Taliban advances on diplomatic front

Daily Beast reports: Nearly one year after announcing it was “suspending all dialogue” with the U.S. over its “ever-changing position,” the Taliban seem keen to enter into preliminary peace talks once again. The Taliban’s sudden desire to reopen talks with the U.S., and perhaps even with the government of President Hamid Karzai, whom the insurgency has consistently denounced as an unrepresentative American puppet, represents a sudden and dramatic U-turn. Over the past month a number of high-ranking Taliban officials have been traveling between their Pakistani safe haven in Quetta and the Gulf state of Qatar, the scene of the previous talks, apparently in an effort to set up shop and to rekindle the dialogue. “Our leaders are now regularly running between Qatar and Quetta,” says Zabihullah, a Taliban political operative whose information has proved reliable in the past.

Amir Khan Motaqi, the important head of the insurgency’s propaganda office recently made the trip, and reported back to Quetta. Abdul Wasi, the former deputy head of the Taliban’s Red Crescent Society, who was released from an Afghan jail one year ago, arrived in Qatar last month in order to set up a permanent office for negotiations. Several Taliban officials who are now in Qatar living in guesthouses are in the process of moving into apartments and houses. Some are bringing their families.

According to two high-ranking Taliban, the family of deceased Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who died in Pakistani captivity nearly three years ago, is being moved from Karachi to Qatar, along with the family of former insurgent spokesman Ustad Yasir, who is still imprisoned in Pakistan, in an effort to begin building a small Taliban-friendly community in Qatar and receive released insurgent prisoners.

All this recent traffic between Quetta and Qatar, with Pakistan’s approval and assistance, shows that the growing Taliban delegation is no longer isolated from the leadership council in Quetta as it was in the past. Over the past two years, timely communication between the negotiating team in Qatar and the ruling shura, or council, in Quetta was practically nonexistent.

Not anymore.

“The communication gap between Quetta and Qatar has been removed,” says a former senior Taliban minister. [Continue reading…]

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