FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the US Ready to Talk the Taliban?

by GARETH PORTER

The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for complete withdrawal, according to a former Afghan prime minister who set up a secret meeting between a senior Taliban official and a U.S. general two years ago.

They also have no problem with meeting the oft-repeated U.S. demand that the Taliban cut ties completely with Al-Qaeda.

Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who was acting prime minister of Afghanistan in 1995-96, told IPS in an interview that a group of Taliban officials conveyed the organisation’s position on starting peace negotiations to him in a meeting in Kabul a few days ago.

“They said once the Americans say ‘we are ready to withdraw’, they will sit with them,” said Ahmadzai.

The former prime minister said Taliban officials made it clear that they were not insisting on any specific date for final withdrawal. “The timetable is up to the Americans,” he said.

Ahmadzai contradicted a favourite theme of media coverage of the issue of peace negotiations on the war – that Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Taliban leadership council, has not been on board with contacts by Taliban officials with the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S.

He confirmed that Mullah Baradar, then second in command to Mullah Omar, had indeed had high-level contacts with officials in the Karzai government in 2009, as claimed by Karzai aides, before being detained by Pakistani intelligence in early 2010.

And contrary to speculation that Baradar’s relationship with Mullah Omar had been terminated either by those contacts or by his detention, Ahmadzai said, “Baradar is still the top man,” and “Mullah Omar’s position on him hasn’t changed.”

Ahmadzai, who studied engineering at Colorado State University before joining the U.S.-sponsored mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, maintains close ties with Quetta Shura officials but has also enjoyed personal contacts with the U.S. military. He brokered a meeting between a senior Taliban leader and Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder, then commander of the Combined Special Forces Special Operations Army Component Command in Kabul in summer 2009.

The former prime minister’s account of that meeting in the interview with IPS further documents the Taliban leadership’s interest in entering into peace negotiations with the United States prior to the Barack Obama administration’s decision to escalate U.S. military involvement sharply in 2009.

A senior Taliban leader told Reeder at the meeting that the insurgents had no problem with severing their ties to Al-Qaeda, but could not agree to U.S. demands for access to military bases.

Ahmadzai said he negotiated the meeting with the Taliban leadership in the spring of 2009, at the request of Reeder, who had just arrived in Kabul a few weeks earlier. The process took four months, he recalled, because the Taliban leadership had so many questions that had to be addressed.

The main question, of course, was what arrangements would be made for the Taliban representative’s safety. In the end, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command facilitated the Taliban representative’s travel into Kabul, Ahmadzai recalled.

The Taliban official who met with Reeder and Ahmadzai in Kabul was a member of the Taliban Quetta Shura (leadership council) who called himself Mullah Min Mohammed for security reasons, according to Ahmadzai.

The Quetta Shura representative complained to Reeder about the failure of the United States to follow up on a previous contact with a senior Taliban representative, according to Ahmadzai’s account.

“Mullah Mohammed” recalled to Reeder that the Taliban had met two years earlier in southern Kandahar province with an unnamed U.S. official who had made two demands as the price for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan: an end to the Taliban’s relations with Al-Qaeda and U.S. long-term access to three airbases in the country.

“We agreed to one but not to the other,” the senior Taliban official was quoted by Ahmadzai as saying.

The Taliban leader explained that it had no trouble with the demand for cutting ties with Al-Qaeda, but that it would not agree to the U.S. retaining any military bases in Afghanistan – “not one metre”, according to Ahmadzai’s account.

The Quetta Shura representative then reproached the U.S. for having failed to make any response to the Taliban offer to cut the organisation’s ties with Al-Qaeda.

“You haven’t responded to us,” he is said to have told Reeder. “You never told us yes or no.”

The Taliban complaint suggested that the Quetta Shura leadership had been prepared to move into more substantive talks if the U.S. had indicated its interest in doing so.

Reeder, who has been commander of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg since July 2010, did not respond to an e-mail from IPS to the command’s Public Affairs Office for comment on Ahmadzai’s account of the meeting.

After the announcement of the major increase in troop deployment in Afghanistan, the Obama administration adopted a public posture that suggested the Taliban leadership had no reason to negotiate unless put under severe military pressure.

In light of the contacts between senior Taliban leaders and U.S. officials in 2007 and 2009, the Taliban clearly concluded that the United States would not negotiate with the Taliban except on the basis of accepting U.S. permanent military presence in Afghanistan.

After the 2009 meeting between Reeder and the Taliban leader, a number of reports indicated the Taliban leadership was not interested in negotiations with Washington.

Despite the apparent policy shift against seeking peace talks, the Taliban continued to signal to Washington that it was willing to exclude any presence for Al-Qaeda or other groups that might target the United States from Afghan territory.

Mullah Omar suggested that willingness in an unusual statement on the occasion of the Islamic holiday Eid in September 2009.

Then in early December, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the official title adopted by the Quetta Shura leadership for its political-military organisation – said in a statement posted on its website and circulated to Western news agencies that it was prepared to offer “legal guarantees” against any aggressive actions against other countries from its soil as part of a settlement with the United States.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail