Kabul to hold its own talks with Taliban

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 5:43:40 by

Kabul to hold its own talks with Taliban

Concerned that it is being left out of potential peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, the Afghan government is pushing to open its own direct negotiations with the insurgent group in Saudi Arabia, Afghan officials
said on Monday.

The talks would be separate from efforts by the United States to begin negotiations with the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban is opening an office, the officials said.

It was not clear whether the effort to start parallel talks would succeed or amount to nothing more than an attempt by President Hamid Karzai to regain momentum after feeling sidelined by the American efforts to help open the Qatar
office.

“We don’t know the exact timing, but that is something that is being discussed within the government and with the Taliban,” said a senior Afghan official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to talk publicly about the deliberations.

Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul would not comment on the possibility of talks in Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Said Ahmad Omarkhail, said, “The Saudi government is willing to help us in resolving the problems
with the Taliban.” Afghanistan had made preparations for talks with Taliban officials in Riyadh, Mr. Omarkhail said, but he made it clear that he had not been told that any meetings were scheduled.

For any talks to be held in Riyadh, the Afghan government would need the agreement of the Saudi government. But senior Western and United States officials doubt the Saudis would want to become involved in open-ended peace talks
that have no guarantee of succeeding.

It is also not clear whether the United States would welcome two tracks of talks, especially if it is excluded from one track, though American officials have said often that any negotiations would ultimately have to be “Afghan
to Afghan.”

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