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President Karzai Talks with the Taliban

Samara Greenberg

Afghan President Hamid Karzai held secret talks with Sirajuddin Haqqani, an al-Qaeda-linked Taliban leader, over the weekend, Fox News reported Monday. Haqqani, the day-to-day commander of the terrorist-linked Haqqani Network, is blamed for some of the most violent attacks on Afghan and international civilians, such as the U.N. guest house and Indian guest house attacks in Kabul this past year. The Haqqani Network is also believed to be responsible for introducing suicide attackers to Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

The meeting was reportedly set up by Pakistan’s intelligence agency – the ISI – which provides support and assistance to the Haqqani Network in Pakistan. And while Afghan sources deny the reports, Pakistan’s military has long been pressing the U.S. to allow Islamabad to bring some hard-line insurgent groups, particularly the Haqqani Network, into a coalition with the established Afghan government. Indeed, Pakistan maintains that its war-torn neighbor can’t establish a stable central government in Kabul without including leading Taliban factions and the Haqqani Network.

According to CIA director Leon Panetta, however, the U.S. has no reason to believe that Afghan insurgent groups are “truly interested in reconciliation where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce al-Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society. My view,” he continued, “is that . . . unless they’re convinced the United States is going to win and that they are going to be defeated, I think it is very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that is going to be meaningful.”

However, something very different may be in the works. Since taking office, the Obama administration has made clear that the war will end with a political settlement rather than a military one. And although the administration has slightly backed away from the July 2011 withdrawal date President Obama set in December of last year, the president has yet to reassure the Afghan government that the United States is in this war for the long haul. Until he does, the Afghan government will be interested in mending its ties with the Taliban and its fellow insurgent groups that rule parts of the country.