Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taliban in Secret Talks with Afghan President Karzai

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taliban in Secret Talks with Afghan President Karzai

Article excerpt

In a significant shift, Taliban representatives and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai have begun backroom high- level talks to aimed at negotiating the end of the war.

In a significant shift, the Afghan government and members of the Taliban have begun high-level, secret talks as a precursor to official talks aimed at ending the war.

To date, the Taliban have rejected coming to the peace table, citing the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, among other issues. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also been less than willing to talk, and while American officials support reconciliation talks, they have cited the need for all parties to accept the Afghan Constitution and renounce violence.

"The peace process takes a lot of time, but we are optimistic," says Hamed Elmi, deputy spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Preparation for the High Peace Council?

The secret meetings began as a result of Taliban officials reaching out to local Afghan leaders and military commanders, says Mr. Elmi, deputy spokesman for Mr. Karzai. "We have brilliant people who are the 68 members [of the recently appointed High Peace Council], and I'm sure these people can bring most of the opposition [parties] to dialogue and to peace and normal life."

Unnamed Afghan and Arab sources say that, for the first time, the Taliban's representatives may be authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the top leaders of the Afghan Taliban, including Mullah Omar, who are based in Pakistan, according to the Washington Post.

Still, a number of observers have questioned the ability of the Karzai government's appointments for the High Peace Council to broker a lasting deal. The council is composed predominantly of fierce opponents of the Taliban who hold little sway with the Islamic group.

"If this government was really serious about having conversations with the insurgency beyond sort of cosmetic conversations, we would have seen an entirely different lineup on the High Peace Council," says Candace Rondeaux, the International Crisis Group's senior analyst for Afghanistan, noting the presence of warlords, among others, in the group. …

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