Saturday, June 14, 2003

US, facing defeat in Afghanistan, starts negotiating with Taliban
'Four conditions were put to the Taliban before any form of reconciliation can take place that could potentially lead to them having a role in the Kabul government, whose present authority is in essence limited to the capital:

* Mullah Omar must be removed as supreme leader of the Taliban.
* All Pakistani, Arab and other foreign fighters currently engaged in operations against international troops in Afghanistan must be thrown out of the country.
* Any US or allied soldiers held captive must be released.
* Afghans currently living abroad, notably in the United States and England, must be given a part in the government - through being allowed to contest elections - even though many do not even speak their mother tongue, such as Dari or Pashtu.

'Apparently, the Taliban refused the first condition point blank, but showed some flexibility on the other terms... The backdrop to the first meeting is an ever-increasing escalation in the guerrilla war being waged against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south. According to people familiar with Afghan resistance movements, the one that has emerged over the past year and a half since the fall of the Taliban is about four times as strong as the movement that opposed Soviet invaders for nearly a decade starting in 1979. The key reason for this is that the previous Taliban government - which is dispersed almost intact in the country after capitulating to advancing Northern Alliance forces without a fight - is backed by the most powerful force in Afghanistan: clerics and religious students.'

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