Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has supported a proposal to open an office for the Taliban in a third country such as Turkey. Such a move could help facilitate talks with the insurgent group on reconciliation and reintegration of members back into society, and Kabul was happy for Turkey to be a venue for such a process, he said last week, following a trilateral summit involving the presidents of Turkey and Pakistan.
The question is while a legitimate calling card for the Taliban would be a step forward, the insurgent group itself shows no signs yet of stepping out of the shadows, despite the best entreaties of and some of his European backers. The Taliban remain steadfast in their stand that they won’t talk to the Afghan government unless foreign troops leave the country. More so at the present time when U.S. commander General David Petraeus has intensified the battle against them and the Taliban have responded in equal measure.
Perhaps some elements of the Taliban may not be averse to the idea of a parallel engagement to the battlefield but then so amorphous and diffused is the nature of the group that it only complicates the picture further, as The Nation wrote in an editorial.
Nevertheless, the idea of a representative office for the Taliban is a major step forward in efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict, says Strafor’s Kamran Bokhari. First, it gives the Taliban the political legitimacy they have been demanding for years, he says. Second with Turkey jumping into the fray, the idea may not be that far fetched. While Pakistan may not be most credible partner in seeking a settlement given its close ties to the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups, Turkey carries enough weight both in the United States and the Islamic world to be able to nudge the different players along.
Even before Saturday’s horrific attack in which at least 40 people were killed in Pakistan’s Bajaur region on the Afghan border, the current year is turning out to be the most successful for suicide bombers in the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
According to an analysis by Amir Mir in The News, 1224 people were killed and more than 2100 wounded in sucide bombings during the year, slightly up from the previous year which was itself a record since Pakistan signed up for the war on terrorism. The number of suicide attacks, by itself, fell by as much as 35 percent, which means the attacks that took place had a greater strike rate.
from Tales from the Trail:
On a day when the most powerful people in Washington were discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan, there was one man who might be excused for looking a little shell-shocked.
Frank Ruggiero, who stepped in as acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) following the sudden death of his boss Richard Holbrooke on Monday, had little time to prepare for his first big outing as President Barack Obama's pointman for the biggest foreign policy headache facing the administration.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry defended the use of night raids during a trip to a volatile province southwest of Kabul on Wednesday after some community leaders berated him over a cup of tea about the controversial tactic.
The Taliban-led insurgency has a heavy presence in parts of Ghazni province, which was plagued by violence during the fraud-marred September parliamentary elections. All the winners in the province were ethnic Hazaras even though around half of Ghazni’s population is Pashtun.
A White House review of U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy for the nearly decade long war in Afghanistan, due to be released later on Thursday, will report that foreign forces are making headway against the insurgency but that hefty challenges remain.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Reading through some of the many thousands of words written about Richard Holbrooke, for me two stories stood out in their ability to capture what will be lost with his death:
The first was in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's obituary in the Washington Post:
"While beleaguered members of Mr. Holbrooke's traveling party sought sleep on transcontinental flights, he usually would stay up late reading. On one trip to Pakistan, he padded to the forward of the cabin in his stocking feet to point out to a reporter a passage in Margaret Bourke-White's memoirs of the time of India-Pakistan partition and independence. Bourke-White quoted Pakistani leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah telling her that Pakistan would have no problems with the Americans, because 'they will always need us more than we need them.' Mr. Holbrooke laughed, saying, 'Nothing ever changes.'"
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
A group of academics, journalists and NGO workers have published an open letter to President Barack Obama appealing to him to support direct negotiations with the Taliban leadership.
The letter argues that the situation on the ground on Afghanistan is much worse than a year ago. "With Pakistan's active support for the Taliban, it is not realistic to bet on a military solution," it says.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai may be pushing for talks with the Taliban in public as the only way to end the nine-year war, but in private he is as determined as the United States in opposing any place for top Taliban leaders in a future government , the latest set of WikiLeaks documents show. Those repeated calls for talks are more aimed at sowing dissensions in the insurgent group than any serious attempt for a negotiated settlement of the war. Indeed as The Guardian reports on the leaked comments on its website, so far as Karzai and the Obama administration are concerned, the only option open to the Taliban is surrender.
Which pretty much is a deal-maker, given that the Taliban having fought the world’s most advanced military formation to a virtual stalemate, have shown few signs of a compromise, much less surrender.