Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reconciliation With The Taliban – An Impossibly Implementable Plan

By: Zabihullah Noori

Afghan President Hamid Karzai – a character out of favor not only among world leaders, but also among many Afghans -- seeks ways to regain fame by bringing the Taliban around the negotiation table.

Many Afghans consider Karzai's second term as illegitimate because of scandalous fraudulent votes in the August 20, 2009 presidential elections. Since stepping into office for a second term, Karzai's first goal has become legitimizing his government. Therefore, he has been running around in different parts of the world trying to drum up support for his administration. Going to Turkey for regional talks; attending the London Conference to present a peace deal with the Taliban; traveling to Saudi Arabia to gain support for the deal; participating in the Munich Security Conference and demanding support for increasing Afghan troops to 300,000 are
some examples of his efforts in this matter.

To continue to gain international support, Karzai has called upon the international community to allocate more resources to the Afghan government and to train the Afghan security forces to gradually become able to take control of country's security. Karzai’s reintegration initiative has
apparently won international backing, though without forming a concrete mechanism for reconciliations.

To respond to Karzai's call for supporting the Afghan security forces, President Barack Obama approved the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in December.

There are two different perspectives that must be considered concerning the reconciliation with the Taliban. On one hand, the international community seems to have realized that the Afghan battle cannot be won with military operations alone. On the other hand, President Karzai demands negotiation with the Taliban because, according to him, the Afghan Taliban who are not associated or ideologically committed to Al Qaeda should be given a chance to re-join the mainstream society.

In the past, Karzai has repeatedly called up on the Taliban to embrace the Afghan constitution and join the political process, but none of those green lights have been welcomed to date partly because those calls did not echo with the support of the international community.

The Taliban's response to Karzai's call for negotiations has always had pre-requisites for the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, the removal of the Taliban Supreme Leader's name from the UN blacklist, and a considerable power-sharing deal that neither Karzai nor the international community can accept.

It has been observed that any time Karzai calls for negotiation with the Taliban, the Taliban launches a series of offensive attacks as a sign of declining the offer to talk.

As recently as January 26, 2010 -- just two days ahead of the London Conference, where the issue of negotiations with the Taliban was planned to be the main focus of the conference – the Taliban launched a massive attack in central Kabul some 50- meters away from Karzai's palace, where Karzai's new cabinet members were being sworn in. In the massive offense which, according to some experts, was "a show of power", at least seven insurgents, equipped with rifles and machine guns and wearing suicide vests attacked key government locations in Kabul and fought against the US-trained Afghan forces for about six hours.

Lately, the international community and Karzai’s government have come up with alternatives to the Taliban's demands, offering immunity, jobs and other monetary benefits to encourage the Taliban to lay down their arms. This approach will be a waste of effort, as it will encourage ordinary unemployed civilians, particularly those who live in the tribal areas, to join the Taliban temporarily or to claim that they had been part of the Taliban just to return back and get the government-allocated benefits. The Taliban's ideological demands are solidly-defined -- the withdrawal of international troops and a considerable share in Kabul’s government.

A Taliban spokesman said that the Taliban’s mandate does not allow talks in such circumstances- while Afghanistan is "occupied by infidel forces."

According to the Taliban spokesman, the Taliban does not trust Karzai and his
allies because they talk about reconciliation while simultaneously increasing the number of troops that are fighting against Taliban.

Since there is no sign of willingness from the Taliban to come forward for a negotiation, Karzai's call for negotiation may therefore remain a dream that will never come true.

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