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Two former high-ranking Taliban officials offer insight on how to progress.
KABUL — Talking to the Taliban is all the rage.
Whether for or against, upbeat or down, everyone seems to be weighing in on the wisdom or folly of negotiating with the black-turbaned crowd.
President Barack Obama has even suggested that his administration may reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban.
GlobalPost has gained unique access here in Kabul to two former high-ranking officials of the now-deposed Taliban government to hear their view of the possibility of an opening for dialogue.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, and Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, who served as foreign minister during the Taliban regime, confirmed in separate interviews that such talks were feasible, but that they would need to begin with a fundamental understanding that the view of this conflict looks very different from an Afghan-Taliban perspective.
Both emphasized they do not represent Mullah Omar and the Taliban’s active militant insurgency, but offered valuable insight into the likely debate within the Taliban’s inner circle about the various overtures from Washington to open talks.
Before any serious discussions can take place, they say, the warring parties at least have to agree on what they are fighting about. To date, that fairly obvious goal has been shrouded by rhetoric and misunderstanding.
“We are fighting two wars on one battlefield,” said Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, who served as foreign minister during the Taliban regime. “The Taliban are fighting the ‘slaves of America’ while the United States is confronting ‘terrorists.’”
The United States is engaged in a Global War on Terror, battling the jihadists in Afghanistan so that they do not have to confront them on the streets of New York; at least that is how the Bush administration defined the engagement.
The Obama administration doesn't use the "GWOT" brand, and is expected any day to release its own policy strategy in Afghanistan. To date, it has contented itself with insisting there is no military solution to the conflict, while approving a 17,000-troop surge and appointing an active-duty general as ambassador. NATO defines its role in Afghanistan as nation-building.
The Taliban, for their part, are fighting a holy war of liberation against a foreign, infidel invader that has come to topple their government, impose an alien system on an unwilling people, and further its own interests.