Even as President Obama sends 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan and intends to spend $140 bn on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2009, rumors of negotiations with Taliban elements keep surfacing.
The Dari Persian Afghan newspaper Chiragh editorialized on February 23, 2009, on the possibility that cooperation against the Taliban might prove grounds for an improvement in Iran-American relations (USG Open Source Translation ):
‘ Over recent days, high ranking authorities in Iran and America have arrived in Kabul one after the other to visit Afghan government authorities. (Passage omitted: visits by Iranian First Vice-President Parviz Davudi, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi)
Now, the terrorism concern is not only threatening Afghanistan, it has also created joint concerns for the authorities of America and Iran. The three countries are concerned about the Taleban reorganizing and reinforcing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
With no doubt, we can say that, despite the confrontation of America and Iran’s interests in the world, both countries have been trying to establish security in Afghanistan over the past seven years and they have indirectly invested in the same project.
However, with the new reshuffles in the US cabinet the confrontation between America and Iran slowly turning into an equation, the current concern, like the Taleban and other terrorist factions reorganizing, is a pretext that has been created as an opportunity for America and Iran to correct their relations using Afghanistan.
Kabul has been regarded as a threat to the regional countries before, but now the political players in Iran and America have selected Afghanistan as a focus of their peace and coordination.
Understanding the value of the time and opportunity will lead the leaders of Afghanistan to follow a practical strategy, to use a chance before it is terminated. ‘
Aljazeera English gives an exclusive report on the British role behind the scenes in kickstarting negotiations between Gulbadin Hikmatyar of the Hizb-i Islami and the Karzai government. Apparently the hope is that Hikmatyar would go into exile in Saudi Arabia for a while and then ultimately receive amnesty and return to Afghanistan.
What we now call the “Taliban” are actually 5 distinct groups and movements: 1) The Old Taliban of Mulla Omar, now based in Quetta, Pakistan; 2) the Hizb-i Islami [Islamic Party] of former prime minister and warlord, Gulbadin Hikmatyar; 3) the followers of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani; 4) the Taliban Movement of Pakistan in that country’s tribal agencies; and 5) disgruntled Pushtun villagers who object to foreign troops on their soil or whose poppy crops were forcibly eradicated, leaving them destitute. Hikmatyar and Haqqani at one time or another were opposed to the Old Taliban, but have now allied with them. According to the Pajhwok News Network, a joint US and Afghan patrol targeted a militant of the Haqqani group near Khost on Thursday, capturing 6 militants and some light arms.
Some speculate that the alleged British negotiations with Hikmatyar may be aimed at detaching the Hizb-i Islami from its current Taliban allies.
While the Hikmatyar talks may prove fruitful if they are as Aljazeera represents them, other negotiations may not work out. Elements of the “Old Taliban” of Mulla Omar based in Quetta seem to be willing to talk with the government of Hamid Karzai, though they insist that the withdrawal of US and NATO troops is the precondition for social peace in that country. They also insist that post-American Afghanistan be ruled by their rigid interpretation of Islamic law and be completely independent of the US. In other words, their demands are so maximal that it is hard to see how they can produce meaningful compromise.
Meanwhile, the British government has admitted turning over two persons captured in Iraq to the US, which transported them to the Bagram base in Afghanistan, where they were likely put under severe duress.
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