Darko Bandic/AP
Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai

Karzai Attempts to Broker Talks with Taliban

September 30, 2008 05:30 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Afghan President Hamid Karzai reveals his role in secret peace talks with Saudi leaders and the Taliban.  

Karzai Works to Make Peace with Taliban

In a move that could alienate members of his government, as well as U.S. backers, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan admitted to approaching Saudi and Pakistani leaders regarding peace talks with the Taliban.

Pakistan-based Taliban clerics approached the Saudi government in July, at which point the Saudis sent an envoy to Kabul to begin informal negotiations.

Karzai explained his outreach at a news conference: “Since two years I have been sending letters and messages to the Saudi Arabian king and requested him, as a world Muslim leader, to help us bring peace in Afghanistan.” According to Karzai, preparations for negotiations have taken place daily, though no official discussions have begun.

President Karzai also reiterated his past outreach to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, asking him to “come back to your home soil and work for the happiness of the people.”

But according to a Fox News report, “a former senior Taliban official told The Associated Press last week that the militants do not consider Karzai a strong leader who can uphold and implement any potential deal if America does not agree with it.”
In addition, Karzai’s olive branch threatens to undermine the support of the non-Pashtun north, which fought against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the 1990s. Former senior member of Karzai’s government, Ashraf Ghani, cautioned that “reconciliation must be done from a position of strength—there is no point winning the south and losing the north.”

Another challenge facing Karzai’s attempted negotiations is a lack of U.S. support. Although the U.K. has been open to negotiations, the Bush administration remains firm in its anti-negotiation policy, which was formed in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

President Bush has consistently refused to negotiate with the Taliban, going so far as to reject an offer to initiate talks that would facilitate the surrender of Osama bin Laden in 2001. “When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations,” Bush told reporters.

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