The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Talking to the Taliban

Asia Times reports once again on the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, which at the moment appears to be little more than back-channel negotiations between the US and the Taliban through Saudi and Pakistani mediators.

If true, the assertions made by the Asia Times would appear to justify concerns previously expounded on this blog about the notion of talking to the Taliban.
"Taliban sources in the southern regions of Pakistan confirmed to Asia Times Online that while different Taliban groups had been approached, the Americans would prefer to talk to one of the major anti-US forces in Afghanistan, the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) led by former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The HIA is likely to strike a deal with the Americans before the Taliban... In the Taliban camp, the activity in the HIA camp is viewed as a bid to divide the resistance."
In other words, there are many different factions and it appears very difficult to ascertain if any of them would be able to secure buy-in from all or most of the others if an agreement was reached. The Taliban can be forgiven for thinking this is an attempt at divide-and-conquer... as they are very probably right.

In the meantime, President Karzai has set up his own High Peace Council but since it is far from clear where they fit in to the US/Saudi/Pakistani process, he in turn can be forgiven for thinking that his position is being undermined once again.

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