Former Afghan President heads peace council

Afghanistan`s former prez Burhanuddin Rabbani was elected as the chairman of a new peace council.

Kabul: Afghanistan`s former President
Burhanuddin Rabbani, who has been implicated in war crimes,
was today elected as the chairman of a new peace council set
up to broker an end to the war with the Taliban.

The High Peace Council is President Hamid Karzai`s
brainchild, intended to open a dialogue with insurgents who
have been trying to bring down his government since the US-led
invasion overthrew their regime in late 2001.

The 68-member council, hand-picked by Karzai, was set
up following a nationwide conference in June and was
inaugurated on October 7 amid mounting reports of secret peace
talks with Taliban leaders and key insurgent groups.

Rabbani, who was president during Afghanistan`s
chaotic 1992-1996 civil war, was elected to chair the council
at its second session today in what Karzai`s office described
as a "unanimous" vote.

Delivering his acceptance speech, Rabbani said he was
"confident" that peace was possible, according to a statement
from the palace.

"I hope we are able to take major steps in bringing
peace and fulfil our duties with tireless effort and help from
God," he was quoted as saying.

According to Human Rights Watch, Rabbani is among
prominent Afghans implicated in war crimes during the brutal
fighting that killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of
Afghans in the early 1990s.

With the current war now into a 10th year, record
numbers of Western troops and Afghan civilians are dying and
the Taliban is more powerful than at any time since its
ouster. The government has increasingly been discredited by

Western militaries have accelerated efforts to train
Afghan troops, while Karzai has promised that Afghanistan will
take responsibility for security by 2014 and has put
negotiations with the Taliban at the top of his agenda.

The Taliban has said publicly it will not enter
dialogue with the government until all 152,000 foreign troops
based in the country leave.

Analysts also warn that the council is so stacked with
warlords and militia leaders it could be set up for failure,
particularly when many in Afghanistan accuse Pakistani
intelligence of supporting the Taliban.

There is also a fear among Afghans, particularly the
urban elite who have prospered in the last nine years, that
any power-sharing with the Taliban could bury some new-found
freedoms, particularly for women.