Obama’s Priority: US-Taliban Dialogue

The government in Washington would like to announce the start of genuine and lasting negotiations with all Afghan fundamentalists. It plans to do this during the next NATO summit, which shall be held in late May in Chicago.

President Hamid Karzai is still confident that he will remain in power in Afghanistan, even though he is strongly criticized. Confiding as usual in the U.S. press, which he has taken a particular liking to, he unveils some not-so-confidential “secrets”: ongoing negotiations with the Taliban. The negotiations began with the U.S., but in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published yesterday, President Karzai said the Afghan government is now involved: “There have been contacts between the U.S. government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban.”

A Fool’s Game

True or false, the statement is fuelling the fool’s game of the West in Afghanistan. It is an end-game that is played out in many acts. The first act focuses on the dialogue which has been going on for several months between Washington and the leaders of the fundamentalist Afghan insurgency. According to the Washington Post, which referred to statements made by members of the U.S. administration, Marc Grossman, the U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had already attended several meetings at the end of 2011. In early January, Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, confirmed that his movement was opening a representative office in Qatar “to formalize”* these contacts. For its part, the United States is demanding that the process be sped up. Its hope is to be able to announce the start of genuine negotiations during the NATO summit scheduled for May 20 and 21 in Chicago, despite opposition from the secular forces in Afghanistan.

Not joining the exploratory contacts between the Americans and the Taliban, the Afghan government is trying to play its own role. Islamists believe that Karzai “is a figurehead of foreign powers, incapable of making independent decisions,”* according to their spokesman, and there is no question of having him as a representative. When NATO forces retreat, the Taliban want to regain full power in Kabul. Washington has repeatedly sought to reassure its inept ally. However, Karzai started Act II of the Afghan tragedy yesterday. He traveled to Islamabad to attend a two-day summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari, focusing on security issues, especially the Taliban insurgency and the support they enjoy in Pakistan. Even though Karzai made no mention of Pakistani involvement in discussions with the insurgents, he said that cooperation with his neighbor “would make the whole matter easier.”

A significant message. While the U.S. and its allies in NATO have brought their withdrawal from Afghanistan forward by a year — according to Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary, U.S. forces have to take a “training, advice and assist role” from mid-2013 — who will be the actors on the Afghan stage and, first and foremost, Washington’s privileged representatives? Barack Obama thinks that it is urgent to reach a political provisional agreement; the fundamental understanding is already confirmed by the strategic partnership between Washington and Kabul. The pact defines the terms of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan at the end of the withdrawal of all of the coalition’s combat units, especially maintaining U.S. military bases on Afghan soil for a period of 10 years.

The Truths of Officer Davis

Upon returning from his last mission in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Davis wrote a report called “Truths, Lies and Afghanistan”: “Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people,” the senior officer writes, “in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war.”

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, while translated correctly, could not be verified in English.

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