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.

PTI



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

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