Two of the AP’s sharpest reporters, Anne Gearan and Kathy Gannon, have published an important update on the swirl of peace talks involving the Taliban. It’s complex, because all sides are talking to all sides, some of them sabotaging each other, and in the latest twist the AP says that President Karzai deliberately leaked news of the US-Taliban meetings earlier this year in order to undercut them. His own High Peace Council is supposed to be talking to the Taliban, too, and the AP quotes a member of that council as follows:
“He said all the key players—the United States, Afghan government, Afghan National Security Council and the High Peace Council—are holding separate and secret talks with their own contacts within the insurgency.”
The article reports that the United States had “substantive talks” with a Taliban representative, Tayyab Aga, who fled to Germany when the talks were blown, in part because he feared the wrath of Pakistan, which was not informed of the negotiations.
It says that last month Senator John Kerry has conducted secret talks with Pakistan about the Taliban:
“A month ago, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry and Pakistan’s Army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani met for a marathon eight hours in a Gulf country. Peace negotiations with Afghanistan’s insurgents featured prominently, said both Pakistani and U.S. officials who would not be identified by name because of the secret nature of the meeting.”
And it notes that the United States has also met with Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of the leader of the so-called Haqqani group, a militant ally of the Taliban:
“The United States, for example, has also held secret talks with Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who heads the notorious Haqqani network considered by U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan to be their biggest threat. That contact was confirmed by officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S.”
The US talks with Aga “had evolved to a substantive negotiation before Afghan officials, nervous that the secret and independent talks would undercut President Hamid Karzai, scuttled them,” and the article reports: “The talks were deliberately revealed by someone in the presidential palace, where Karzai’s office is located.”