Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
An address for the Taliban in Turkey ?
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.
It has already played a similar role with respect to Iran.
But of course there is a lot of ground to cover before any of this can materialise including the act of setting up an office for the Taliban. They do not represent an organisation in the classic sense of the word and you can’t really tell who speaks for them.
Secondly and perhaps most importantly, the Taliban’s ties to al Qaeda are the biggest stumbling block to any rapprochement. The Taliban’s connections to al Qaeda date back to before their ouster from power in 2001 following the Sept 11 attacks, and many of the senior leaders continue to have that kind of relationship with the global group, Bokhari says. That makes it difficult for the international community to accept them as a legitimate political entity.
(Photograph: Taliban fighters pose with weapons in an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province/Reuters)