Afghan militants return to peace talks

‘More realism’ seen after foiled attack

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The Karzai government has struggled to take the lead in a peace process that has been dominated by the United States.

Interactions with the militants often have been shrouded in secrecy. However, in an unusual move, Mr. Karzai’s office released a statement and photograph of the president meeting with the Hizb-e-Islami delegation this week.

U.S. officials say they want the process to be Afghan-led, but the Taliban have refused to talk with the Karzai government and derisively refer to it as a Western puppet.

Michael Semple of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School played down the significance of Hizb-i-Islami’s participation in the peace talks.

“I doubt that the current [Hizb-i-Islami] delegation has the capacity to affect either Kabul politics or the insurgency,” Mr. Semple said.

“The Afghan Taliban movement is by far the most significant insurgent actor, and any process without its full involvement is a sideshow,” he added.

Mr. Stanekzai himself was seriously wounded when a Taliban suicide bomber assassinated Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and chairman of the High Peace Council in Kabul in September.

Last month, Hizb-i-Islami followed the Taliban’s lead by suspending peace talks with the United States.

Pakistan’s role

The Taliban’s decision was motivated in part by the Obama administration’s insistence that the Karzai government play a lead role in the talks. The militants also were angered by a delay in Washington to act on their demand that five high-value detainees be released from U.S. military detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Afghan government, the Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami have had sporadic and uncoordinated contacts since 2004, but terms of engagement were never spelled out properly.

Pakistan’s role is key to any peace process in Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan officials say Pakistan provides material support and safe havens to the terrorists. The Pakistan-based Haqqani Network is perceived to be a lethal threat to the peace process.

U.S. officials blamed the Haqqani Network for the coordinated attacks in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan this week.

Afghan officials say the Haqqani Network - led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin - is a “gang of criminals” with which their government will not negotiate.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

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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