Wide distrust imperils talks on Afghanistan

Peaceful 2014 pullout in doubt

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“President Karzai has felt left out of crucial contacts, like Qatar, at least initially, and this clearly contradicts the Western line of an ‘Afghan-led’ [process], which was lip service in most of the cases anyway,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul.

Afghan officials insist that the process must be Afghan-led if it is to succeed.

“Without a leading role for the government of Afghanistan, everybody understands that this process will not go anywhere,” said a second Afghan official.

Mr. Karzai’s own efforts to take the lead have been thwarted by the Taliban, which refuses to talk to what it considers a “puppet” government.

Former militants on the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, which is tasked with reconciliation, serve as a conduit to the Taliban.

“Through their personal connections, you can do things that you cannot otherwise,” said the second Afghan official.

Previous efforts to initiate talks with the Taliban have been stopped in their tracks by deceit and death.

In 2010, Western officials were duped by an impostor claiming to represent the Taliban. In September, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led the High Peace Council, was assassinated by a man who said he was a Taliban negotiator.

Afghan officials say the talks so far with the Taliban have been exploratory.

“What we have done is to make sure that we are talking to the right people, that they have access to the right chain of command,” said the second Afghan official.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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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