[This is from the Indian press and for all we know, it may be total bullshit. Does anyone really know anything about this alleged “negotiation with the Taliban” psyop, other than the drivel released through the Western media? As far as I can tell, the West is looking for people connected with the Taliban resistance, who are willing and able to sell their movement out. Whoever can help NATO put the Taliban in a box in the south will wind-up with half a country and a good start on the next Afghan civil war.]
Five mullahs hold the key in Afghan peace talks
By Syed Nazakat
At the centre of US President Barack Obama’s plan to have an honourable exit from Afghanistan are five key figures—former Taliban commanders Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, Mullah Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Tayeb Agha. Obama’s war advisers have been talking to them in an effort to shift the focus from the battleground to negotiation.
The peace initiative has also made Rocketi, former Taliban military chief of Jalalabad and once a close aide of Taliban chief Mullah Omar, a central figure. Rocketi’s connections with Taliban commanders in the turbulent southern Afghanistan and his relationship with members of parliament have made him a good interlocutor. Muttawakil, former foreign minister, was one of the Taliban commanders invited by the Saudi king in 2008 to initiate the peace talks.
An Afghan tribal leader told THE WEEK that the Taliban leaders who had spoken to him wanted to end the war. He said they preferred direct talks with the US without Pakistan’s intervention. “They know the trouble in Afghanistan started because of foreign interventions—whether it was Russia, the US or Pakistan. We have to decide our fate on our own,” he said.
To facilitate talks, a UN Security Council resolution has removed 14 Taliban leaders from the sanctions list. More importantly, the US has engaged Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Tayeb Agha to persuade the Taliban. Baradar, Omar’s brother-in-law and his second-in-command, was captured in Karachi last year. According to a senior Afghan official, Baradar is now willing to be a part of the peace jirga.
But the pursuit of peace can be risky. The Taliban, despite having suffered massive losses in the past 10 years, controls areas in southern Afghanistan and, in the past two years, has even spread to the comparatively peaceful northern regions. This has alarmed the non-Pashtun, anti-Taliban militias, who are vehemently against the negotiations. A civil war along ethnic lines is a possibility. And then there is Pakistan, which has a history of interfering in Afghanistan by training and arming militias it favours.