, national pride and values forbid us from making such illegitimate deals or agreeing to the continuation of invasion or accepting their revolting presence due to fear and our own safety. We believe that this report by the so called think-tank, based on the opinions of a few anonymous faces, is fabricated and consider it the direct work and move of the intelligence circles prepared for its people and for raising the moral of its defeated troops."

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