The United States has established contacts with elusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar to negotiate an end to the conflict in Afghanistan. A former Afghan Taliban spokesman has played a key role in the US-Taliban communication, a source told The Express Tribune.
Abdul Haqiq, who was operating under the alias of Dr Mohammad Hanif as an Afghan Taliban spokesman, is said to have helped Washington reach out to Mullah Omar.
Dr Hanif was arrested by US and Afghan intelligence agents from a secret location in Afghanistan in June 2007. He was one of the high-profile Afghan Taliban spokesmen along with Yousuf Ahmadi, appointed after chief spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi was arrested in October 2005 in Pakistan.
So far, several claims have been made by the US about negotiations with the Taliban but Islamabad and Kabul have never been taken into confidence over the much speculated-about talks.
According to reports, the US had offered the Taliban control over the south of Afghanistan, while leaving the north for the other political forces under American influence. However, this was rejected by the Taliban.
“The acceptance of such a proposal could not be possible for the Taliban as it could lead to the disintegration of Afghanistan,” said former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Gen (retd) Hamid Gul.
However, a Pakistani diplomat in Kabul remains optimistic about the talks. “The Taliban are aware that it will be difficult to defeat foreign troops in Afghanistan, or capture the entire country,” he said, adding, “Similarly, the US is also aware that it cannot defeat the Taliban in the next few years.”
On the other hand, a senior official in the Foreign Office is not as sure of the success of the US-Taliban talks. “Such talks are bound to fail as Washington is trying to achieve its goals without taking [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai into confidence. If at all the Afghan Taliban agree to the reconciliation talks, their preference will be with Afghan leaders over foreign forces,” the official argued.
Central Asian diplomats in Islamabad have also expressed their doubts about the practicability of the US-Taliban talks.
“On the one hand, the US is building six permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and on the other, talking about the withdrawal of its troops from the country,” an ambassador of a Central Asian state was quoted by a Foreign Office official as saying .
Iranian and Russian diplomats in Islamabad are also doubtful of an actual and meaningful US-led foreign troops’ pullout from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, chief of the Afghan High Peace Council Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani told the Afghan House of Representatives earlier this month that his council had made contacts with the Afghan Taliban. He further told the house that the Taliban were not willing to trust the Afghan government’s reconciliation process. “The Taliban nurse doubts about Kabul’s initiative,” he said.
The council during the last five years also contacted other armed opposition leaders such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as well as the Haqqani network, Rabbani claimed.
The council had previously said it had made direct and indirect contacts with the Afghan Taliban leadership, but the Taliban still seem to be insistent on their call for a withdrawal of US and Nato forces from Afghanistan as a pre-condition for talks with Kabul.
However, the Afghan parliament said that the achievements of the council have so far been satisfactory.
Former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan Rustum Shah Mohmand is also doubtful about the sincerity on the part of Kabul for the success of the so-called Afghan reconciliation effort. Mohmand told The Express Tribune that those who are enjoying government privileges in Afghanistan are not interested in the success of the effort.
“In real terms, such privileged people are opposed to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as they are very well aware that they will also have to pack up as soon as foreign troops are withdrawn,” he observed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2011.