Karzai courts the Taliban
According to The New York Times, President Hamid Karzai has been reaching out to the Taliban over the past several months in an effort to negotiate a separate peace with the jihadist group:
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.
The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.
The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai's government or its successor after coming elections.
Karzai's move to court the Taliban should come as no surprise given his outbursts over the past several months and his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the US. His recent behavior has wearied and dismayed his Western backers, and his patent self-interest in disregarding the recommendation of the Loya Jirga to endorse the BSA is not likely to endear him to fellow Afghans, either.
I addressed these issues and more last week at The Daily Beast in an article titled "Karzai Gambles with the Taliban." I concluded that no matter what Karzai's motivations are for sucking up to the Taliban, he won't be rewarded if he decides to remain in country:
Regardless of his motivations, Karzai is playing a dangerous game. If Karzai thinks his drift towards the Taliban will buy him forgiveness, he is sorely mistaken. If the US does exercise the "zero option," the full withdrawal of forces by the end of 2014, or leaves a token force unable to turn the tide against what many believe will be a resurgent Taliban capable of regaining control of large areas of Afghanistan, his most recent attempts to further negotiations with the Taliban won't save him.
Since assuming the presidency in 2004, Karzai has been the face of what the Taliban have derisively described as the "puppet" regime that serves the interests of the "Crusaders" and occupiers. No matter how much Karzai attempts to ingratiate himself with the Taliban, he would be first on the chopping block if he chose to remain in country.