President Karzai, speaking in the National Youths Conference in Kabul on Saturday, June 18, confirmed for the first time what was known for a long time; that the U.S. government is "single-handedly" in charge of talks with Taliban with the government of Afghanistan nowhere in the picture."Foreign countries especially the U.S. are conducting these negotiations by themselves," said Mr. president. What should be asked from Mr. Karzai is that what on earth is your Peace Council doing if the Americans are conducting the negotiations alone and "by themselves"?The president had time and again emphasized the central role that his Peace Council will play in the process of negotiations. Countless times, he had spoken of the negotiationsprocess being "Afghan-led" in his own words. Americans, by taking the issue of talks with Taliban into their own hands, have so obviously made a mockery of the president's Peace Council and his "negotiations-should-be-Afghan-led" rhetoric.
What the president has said is, of course, true. Americans have so far held extensive rounds of talks with some high-ranking Taliban officials including one aide and close confidant of Mullah Mohammad Omar. The issue of talks and negotiations with Taliban has turned into a cut-throat competition in a triangle of the U.S., Pakistan and Karzai's government. The U.S. diplomats pay lip service to making the process Afghan-led by proclaiming that the U.S.agrees with Mr. Karzai regarding the necessity of making the negotiation process Afghan-led. In actuality and quite the opposite, the U.S. is doing whatever it can to prevent the negotiation process from becoming Afghan-led. According to analysts, the U.S. knows that an Afghan-led negotiation process would mean an Afghan and Pakistani-dominated peace process which will be a threat to larger U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the region including long-term/permanent military bases inside Afghanistan. So what we are essentially witnessing is the Americans holding secret parleys with Taliban in the hopes of weaning the Taliban away from Pakistan and Afghanistan and towards themselves.
On the other side of this triangle, Pakistan is trying to maintain its influence over key sections of Taliban and foil American plans of buying the Taliban leaders. On the Afghanistan side of the triangle, we have the government in Kabul including the Peace Council that is still weak and unable to affect developments to its favor. Mr. Karzai, in his remarks on Saturday, said that the negotiations being conducted by Americans are with those Taliban who are ready to "accept Afghanistan's Constitution". Perhaps, our president's aides have not brought to his notice that in February of this year the U.S. government dropped the pre-condition for talksthat required the Taliban to accept the Constitution of Afghanistan. U.S. secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,made it clear that embracing the Afghanistan's Constitution is no longer a pre-condition of talks with Taliban! As long as the three sides to this triangle – Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S. – each pursues its own agenda in talks with Taliban and as long as their approach to the issue of negotiations remains opportunistic, then the negotiation process will bear no fruit. Instead, the three governments should set aside rivalries, coordinate positions and work with each other through genuine cooperation.