US, Taliban envoy meet thrice to end Afghan war
Last Updated: Sunday, June 26, 2011, 20:59
Washington: Keen to end the costly war in Afghanistan, US officials have participated in three murky meetings this year with an English-speaking Afghan who was once a personal aide to the elusive one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Those meetings, in Germany and Qatar, appear to have accomplished little more than confirming the man's identity, and perhaps not even that, The New York Times reported today, quoting according to officials familiar with the talks.

But Tayeb Agha, who was an aide to Mullah Omar during Taliban's rise to power, was arrested by Pakistani authorities last year and then released, leading American officials to assume that he is negotiating on behalf of the Taliban with the blessings of the Pakistani authorities, the report said.

"We're at that stage where it's very confusing," one senior administration official said, adding that the meetings could not even be called "talks" at this stage, let alone "peace talks."

The wariness in part reflects the fact that the Obama administration has been badly embarrassed by previous diplomatic efforts.

An Afghan was given substantial sums of cash last year and was flown on a NATO aircraft in the belief that he was a Taliban envoy, but he turned out to be an impostor.

US President Barack Obama's strategy for gradually ending the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on peace talks with the Taliban. But those talks have hardly begun, and even some administration officials acknowledge that the odds of success are slim.

Declaring that US had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, Obama last week ordered withdrawal of his troops from there starting this year, with 30,000 leaving initially, a process that would continue until the Afghans take over the security in 2014.

The withdrawals will see a first group of 10,000 American soldiers brought home from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, two months before voters decide whether to give Obama a second term.

However, the US has imposed significant conditions for any reconciliation with the Taliban. The movement's leaders must disarm, sever ties with al-Qaeda's remaining leadership, recognise the government in Afghanistan and accept the country's Constitution, including basic rights for women, who were severely repressed when the Taliban governed the country in the 1990s.


First Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011, 20:59

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