Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More talks revealed

The world of talks and shuttle diplomacy is a murky one. A couple of weeks back, we saw that the Taliban has reportedly sent an emissary, one Aghajan Mutasim, to speak with Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Pakistan. The prince also met with Afghan officials, it was said. Now it seems that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has sent emissaries to speak with Brits, Saudis and Afghan government emissaries:

'Secret' Taliban talks under way
Al Jazeera

FEBRUARY 26 - Western officials, the Afghan government and Taliban-linked mediators have been engaged in secret negotiations to bring elements of the group into Afghanistan's political process, Al Jazeera has learned.

The talks, which have been taking place in Dubai, London and Afghanistan since the beginning of the year, have proposed the return of Gulbaldin Hekmatyar, the former Afghan prime minister, who has been in hiding for seven years, to Afghanistan.

Hekmatyar is the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami forces, a faction of Afghanistan's Hezb-i-Islami party, and is purported to be in the northwest tribal region of Pakistan.

His forces fight alongside the Taliban and are considered a terrorist organisation by the United States forces in Afghanistan.

According to information revealed to Al Jazeera, Hekmatyar would be offered asylum in Saudi Arabia, after which he would be allowed to return to Afghanistan with immunity from prosecution.

The British government is backing that element of the deal, sources told Al Jazeera.

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said: "The plan is to widen these talks and to bring in elements of the Taliban."

It is not clear whether the secret negotiations were aimed at separating Hekmatyar's Taliban-linked faction from the group, or whether to encourage some elements of the Taliban to join the political process.

Michael Griffen, an Afghanistan expert, told Al Jazeera: "If Hekmatyar is in this only to trade for his own survival and immunity from prosecution and eventual retirement, that doesn't provide for his followers.

"If they are not included in the deal, they will follow the Taliban." ...

Al Jazeera has also learned this is not the first time in recent months that talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives have been attempted.

Last year, Ahmed Jan, an intermediary for the Taliban and tribal elder from Helmand province, was sent on behalf of the Taliban to Kabul for talks with the Afghan government, our correspondent said.

Jan was arrested after US officials discovered talks were to take place, and is now being held in US custody at Bagram, an Afghan political figure told Al Jazeera... (link)

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