Taliban peace talks fall apart
Earlier this week, we were told that peace talks with the Taliban would resume in earnest on Thursday, after three years of fits, starts, and fiery clouds of shrapnel. Supposedly Mullah Omar authorized these talks, even though he’s been keeping a very low profile. How low? The rest of the Taliban was basically ready to put his face on milk cartons, according to a May article at the Daily Beast:
Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban’s abrasive, often brutal, senior military commander, received a summons from the Quetta shura, the insurgency’s ruling council, last December. The shura’s verbal message was brief, blunt, and shocking: Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s supreme leader, had decided to remove Zakir from his powerful position and to promote Zakir’s rival and co-equal, Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, to become the insurgency’s undisputed number-one military man.
The former Guantánamo inmate protested vehemently, saying there was no proof that Omar had sent the message, according to several well-placed Taliban sources. Zakir, and other top Taliban leaders who had received similar messages ousting them in the name of Omar, know that there have been no verifiable communications on paper, by phone, or in audio or video recordings from the so-called Leader of the Faithful, since he disappeared into the Kandahar mountains on the back of a motorcycle in November 2001 as his regime collapsed.
The Obama Administration was very happy about the latest communique from the motorcycle trails of Kandahar, as related in yesterday’s Washington Post:
In a statement read live on television in Doha, the Qatari capital, a Taliban spokesman said that the militant group “never wants to pose harm to other countries from its soil” and that it was open to talking with other Afghans. Those pledges met U.S. conditions for opening a Taliban political office in Qatar.
President Obama called the agreement “a very early step,” describing it as a parallel process to “the transition that is taking place militarily in Afghanistan” as the U.S.-led international coalition hands over security control to the Afghan military and prepares to withdraw all combat troops by the end of next year.
“We anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road,” Obama said in remarks at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland.
Oh, no. He did not just say “bumps in the road,” did he? Shades of Benghazi!
Sure enough, the Taliban promptly killed four American soldiers in a rocket attack on Bagram Air Base, and murdered five Afghan police officers in Helmand Province for good measure. The police killings were reportedly carried out by Taliban infiltrators, who gunned down their rookie “colleagues” and made off with their weapons. Also, a leading anti-Taliban politician, Mohammed Mohaqiq, narrowly survived a bomb attack in Kabul yesterday.
On Wednesday, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, announced he would not participate in the talks unless the Americans stepped out, while also expressing some frustration with the Taliban’s unseemly haste to get on with murdering all opposition and retaking control of the country. The Associated Press reports:
Karzai had said Tuesday that he would send representatives from his High Peace Council to Qatar for talks but aides said he changed his mind after objecting to the way the announcement was handled, in particular the Taliban’s use of its formal name “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in opening an office in Doha.
Shafiullah Nooristani, a member of the High Peace Council, told The Associated Press that the use of the name violated agreements Karzai’s government had made with the U.S. and caused diplomatic issues for Afghanistan.
“The agreement was that the office should open only – and only – for negotiations, not as a political entity like a parallel institution to the Afghan Embassy which is already there,” Nooristan said.
Karzai also suspended talks with on a new U.S.-Afghan security deal that would allow some American troops to remain in the country after the international combat mission ends in 2014 to protest the fact that his government was being left out of the initial process.
What a farce. America expended a horrendous amount of blood and treasure to install the Karzai regime, but he feels free to treat us like dirt every time the Taliban goads him by calling him an “American puppet.” Everyone knows this is all just time-killing theater until the Taliban can retake the country, a process that will involve killing a lot more than just time. The name they used for their “peace office” in Doha, the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” is what they called themselves when they ran the country last time.
The only mildly surprising development is that the Taliban couldn’t restrain themselves from killing Americans for more than a few hours. They would have been smart to give President Obama the fig leaf of “peace talks” he needs to complete American withdrawal, clearing their path back to Kabul. It looks like they don’t think any such pretense is necessary.