Taliban leadership talks "long overdue"

IssueMay 2010
News by Gabriel Carlyle

Talks with the Taliban leadership are “long overdue”, the UN’s former envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, told the BBC World Service in mid-March. Also in March, the Washington Post claimed that the British government had “taken the lead in promoting a negotiated settlement” in Afghanistan in the face of “overwhelming domestic opposition” to the presence of British troops there.

Further evidence that London may be taking negotiations more seriously, despite continued American intransigence, was provided in an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute – who was described as having been “at the heart of policy making in Whitehall and [still] close to government thinking” – told the programme in late March that there was: “a considerable appetite [in the British government] for looking at the possibilities for reconciliation, for providing a role for even the most senior Taliban leaders in Afghan politics at a local level and even at the national level, providing the links with al-Qa’eda are broken”.

Meanwhile, former Taliban commander Hajji Gholam Mohammad told the Institute of War and Peace Reporting on 11 April: “The government and the international community do not seem honest to me in this regard because they talk about negotiations on one hand and intensify war against the opposition on the other.”

Gholam Mohammad, now leader of a government militia in eastern Afghanistan, added: “The process of negotiation between the government and the Taleban is futile. The government just talks about it but it is not [even] clear whether it has a mandate. I think it is just media propaganda. As far as I am concerned, there is a big difference between the government and the Taleban’s goals and neither wants to change.”

A national reconciliation conference (“jirga”) to be convened by Afghan president Hamid Karzai in early May may provide some clarification.

Topics: Afghanistan