Do Taliban really want peace?

By Kamna Arora | Updated: Jun 28, 2013, 10:18 AM IST

Kamna Arora

It’s a picture of an unusual sort! Recently, when the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, on June 18 for talks, the world was amazed to see how the members of the extremist group talked about peace and gave interviews in various languages, from English to Arabic, French to German, with a smooth flair.

But the question arises - are the Taliban actually interested in peace?

Their subsequent act in Afghanistan indicates something else. On June 25, Taliban militants detonated an explosives-packed car, and attacked Afghanistan`s presidential palace in Kabul with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons. Keeping in mind that the Central Intelligence Agency station and the Afghan Ministry of Defence are in the vicinity of the presidential palace, one can deduce the message the insurgents were trying to give and the audacity they have to carry out an attack at such a heavily-guarded place.

On one hand, the group is trying to adopt a diplomatic approach in Doha, while on the other hand, they are planning attacks in Afghanistan.

The US, which is about to wrap up its war "responsibly" in Afghanistan, knows that the decision to begin talks after a decade-long war with the Taliban doesn`t mean that peace is imminent. "This is an important first step towards reconciliation, although it is a very early step," US President Obama has acknowledged.

The members included in the Doha talks have been chosen by the top leadership of the group after hefty discussions. According to reports, the criteria for screening were: loyalty to Mullah Muhammad Omar, experience in diplomacy, and knowledge of at least one foreign language. Notably, none of them is said to be fighters; they all belong to political wing. The fighters have been left behind in Afghanistan.

Some of the delegates involved in the talks are blacklisted by the UN. Special arrangements are said to have been made for them to reach Qatar. Also, there is said to be complete understanding now between the political and military wings of the Taliban apropos of the inauguration of this new office.

But what are the real goals of the Taliban? Are they simply playing for time as NATO wraps up its operations in the war-torn country? It is hard to take the Taliban on their face value and buy their theory of interest in peace. Afghan peace negotiators have cleared that they do not plan to attend talks with the Taliban in Qatar. "Taliban are not interested in peace, (their) only intention is in becoming the government again."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already cancelled a peace delegation to the Doha talks.

Recently, a newspaper quoted a Western official, who has tracked the insurgents for quite long, as saying: “From minute one, the Taliban didn’t play this by the book...They overstepped pretty well agreed upon guidelines.”

No ceasefire has been agreed upon, and the reason is evident. While they play out the drama of being sympathetic towards peace, they continue to remain apathetic towards human life back in Afghanistan. Also, the group has not agreed to end their relationship with al Qaeda.

A desperate Obama seems to be in a hurry to withdraw US troops and fix a political deal in Afghanistan before his stint as US President gets over. Somewhere, even US foreign policy experts know defeating Taliban is a tough task. And the Taliban have all the time in the world tom-tomming with the US.