Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Potential allies: Karzai, Pakistan and the Taliban?

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(Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Razai Gilani)

(Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani)

If you still thought things hadn’t dramatically changed on the Afghan chessboard ever since U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to begin pulling out from mid-2011, you only need to look at President Hamid Karzai’s recent utterances, or more accurately the lack of it, on the Taliban and Pakistan, the other heavyweights on the stage.

For months Karzai has gone noticeably quiet on Pakistan, refusing to excoriate the neighbour for aiding the Taliban as he routinely did in the past, The Guardian quoted  a source close to the country’s former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh as saying.

Karzai, in fact, has lost faith in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and is increasingly turning to long-time Taliban supporter, Pakistan, to end the deadly insurgency, it said. Saleh and interior minister Hanif Atmar resigned this week, which Karzai’s office said was because of lapses that led to a Taliban attack on a peace jirga last week in Kabul.

But Saleh himself told Reuters in an interview that he had quit because he opposed Karzai’s orders for a review of Taliban insurgents in detention, part of moves the president has launched to reach out to the hardline Islamists in a bid to end the nine-year war. The jirga, packed with tribal elders and notables considered loyal to Karzai, endorsed his plan to seek negotiations with the insurgents who have virtually fought U.S.-led NATO forces to a bloody stalemate nine years after they were ousted

Saving Afghanistan from its neighbours

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(A view of the tent in Kabul where the jirga will be held.Reuters/ Ahmad Masood

(A view of the tent in Kabul where the jirga will be held. Reuters/Ahmad Masood

Walking into a giant tent at the foothills of Kabul, you are conscious of the importance of jirgas throughout Afghanistan’s troubled history.  These assemblies of tribal elders have been called at key moments in the country’s history  from whether it should participate in the two World Wars to a call for a national uprising against an Iranian invasion in the 18th century.

Next week’s jirga is aimed at building  a national consensus behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s effort to seek a negotiated settlement of the nine year conflict now that the Taliban have fought U.S. and NATO forces to a virtual stalemate and the clock on a U.S. military withdrawal has begun.

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