WASHINGTON: US Vice President Joe Biden, speaking this week with Newsweek, said the Taliban “per se is not our enemy”.
Biden suggested the Taliban only represented an inherent threat if it allowed al Qaeda to strike against the US. “That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens US interests,” he said.
Even after a surge in US troops in Afghanistan has pushed Taliban militants out of much of their southern stronghold, the group’s intentions regarding peace talks remain unclear.
A senior Taliban commander, speaking after US officials’ description of the peace process was published on Sunday, denied the movement was engaged in talks with the US.
“Our position on talks remains the same. All occupying forces have to leave Afghanistan. Then we can talk,” the commander told Reuters from an undisclosed location.
The Taliban might be denying taking part in initial discussions to shore up morale among fighters on the ground.
Meanwhile, a key Republican US senator warned against negotiating with the Taliban, illustrating the risk the Obama administration is taking by considering a prisoner transfer as part of a bid to end the Afghan war. US officials told Reuters a transfer of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay could be one confidence-building measure.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.