Afghan leaders, Taliban talk regularly
Despite stalled peace talks, officials say the intelligence chief speaks with militant leaders nearly every day about the country’s future.
ISLAMABAD — Despite seemingly stalled peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban, officials say the intelligence chief speaks by telephone with militant leaders nearly every day about the country’s constitution and political future.
In addition, Afghanistan’s national security adviser has conversations with the Taliban every other month, officials familiar with the efforts said.
The Associated Press has seen documents describing the conversations between the Afghan officials and the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the Gulf state of Qatar, where they maintain an office.
While Afghan officials said neither side was ready to agree to public peace talks, the documents revealed details of the issues discussed, including the Taliban’s apparent willingness to accept Afghanistan’s constitution and future elections.
A senior Afghan security official, who had taken notes on the details of talks, rifled through a black leather-bound book until he came to a list he called “Taliban talking points.”
The Afghan security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the Taliban wanted certain amendments to the constitution — although not immediately. They also envisioned an Islamic system of governance in Afghanistan, he said.
Among the Taliban’s demands, according to the official:
They accepted education for boys and girls at all levels, but wanted segregation by gender.
Women could be employed in all fields, including defense and the judiciary, and they could serve as judges at all levels except the Supreme Court. However, the Taliban wanted constitutional guarantees that a woman could not be president.
Special courts should be established to oversee thousands of cases that allege land was taken illegally by the rich and powerful in the post-Taliban era. The Taliban wants the land returned to those from whom it was taken.
Elections could be held after an interim government is established, with no one affiliated with past governments allowed to serve in the interim administration. The Taliban said all sides could keep areas under their control until voting is held.
Officials familiar with the conversations said intelligence chief Masoum Stanikzai has near daily telephone conversations with Taliban leader Abbas Stanikzai, who is not related to him.
National Security adviser Mohammed Haneef Atmar’s office refused requests to comment on reports of his contacts with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
The Taliban came to power in 1996 after pushing aside the U.S.backed mujahedeen fighters who defeated Afghanistan’s Communist government. The mujahedeen then turned their weapons on each other, killing thousands of civilians and destroying entire neighborhoods in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Their rule also was marked by widespread corruption.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia. He said U.S. troops would “fight to win” by attacking enemies, “crushing” al-Qaida, preventing terrorist attacks against Americans and “obliterating” the Islamic State, whose affiliate has gained a foothold in Afghanistan as the U.S. squeezes the extremists in Syria and Iraq.
Trump hinted he would embraced the Pentagon's proposal to boost troop numbers by nearly 4,000, augmenting the 8,400 Americans there now.
But the Taliban told AP they were not interested in talks.
A member of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, Abdul Hakim Mujahed said it is unlikely the Taliban will enter talks without a guarantee of an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal.
“They have moved away from demanding immediate withdrawal but they want a discussion with the Americans on a timetable,” he said.
Afghan commandos train Sunday in Helmand province. The U.S. is planning to boost troop levels in that country.