Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
WikiLeaks : Talks with the Taliban a non-starter
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.
“We have no illusion that Mullah Omar could ever join the government,” General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying in a cable to Washington on 20 January 2009. The general made the remarks during a conversation with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev who said he was concerned by Karzai’s bid to involve the Taliban in a post-war settlement. Petraeus says Karzai’s position is more nuanced than that, and that the Afghan leader ‘s goal was to break up the Taliban, and reconcile some.
A year later another cable makes clear that the United States is remains fundamentally opposed to any deal with the Taliban. “There will be no power-sharing with elements of the Taliban,” Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan tells Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao citing the Taliban’s “unpalatable social programmes”and links with Al Qaeda.
Holbrooke said reconciliation should not be confused with reintegration of Taliban foot soldiers. The reintegration programme is not a political negotiation designed to give Taliban elements a share of power, he said. The United States could not support any such deal.
In any case, he said, the Taliban themselves have shown no willingness to engage in talks.