Editorial : Reconciliation efforts - Tuesday 19th April 2011

PULL together the various Pakistani strands on Afghanistan and a tenuous picture begins to emerge. From President Zardari’s visit to Turkey to Gen Pasha’s trip to the US to the trio of Prime Minister Gilani, army chief Gen Kayani and the ISI chief meeting with the Afghan government in Kabul, three things are becoming clearer. One, the rapprochement between Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the Pakistani leadership, particularly the security establishment, is continuing. The overt animosity of years past has given way to noises about serious engagement. Two, the Karzai government and the Pakistani security establishment have found common ground on the need to pursue a political settlement to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end. ‘Reconciliation’ is the byword in the Karzai and Pakistani camps and both sides believe there is some possibility of enticing the Taliban to the negotiation table. Three, the Americans have for now chosen to not interfere in the Pak-Afghan attempts to explore the possibility of a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan. While the US does not appear willing to abandon its military-led counter-insurgency strategy yet, the Americans will be aware that July is fast approaching — at which point American strategy will definitely be reassessed.
Going forward, however, the same questions as before remain. Asfandyar Wali Khan, the leader of the ANP, has suggested that the Taliban insurgency was a political problem and could not be solved by military means. Given that the ANP had for years decried the Taliban as ‘savages’, Mr Khan’s latest statement appears to be a nod to the realities on the ground. Savage or not, defeating the Taliban insurgency through military means appears increasingly unlikely as opposed to trying to put in place the pieces for a political settlement. Common ground between the Taliban and the Afghan government is perhaps some way off, but there may be certain baselines. For one, parsing the insurgency in terms of the ‘nationalist’ Taliban and the ‘internationalist’/pan-Islamist Al Qaeda appears to hold some promise. Ten years into the war in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban have shown little interest in making their fight international — which means there could be something to negotiate between the Taliban and the anti-Taliban forces.
But will the Afghan Taliban bite at the opportunity to deal with Afghan government or insist on speaking to the Americans directly? Mullah Omar is the uncontested spiritual leader of the Taliban, but does he control the insurgency? Is the younger generation of Taliban commanders battle-hardened or war-weary? There are few answers about the Taliban’s mindset, making it extremely difficult to predict how the reconciliation efforts will pan out.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/19/reconciliation-efforts.html

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