January 30, 2012

Preliminary talks begin between Taliban, U.S. Officials

Jennifer Rowland over at The AFPAK Channel gives us today's Daily Brief: Preliminary talks begin between Taliban, U.S. officials -
Former Taliban officials said Saturday that preliminary discussions between Taliban and U.S. officials about trust-building measures such as the transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay have begun in Qatar (NYT). The Afghan government, which has previously expressed its displeasure at being left out of the peace talk developments, plans to meet with Taliban leaders for talks in Saudi Arabia sometime before the Taliban officially sets up an office in Qatar, according to Afghan and Western officials (BBC, AFP,Tel, WSJ, AFP). And Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will reportedly travel to Kabul on February 1 for talks with Afghan officials on the reconciliation process there (Reuters, AFP). Afghanistan will reportedly request access to the Taliban's senior leadership -- supposedly based in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta -- during Khar's visit (Reuters).

A senior Afghan official reports that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are seeking their own negotiations with the Taliban out of fear of being "sidelined" in the U.S-led reconciliation talks, as Pakistani officials say that Khar's plan to visit Afghanistan was spurred by a shared feeling of betrayal by the United States during the process of opening up a dialogue with the Taliban in Qatar (AFP, ET). On Friday, the Taliban kidnapped a member of Afghanistan's peace council while he was visiting the restive eastern Afghan province of Kunar to encourage the insurgents to join the peace process (ET).

The Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov has a must-read about the Taliban's efforts to remake itself into a more moderate organization, by supporting the establishment of girls' schools and even pledging to teach English in their schools if they were to return to power in Afghanistan, though some analysts worry that this less hardline image is simply a ploy to gain more support from the local population (WSJ).

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