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Without bin Laden, Taliban may talk peace
Question of the Day
Osama bin Laden’s death in a U.S. commando raid could shock Taliban militants, who once sheltered the al Qaeda leader, into peace talks with the Afghan government, according to Afghanistan’s ambassador in Washington.
In an interview with The Washington Times, Ambassador Eklil Hakimi also urged the White House to resist calls to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan prematurely and warned that al Qaeda is still a threat.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has set three conditions for reconciliation of Taliban militants: They must lay down their arms, renounce al Qaeda and respect the Afghan Constitution. The reconciliation process has had limited success.
Mr. Karzai said the attack was “revenge” for bin Laden’s death.
However, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James B. Laster, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, said the violence “clearly was intended to be a spring offensive spectacular attack.”
“I think there’s going to be a lot of strong feeling on the part of most Democrats and many … and even some Republicans that the decision of the president to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan should be a robust reduction,” Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week.
President Obama has committed to starting a troop withdrawal in July.
He also noted that Afghanistan became less important to the United States after U.S. attention shifted to Iraq in 2003. U.S. forces toppled the Taliban, when it refused to give up bin Laden after the al Qaeda leader planned the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We all witnessed the consequences of those decisions,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we will come to the conclusion that getting only a symbolic leader without dealing with the [terrorist] network is something that we should be careful about,” Mr. Hakimi said.
“We want to stress, the job is not done yet,” he added.
Michael Semple, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said he has heard from many members of the Taliban who now say they doubt the wisdom of prolonging their military campaign against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
“They would like to see a political way of moving forward, and they will see [bin Laden’s death] as an opportunity,” said Mr. Semple, who served as the deputy to the European Union’s envoy to Afghanistan from 2004 until 2007.
The al Qaeda leader was killed in an early morning raid on his hide-out last week in Abbottabad, a garrison town 30 miles from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The compound in which bin Laden had been hiding is located less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul - Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.
“We Afghans know our country and region better and expect our international friends and allies to listen to us.”
“I believe that every Taliban leader in the past few days has been thinking, ‘Who’s next?’ ” Mr. Semple said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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