Thursday, January 22, 2004

DID ARMITAGE MEET WITH THE TALIBAN? That's what Pakistani journalist Massoud Ansari is alleging in this week's The New Republic. There's not a lot I know about Ansari besides the fact that he was recently (fall of 2003) imbedded with the so-called "neo-Talibs" in the South. Are these "neo-Talibs" the same people being quoted as "Taliban sources" in the TNR piece? I'd bet on it.

The piece is basically on the Administration's new approach in Afghanistan, which consists of turning to the "moderate elements of the Taliban." The policy isn't that old. Here's what I wrote on it a while back:

The Afghan government and Western officials (Zalmay Khalilzad being the prime and only suspect) are seeking the cooperation of "moderate" Taliban officials (and this is surely not the first time) like Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil. Two reasons: The Bush administration has growing frustrated with the inability of restoring order in areas outside of the capital, even sending American troops to fight Taliban insurgents, and looked for other solutions. The second reasons: the present government in Kabul is far from being accepted by the Pashtuns in the south as adequately representing their interests. Having failed thus far in its efforts to find Pashtun political leaders, who would be acceptable to their community and at the same time be attentive to the interests of the West, they turned to earlier discarded ideas. But who's behind the new idea? Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf's idea of seeking the cooperation of what Musharraf describes as moderate Taliban was floated earlier to prevent the Northern Alliance from entering Kabul, something Musharraf feared would cause civil unrest in his own country. This, in addition to an expanded ISAF-force, is hoped to bring stability. Success is all but guaranteed mainly because the Taliban has a complex web of leadership.
Addressing the question posed: did Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visit Mutawakil, the former foreign minister of the Taliban? Perhaps. But there's no denying that this new policy is official policy and no big secret.

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