Afghan govt opens direct contacts with Haqqani network

To step up pace of reconciliation talks, the Afghan government has opened direct contacts with al Qaeda linked Haqqani faction of Taliban, which is believed to have close ties to Pakistan`s military intelligence.

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2010, 21:01 PM IST

New York: To step up pace of
reconciliation talks, the Afghan government has opened direct
contacts with al Qaeda linked Haqqani faction of Taliban,
which is believed to have close ties to Pakistan`s military
intelligence.

President Hamid Karzai`s government has been in direct
contact with Jalaludin Haqqani, the ageing leader of the
Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan and run by his
eldest son Sirajudin, New York Times reported.

Times said that an immediate member of the Haqqani
family had recently participated in talks with representatives
of President Karzai along with three other top commanders of
the Quetta Shura.

The paper said the talks involve extensive face to
face discussions with highest level Taliban commanders, who
are secretly leaving their sanctuaries in Pakistan with the
help of NATO troops.

"Some of the discussions have taken place right in the
heart of the Afghan capital Kabul and are unfolding between
the inner circle of President Hamid Karzai and members of the
Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network," the paper said, quoting
high level Afghan and Pakistani officials.

Times said the Taliban leaders coming into Afghanistan
for talks have left their havens in Pakistan on the explicit
assurance that they will not be attacked or arrested by the
NATO forces.

"Many top Taliban leaders reside in Pakistan, where
they are believed to enjoy at least some official protection,"
the paper said. Citing one case, Times said Taliban leaders had
crossed the border from Pakistan and then boarded a NATO
aircraft bound for Kabul. In other cases, NATO forces have
secured roads to allow Taliban commanders to reach Afghan and
NATO controlled areas.

The paper said that most of the discussions had taken
place outside Kabul and it was withholding identities of the
Taliban leaders at the request of the White House.

Mulla Mohammed Omar, the reclusive one-eyed overall
leader of the Taliban was being cut out of negotiation in
part, because of his closeness to the Pakistani`s intelligence
agency ISI, officials said.

Times expressed surprise at opening of contacts with
Jalaludin Haqqani, a former minister in the Taliban-led Afghan
government in the 90`s, saying that he led a mafia like
organisation based in North Waziristan.

The group has sheltered several key members of
al-Qaeda and continues to maintain close links to ISI. Haqqani
network, Times said, is believed to be responsible for
carrying out many suicide attacks inside Kabul that have
killed hundreds of civilians.

Gen David H Petraeus, the overall commander of the
NATO forces in Afghanistan, had recently written to Obama
Administration to declare Haqqani network a terrorist
organisation.

PTI