Inside Story America

Talking to the Taliban

As negotiations with the Taliban are set to begin, Afghan President Karzai says he will not take part if US is involved.

After 12 years of war, the US administration has confirmed it will enter into direct talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban.

But a day after these talks were announced, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would not enter into negotiations with the Taliban if the US was involved. He also suspended talks on security, to decide what will happen after US troops leave Afghanistan next year.

Any reconciliation process is going to be a very long process. Any discussion with the Taliban is going to be a very long discussion process. The process itself is going to be a lot more chaotic that it's already been.

by Masood Aziz, former senior adviser to the embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC

It is clear that these talks will be a complex process. Nevertheless, many both inside and outside Afghanistan believe such negotiations are not only inevitable, but long overdue, especially given the failure of the US to rout the Taliban despite such an enormous cost in money and lives.

“He [President Obama] called it the good war and as [he] took office – tripling the US troops in Afghanistan – he described success as defeating al-Qaeda, degrading the Taliban”, said Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC.

“Now as the last areas begin transitioning to Afghan control, he’s telling the American public it’s time to start negotiating for peace.”

But any future talks were thrown into further confusion on Wednesday, and a US state department spokesperson issued a statement following President Karzai’s consternation at the manner in which the Taliban opened their office in Doha on Tuesday.

“Because we’re working with the Afghans on what the next step is, there isn’t a meeting,” said Jen Psaki, the state department spokesperson. “I know there were reports of the meeting being scheduled, those aren’t accurate. I didn’t confirm them yesterday [Tuesday] to be clear. Beyond that, the process is going to be … Afghans talking to Afghans about how reconciliation goes foward. If there is a role for the US to play in that, that’s up to the Afghans to decide.”

However, the media was briefed by administration officials that talks between the US and the Taliban would begin within days.

Sources close to Karzai said he felt betrayed by the US administration, thinking the US was willing to sacrifice his administration for the sake of a quick exit.

To discuss the latest developments on Inside Story Americas, presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by guests: Masood Aziz, a former senior adviser to the embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC; Juan Cole, a Middle East and South Asia analyst and author of Engaging the Muslim World; and Robert Finn, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan.

“It appears to be the case that President Karzai and Afghanistan was on board with this negotiation, but it has been slightly derailed for several reasons. First of all the office that the Taliban opened in Afghanistan is perceived not only by Karzai, but the Afghan parliament, as having too many of the trappings of government. They don’t want a separate Afghanistan government to open an embassy in Doha … Second of all they have been assuming that it would be Afghan to Afghan talks and the US was perceived as having announced that other first talks would be US to Taliban. So Karzai felt as though he has been cut out of the deal.”

– Juan Cole, Middle East and South Asia analyst and author of Engaging the Muslim World