Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil.
Two stories of US negotiations with the Taliban are sure to spark controversy as the Obama administration has yet to decide on the path forward in Afghanistan. The first report, from Dawn, is the more interesting of the two:
The Obama administration may be close to reversing course on its current strategy in Afghanistan, after DawnNews quoted sources as saying that high-level talks with senior Taliban militants are currently underway.
The indirect talks involve officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and top Afghan Taliban leadership, including the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen Chief and Abdullah Anus, among others.
Sources told DawnNews that Anus is the son in law of Abdullah Azzam, a noted terrorist and former mentor of Osama bin Laden, who was killed along with his sons in Peshawar in 1989.
In addition, Abu Al Hasan Madani, one of the key leaders of Rabta-e-Alam-e-Islami, has also been engaged in the process, as has Abu Jud Mehmood Samrai, an Iraqi who also holds Pakistan nationality and who played a very important role in the Afghan war.
A senior US intelligence official told me that the negotiations are in fact taking place, but these are not “senior Taliban militants” as described by Dawn. The Taliban leaders are described as “the second string” by the official. Any decisions made by these leaders will not have a major impact on the Taliban insurgency. The official also noted that Abu Jud Mehmood Samarai is closely linked to al Qaeda. This implies that the terror group is monitoring the talks.
The second report, from MEMRI, is less interesting as the US continues to try to talk to the same Taliban poseurs.
An Afghan source in Kabul reports that U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is holding secret talks with Taliban elements headed by the movement’s foreign minister, Ahmad Mutawakil, at a secret location in Kabul. According to the source, the U.S. has offered the Taliban control of the Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan, Kunar and Nuristan provinces in return for a halt to the Taliban missile attacks on U.S. bases.
As I noted last year when the talks with Mutawakil and company in Saudi Arabia were all the rage, these talks are destined to go nowhere. Mutawakil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Mullah Mohamed Tayeb Agha are looked upon by the Taliban leaders with disdain after they surrendered to the US early in the war. The Taliban do not consider them members and in fact openly mock them. And even if the US agreed to such a ridiculous deal and ceded territory to the Taliban, there is no way Mutawakil could deliver and halt attacks.