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Envoy Wants Safe Havens to Go Before Engaging Taliban

Pajhwok Afghan News

May 13, 2009

WASHINGTON: (PAN): The Afghan ambassador to the United States has said any engagement with Taliban could succeed only if the insurgents are denied safe havens as well as financial and logistic support by Pakistan.

"The engagement will only succeed if the Taliban are denied sanctuaries and ideological, financial and logistical support in Pakistan and are convinced that they are losing on the battleground," the envoy told a prestigious think tank.

Participating in a talk on "The Parameters of Negotiation" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday, Said T. Jawad felt under the current security threat level, any reconciliation process was premature and a weak policy option.

"Negotiations with the Taliban will succeed only if we talk to them from a position of strength. As long as they are perceived to be successful, they do not need to talk to us," he argued. "For the Taliban, victory merely means destroying and disrupting. If we cannot effectively stop them from doing so, why should they talk to us?"

The ambassador denied reports that President Hamid Karzai was using the prospect of negotiations and reconciliation with the Taliban as an election-year ploy to attract votes. "Reconciling with the Taliban is a risky proposition and is certainly not popular amongst women or urban population, so doing so isnt a smart electoral move," he said.

"President Karzai will lose the vote of the majority of women and the urban population even by suggesting talks with the Taliban," he warned, admitting low-level talks with the insurgents had been going on for the past six years.

Opposing the use of word reconciliation, the ambassador said it was more accurate to describe the process of approaching the Taliban as engagement. "We need to engage the Taliban at different levels. In order to do so we need to know who the Taliban are."

He added: "The Taliban can be divided into three distinct groups, each of which requires a different type of engagement. The first are the ideological Taliban - the Taliban with a capital T - those most closely associated with al-Qaeda. For those, the only engagement is military."

"The second are mercenaries, or the rent-a-Talib or those recruited by narco-traffickers and intelligence agencies. For them, the engagement involves political and financial incentives for buying them off," he continued.

"The third group was the largest the paycheck Taliban, or the foot soldiers recruited because they have no other opportunities or are motivated by fear. Our engagement with them is with jobs, education and hope," the ambassador concluded.

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