Afghans Skeptical of Karzai's Plan to Negotiate With Taliban

Will negotiations with Taliban finally bring about peace in Afghanistan?

February 1, 2010, 7:47 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 1, 2010 -- There is a growing consensus in Afghanistan that the government must negotiate with the Taliban to end the long running insurgency, but there is also widespread skepticism that President Hamid Karzai's current offer to low level Taliban fighters will work.

''This is upside down," former Taliban ambassador to the U.N., Abdul Hakim Mujahid told ABC News.

Mujahid believes that in order for a plan such as this one to work, Karzai should be approaching the leaders at the top level of the Taliban leadership and not the foot soldiers.

Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan independent human rights commission, doubts Karzai's plan will achieve much because it is confusing and lacks clear and transparent guidelines.

'Nobody knows the mechanism, there are conflicting reports through media and that is more confusing for the public, rather than giving them a lot of information,'' Samar told ABC News.

Karzai trumpeted his plan to reach out to Taliban fighters last week at the London conference on Afghanistan last week. Karzai invited them to a peace council in the hope of reaching a meaningful and lasting settlement. The plan includes offering fighters an incentive including money and a job to lay down their arms. He believes he will be able to convince them to switch sides.

The top U.S. leader in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McCrystal concurs with this peace plan. At a briefing recently, McCrystal said, ''We don't want to tell them we are going to crush everyone one of you and kill every one of you, because we're not. We're going to try to work an accommodation so they can come back into society so long as they come back into the constitution.''

This is a point of view that was supported by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton last week at the conference. Speaking in London, Clinton said ''the starting premise is you don't make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you want to create a situation that ends the insurgency."

Afghans Skeptical of Karzai's Plan to Talk With Taliban

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said last week, "I cannot say a word regarding these peace talks. The Taliban leadership will soon decide whether to take part in these peace talks."

Mujahib said the Taliban response was a good sign. ''I think in this kind of response there is a little bit of hope…At least, they have replied to the media that so far the leadership of the Taliban Islamic movement didn't decide to go to the negotiation table or to reject that," he said.

In a recent poll with the BBC and ARD, the majority of Afghans don't support the Taliban and blame them for the violence and problems in their country. Nevertheless, 65 percent favor a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

But they are not convinced that Karzai's strategy has any better chance than previous amnesties had.

''I don't see any difference between the previous plans and the present plan," Mujahib said.

He also claims that the language itself is more harmful than helpful. "This is too much bad language. It will not help and support the process of reconciliation. What is purchasing low level Taliban? The world of purchasing is not acceptable for normal Afghans especially those who are fighting foreign forces in this country under the title of holy war or sacred war.''

While there is a great deal of skepticism towards this plan, one view shared by many in Afghanistan is that the fighting must stop.

"Tthe biggest challenge these days is security," real estate agent Muhib Hussein said. "Everything is dependent on security. When there is security people will be investing, business men will be opening new businesses and they will be employment for people. If you go to roundabouts in the morning you can see hundreds of people standing around looking for work. This is because security is not good. There are not jobs for people.''

Talking With the Taliban

Street vendor Hakim Kahn, 27, told ABC News that ''negotiation is the key to bring peace. Fighting will never bring peace ... They should make concessions to the Taliban in order to bring peace. ''

Hussein agrees. "Now there is no unity among the people and this causes big problems ...Negotiation with the Taliban is a very good. They are all Afghan's, they are all Muslim's and they should be unity among all of us," he said.

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