Taliban Truce and the Coming Storm in South Asia

The United States, ever-eager then as now, to secure oil and gas pipelines across Afghanistan for U.S. energy companies once courted the fundamentalists. Despite the upcoming “surge,” America may do so once again if dictated by ubiquitous “facts on the ground.”

On February 20, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Bush holdover, said that the U.S. would be willing to accept a similar deal in Afghanistan if the Swat pact succeeded.

Gates, speaking at last month’s NATO conference in Krakow, Poland said: “If there is a reconciliation, if insurgents are willing to put down their arms, if the reconciliation is essentially on the terms being offered by the government, then I think we would be very open to that. We have said all along that ultimately some sort of political reconciliation has to be part of the long-term solution in Afghanistan.”

How would such a “reconciliation” play itself out?

Al Jazeera reported February 27, that “secret negotiations are under way to bring troops fighting alongside the Taliban into Afghanistan’s political process.” Negotiations between “Taliban-linked mediators, Western officials and the Afghan government,” might see the return of none other than Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the narcotrafficking leader of the ISI and CIA’s favorite gang during the anti-Soviet jihad, Hezb-i-Islami.

Believed to be directing attacks against NATO and American forces from northwest Pakistan, Hekmatyar “would first be offered asylum in Saudi Arabia, under the proposal being backed by the British government.” Indeed, Al Jazeera reveals the talks have progressed to the point that

Ghairat Baheer, one of Hekmatyar’s two son-in-laws released from the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan in May last year after six years in custody, is involved in the process, according to reports.

Baheer, an ambassador to Pakistan in the 1990s, was given a visa to travel to London by British authorities last month.

Humayun Jarir, a Kabul-based politician and son-in-law of Hekmatyar, is also said to have been involved. (“Secret talks with Taliban under way,” Al Jazeera, February 27, 2009)

This is rich though unsurprising, given the Americans’ love affair with a man once described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. And considering alleged ties between President Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali and the heroin trade, perhaps a deal with Hekmatyar isn’t as crazy as it seems at first blush.

According to The New York Times, “several American investigators said senior officials at the D.E.A. and the office of the Director of National Intelligence complained to them that the White House favored a hands-off approach toward Ahmed Wali Karzai because of the political delicacy of the matter.”

So, if Hekmatyar is ready to come on-board and kick his al-Qaeda pals to the curb–as the U.S. is preparing to do with former “best friend forever” Hamid Karzai–why not let bygones be bygones? Stranger things have happened. read more

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