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The Unpeaceful Karzai-Taliban 'Peace Talks'

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On the eve of the 9th anniversary of the U.S. attack to remove the Taliban regime from power, the Washington Post reported that the comeback extremists were 'in high-level talks with Karzai government.' The Post claimed that the talks were aimed to 'end the war in Afghanistan' and that the sources believe that 'Taliban representatives are fully authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization based in Pakistan, and its leader Mullah Omar.'

A prominent Pashto website, taand.com, citing its sources, claimed the talks were underway in Serena Hotel in Kabul. The sources also 'recognized' some of the participants: Former Interior Minister of Afghanistan Ali Ahmad Jalali, heading the government team which also included Farouq Wardak, the Education Minister, and Mirwais Yasini, a member of the Parliament. The website reported that Asfandyar Wali Khan, Afrasiab Khattak and Aftab Sherpao, three prominent leaders of the militancy-affected north-western province of Pakistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and former Taliban officials Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Mullah Abdul Hakim Mujahid were also among the participants. These sources, however, could not identify the Taliban representatives because 'they had never been photographed for journalists.'

While the Obama administration cautioned Karzai not to cross the 'certain red lines' in his contacts with insurgents, according to the international media, the Afghan government quickly denied, as usually happens, its involvement in the 'talks.' 'Currently there is not any meeting between the government and Taliban in Kabul,' said Ahmad Zahir Faqiri, spokesman of the Afghan Foreign Ministry.

Reacting in a similar manner, according to Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press, a one-man news agency used as a mouth-piece initially by a certain jihadi group and later by Taliban, a spokesman of the extremist group said it was not involved in 'any kind of peace talks anywhere.'

It was true! The alleged 'peace' did not happen in Serena Hotel. Instead, the country was as gripped by violence as usual: only in southern Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, about three blasts killed 9 people, including 5 children, and injured dozens. In the northern part of the country, NATO and Afghan forces killed 22 militants including two shadow governors.

On the other side of the border, in Pakistan, where the corrupt and effete civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, the jihad-motivated army led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the uncontrolled ISI, the profiteering hypocrite political parties and the jingoist media unanimously support extremism and terrorism, mysterious militants continued torching NATO oil tankers in different parts of the country, mainly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, to where the three important participants of the Serena talks -- Khan, Khattak, and Sherpao -- belong.

Unsurprisingly, Radio Free Europe later reported that the Serena event was not really a peace dialogue but a private conference. 'A European research organization put together this seminar to discuss the problems in Afghanistan and how they can be resolved. It had opinion makers, intellectuals, and politicians from both Pakistan and Afghanistan. But nobody spoke for any organization [or government],' as said former Taliban envoy Muallah Zaeef.

But this is nothing new. Every now and then the New York Times, Washington Post, or Al-Jazeera, will cite their 'Arab or Afghan sources' in reports about these high and low level negotiations with Taliban and other militant groups. To heighten the debate, President Karzai, or any of his spokesmen, invites the insurgents to peace but deny there were any 'peace talks.' This is always followed by a peace jirga or a peace council. The October 6th Serena Hotel event was followed by President Karzai inaugurating the 70-member High Council for Peace which he called the 'source of hope.' Unfortunately, the top members of this 'source of hope' are the most despised warlords of the country and the mere appearing of them or their names in any kind of process or event make Afghans hopeless and frustrated.

Now the important question is: why there is a need to talk to the terrorists in the first place? There are two main factors that have been strengthening the extremist groups: the unceasing support that they get from Pakistan and the widespread corruption and fraud elections that have made the Afghans disenchanted with the government they happily welcomed and felt proud of 9 years ago. Then this government and the newly launched democratic system was the 'source of hope,' but now, according to Karzai, a 'peace council' which is comprised of the most hopeless people of their time is the 'source of hope.' Now you ask any Afghan about their perception of democracy and they will bluntly answer: 'corruption and fraud.' Consequently, if fraud and corruption prevail in the government system, it is most unlikely that this so-called peace council will achieve anything.

So instead of wasting time and pushing the country into deeper chaos, the government must think about something different, mainly containing election fraud, which President Karzai can start himself, fighting corruption, which he can start from members of his own family and his top officials, and bringing war criminals to justice, most of whom are his aides and close allies. The international community must do something to stop Pakistan's support for terrorism.