With the formation of the High Council for Peace in Afghanistan, there have been calls for the US to show some good faith to move the reconciliation process forward. Some call for releasing more detainees from Guantanamo, while others suggest more bad guys may be removed from the UN’s Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee Consolidated List. Now, the Taliban are suggesting yet another way for the US to show good faith.
Previous Taliban statements, both official and from approved spokespersons, have been clear: “We don’t talk until foreign troops leave.” A few have hinted at something short of that, such as: “Nobody would believe such talk unless foreign troops in Afghanistan act honestly, announce clear and transparent plans for addressing the issue, and announce there is clear platform about the presence of foreign troops,” [here]. Now, we see this in an unsigned statement on the Taliban’s Voice of Jihad web site [direct link to statement here, link to copy of statement at Scribd.com here, emphasis mine]:
…. The reconciliation propaganda launched by the Americans and the Kabul Puppet Administration is meaningless in the light of this hard fact that how can reconciliation be materialized in condition of presence of more than one hundred thousands foreign troops , being armed with motley of weapons, aircrafts (sic.), missiles, tanks and other warfare hardware. The rationale for reconciliation can be only convincing when, at least, the invading Americans put signature on a document before the people of Afghanistan and the world, binding them legally to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan in a given time-frame ….
While not signed by the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the presence of this statement on the Taliban’s page suggests at the very least that the Taliban endorse the idea.
The glass-is-half-full view: This appears to be the first statement of a clearly identifiable condition to possibly bring the Taliban to the negotiating table that could be achieved without foreign troops leaving first. This could be seen by some as an “olive branch” to Western forces, allowing them to stay in country while showing a bit of good faith.
The glass-is-half-empty view: It’s not surprising the Taliban would like the idea of a firm end date for foreign troops to be out of the country. Those with less faith in Taliban “good faith” will see that as a mobilization deadline for insurgents to ramp up to, even if talks were under way.
One never knows what might or might not be offered by Taliban envoys in “the talks that are always denied,” but I have yet to see, hear, or read about any “good faith” gestures offered by (or sought of) the Taliban to show they are willing to put down their weapons and peacefully participate in Afghan civil society.
Until that happens, I continue to bet my money on the “glass-half-empty” analysis.