Taliban 'open' to negotiated ceasefire in Afghanistan
11 September, 2012
LONDON: A British think tank has revealed that the Taliban leadership is prepared to negotiate a ceasefire with Western forces and renounce its past links with al Qaeda in exchange for a stake in Afghanistan's political future.
In a paper released by the Royal United Services Institute on Monday, four unnamed former and current Taliban figures interviewed, claimed an emerging consensus is "far more pragmatic" than previously made public. The paper, Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation, argues that the main Taliban council [allegedly] based in Quetta would consider a negotiated ceasefire as well as a political agreement that could lead to a US military presence in Afghanistan up until 2024.
So far no Taliban leader has publicly endorsed the idea of a ceasefire. The paper reads the Taliban leadership "deeply regrets" its past links with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The authors argue that a renunciation of al Qaeda led by Mullah Omar could form part of a phased exchange process that would see the Taliban afforded political recognition.
However, those representing the views of the Taliban say, significantly, that the group will not negotiate with the regime of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which it dismisses as weak and corrupt. Nor would the Taliban accept the Afghan constitution in its current form.
The paper's authors have an extensive network of contacts within the former Taliban government. They claim the Taliban political leadership accepts that it can garner support from about a third of the Afghan population. It also warned any American attacks against neighbours – such as Iran and Pakistan – launched from Afghan bases would not be tolerated since it would impact on national security and invite "trouble".
Their sources claim a moderate wing of the Taliban now accepts it must revise attitudes to education – particularly for women. "People want modern education," according to one of the Taliban leaders they spoke to.
One of the leaders interviewed said the Taliban would demand a stake in government – possibly a deputy president's position and five cabinet posts. The group would also demand that Shariah law should play a greater role, and that there is clerical representation in government.
Sir William Patey, former British ambassador to Kabul, told the House of Commons Defence Select Committee last week the Taliban were for the most part intent on waiting out the Western military presence before they consider negotiation and that there was a five in 10 chance that the fragile Afghan government would collapse after 2015.
Not ready for peace talks: Taliban
The Afghan Taliban denied a report on Monday that some of their leading members were ready to negotiate a comprehensive peace deal involving a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the group in Afghanistan denied any interviews had taken place. "The report is a lie and is baseless," Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters from an undisclosed location.
"We have never wanted the Americans to stay in Afghanistan and this has always been our position."
The Taliban, who have been fighting against NATO-led troops for 11 years, have always maintained that any negotiations with Afghan authorities and Washington could only be carried out once there were no foreign soldiers on Afghan soil.
US officials have said they see signs that insurgent hostility to peace talks may be splintering.