Afghanistan's Karzai in secret talks with Taliban

KABUL Tue Feb 4, 2014 9:56am EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul January 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been holding secret talks with Taliban officials in the hope of persuading them to make peace with his government, his spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday, confirming a New York Times report.

"I can confirm that ... Taliban are willing more than ever to join the peace process," Aimal Faizi said. "Contacts have been made and we are also in touch with them."

A member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council also confirmed that talks had taken place, but was measured in his assessment of their success.

"Talks took place in Dubai three weeks ago between government officials and Taliban who flew from Doha, but we are still waiting to see the result," he told Reuters.

Western and Afghan officials speaking to the Times also said the talks had borne little fruit so far, although they may help explain Karzai's mounting public hostility to Washington.

The relationship has come under increasing pressure since November, when he announced his intention to avoid signing a bilateral security deal with the United States until after a presidential election on April 5.

His decision to drop a deal that had taken about a year to hammer out shocked Western diplomats. The uncertainty about Afghanistan's fate after U.S. troops pull out has also weighed on the economy.

Faizi did not directly link Karzai's surprise move to the start of talks with the Taliban, but said relations had improved since then.

Relations with the United States have been on a downward spiral, however, and Karzai's refusal to sign is sapping already scant support for the war in Washington, which has halved aid for civilian assistance in the fiscal year 2014.

President Barack Obama, frustrated by Karzai's refusal to sign the accord, was due to meet top commanders at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the future of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Washington has signaled it could pull all troops out after 2014 unless a deal is signed soon. This would leave Afghanistan's fledgling security forces to fight the Taliban insurgency alone, without U.S. financial and military support.

The Taliban have vowed to derail the election, and have stepped up attacks in Kabul despite the peace talks.

January's tally of attacks was the highest since 2008, according to security officials, and the trend has continued into February, with two bombs going off in Kabul on Monday.

(additional reporting and writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (7)
SKYDRIFTER wrote:
Details aside, it should be obvious to anyone that the Taliban will make an abrupt comeback – probably more sooner than later.

By now, the Afghan population is making it’s own deal with the Taliban. Who will there be to guard the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan? Will the Taliban allow the troops to just leave – or will they make a statement in blood; to the detriment of more U.S. soldiers’ lives?

The bottom line being that our troops not only failed, but the Islamic revenge against Americans will be the price – with no “end date.”

Does anyone even remember how flimsy the excuse was to attack Afghanistan? At best, bin Laden had nothing significant to do with the Taliban.

That’s how we made it this far. But, ala Viet Nam, the “Military Industrial Complex” made a Pope’s ransom. No one wants to learn. The prices of Afghan opium (American heroin supply) is about to drastically go up.

About all those wounded soldiers …..

Feb 04, 2014 5:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
PRS24 wrote:
SKYDRIFTER your analysis is flawed at best.

Feb 04, 2014 7:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
Cleveland999 wrote:
As a US Army Afghan War vet I would like to make some comments. This is a critical moment for our effort in Afghanistan. General McChrystal said that he thought Afghanistan would slide into Civil War once we left. Karzai talking to the Taliban is the first step towards this. The Pashtuns have no interest in sharing power with the Tajiks or the Hazara. To us the war is about smashing the Taliban and al Qaeda remnants. To Karzai and the others Pashtuns it is about winning power for his ethnic group. No big surprises there. So we are now at the point where the whole US effort in Afghanistan will amount to this: not the Taliban’s defeat, but its ultimate victory and hegemony over the whole country (thanks to US taxpayer’s money, US supplied weapons, and US support).

Feb 04, 2014 10:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
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