NYU study blasts key premise of Afghan war: Taliban are NOT close to al Qaeda

From Just Foreign Policy News:

Afghanistan

A report published by New York University says the Afghan Taliban have been wrongly perceived as close ideological allies of Al Qaeda, and could be persuaded to renounce Al Qaeda, Carlotta Gall reports in the New York Times. The report says there was substantial friction between the groups’ leaders before the Sept. 11 attacks and that hostility has intensified. The authors, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, have worked in Afghanistan for years and edited the autobiography of a Taliban diplomat, many of whose ideas are reflected in the report.

Some US officials have argued that the military surge in Afghanistan will weaken the Taliban and increase the incentive to negotiate. But the report cautions that the campaign may make it harder to reach a settlement, by eliminating older Taliban leaders and replacing them with younger, more radical fighters more susceptible to Al Qaeda influence. The authors suggest that the US should engage older Taliban leaders before they lose control of the movement.

In November 2002, the report says, senior Taliban figures agreed to join a process of political engagement and reconciliation with the new government of Afghanistan. Yet the decision came to nothing, since neither the Afghan government nor the US saw any reason to engage with the Taliban, the report says.

7) The central justification of the war against the Afghan Taliban – that the Taliban would allow al Qaeda to return – has been challenged by new historical evidence of offers by the Taliban leadership to reconcile with the Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Gareth Porter writes for Inter Press Service. Porter notes that the NYU study’s account of the Taliban offer to reconcile with the Karzai government confirms an account by journalist Anand Gopal, who has reported on Afghanistan for the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. The Taliban initiative was frustrated by the unwillingness of the US and the Afghan government to provide any assurance that they would not arrested and detained, Gopal wrote.

The NYU study also cites evidence that the Taliban leadership recognize that they will have to provide guarantees that a Taliban-influenced regime in Afghanistan would not allow al Qaeda to have a sanctuary, Porter notes.

Petraeus plans to triple armed Afghan villagers
By Matthew Green in Kabul

General David Petraeus, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, plans to triple a scheme that has armed thousands of village recruits, dismissing fears that the strategy could nurture a new generation of warlords.

With violence in Afghanistan rising and Nato allies anxious to hand over to Afghan forces in 2014, Gen Petraeus wants to bolster security, in part by sending 12-man teams of US special forces to train locals.

Human rights groups and aid agencies have called for the plan to be scrapped, fearing it threatens to fuel conflicts and empower the kind of militia commanders who ravaged Afghanistan during years of civil war in the 1990s. The government of Hamid Karzai, the president, has also been wary of similar initiatives.

But Gen Petraeus said the scheme was vital in enlisting the support of locals.

Read more.

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