Doubts Haunt Taliban Peace Talks As U.S. Tries To End Afghan War
Escorted from Pakistan by NATO forces, high-level Taliban leaders have reportedly been joining in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his administration. American officials are ostensibly close at hand for the tenuous negotiations, which bring together some bitterly entrenched factions.
These are said to include: "members of the Quetta shura, the leadership group that oversees the Taliban war effort inside Afghanistan; leaders of the Haqqani network, considered to be one of the most hard-line guerrilla factions; and members of the Peshawar shura, whose fighters are based in eastern Afghanistan."
But at closer look, it is uncertain that that the Haqqani network is actually involved in the talks, or that representatives from other factions actually hold power.
And behind the scenes, perhaps most disturbing of all, is Pakistan itself. Pakistan has provided shelter for the Taliban leaders and reportedly encouraged the Taliban to avoid entering into negotiations with the U.S.
Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday that the U.S. is negotiating "from a position of weakness." The irony is that Pakistan has helped put the U.S. into that position.
Although the country has long been an American ally, the relationship has soured in the new century. Leaders from the U.S. and Pakistan have continued to exchange platitudes (and Pakistani officials are actually in Washington D.C. this week for more of the same), but there is an unbridled militancy underneath.
The primary issue: Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has a stronghold over the region, and is actively working against the peace process in Afghanistan. The ISI is not to be trifled with, and there is evidence that the agency has been involved in terror activities like the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Foreign Policy points out the U.S.'s compromising position: "It is a nauseating image: officials of a government nominally allied to the United States working with terrorists to plan a murderous attack on innocents as a marketing ploy on behalf of their stone cold terrorists of choice. Nauseating, but despite Pakistani denials that it is baseless, with the unmistakable ring of truth."
Oh yeah, and it's also likely that Osama bin Laden - plus a number of his al-Qaeda buddies - is living comfortably in Pakistan too. Of course Pakistan's leadership wouldn't know anything about that, right?
So we have friendly-looking talks between America and Pakistan that may actually conceal highly divergent interests (read: we're frenemies at best), and Afghan/Taliban treaty negotiations with participants that may hold little or no power.
All the while, the War in Afghanistan drains an American economy that can't afford it (not to mention the European member nations of NATO). Perhaps the appearance of meaningful talks is better than no talks at all.
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