The BND was pursuing one goal in particular: It wanted to know whether or not the Taliban were prepared to withdraw from al-Qaida's embrace. Creating a rift between the two groups is considered by the West as a precondition for the lasting success of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In return, the German government would intensify its involvement in reconstruction by building hospitals, roads and mosques -- the sorts of projects that the German public tends to support.
The German public tends to support mosque construction? Oh dear.
The Taliban wanted to be more like Yasser Arafat. Why would they want to be that ugly? (you can tell I am taking real serious the idea of negotiating with the Taliban)
The Taliban demanded political recognition of the kind once given to Yasser Arafat's PLO. "We do not want to be considered terrorists. We want to be treated as a political force," the "commander" is said to have demanded, whereupon the agent leading the BND's three-man delegation is said to have responded: "Then break with al-Qaida." The BND agent outlined a multi-stage process in which Berlin would begin by offering civilian aid, to be followed by regular talks -- at which point recognition of the Taliban as a political party could be discussed.
This started in July 2005. The Germans were never clear whether the guys they were negotiating with had authority to speak for a large faction of the Taliban. They flew these Taliban into Zurich Switzerland for initial negotiations.
The US has also looked for ways to split portions of the Taliban away from the Al Qaeda and away from the most Islamically fervent elements of the Taliban.
Even the US, which officially refuses all contact with the Taliban, have repeatedly used mediators to discreetly gauge the willingness of the insurgents to talk. The BND coordinated its secret talks with the US intelligence agencies, and European countries such as France were also in the know. "There was a time when many Western countries spoke to the Taliban," says one German government official.
So "we never negotiate with terrorists" is not always the case. "We never negotiate with terrorists unless we think they might be willing to renounce terrorism and Jihad" might be closer to the truth.
The talks ultimately failed.
The German talks eventually collapsed, apparently due to the insurgents' refusal to distance themselves from al-Qaida. The BND took that refusal to mean that the Taliban is not all that interested in civilian reconstruction. But the negotiations only came to an end after eight to 10 weeks of secret diplomacy.
The Taliban is not all that interested in civilian reconstruction? My guess is they are interested in more wives, keeping down the women (which means keeping out Western influences), more money, and putting the screws to other tribal factions.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 August 23 09:25 PM MidEast Afghanistan|