NATO to seek negotiated end to Afghan war?

Sirajuddin Haqqani was the warlord responsible for the Taliban's recent attack in Kabul

Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin lead one of the main groups associated with the Taliban

The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan “is considering a plan to end the war by entering power-sharing negotiations with Taliban leaders and former fighters,” the Globe and Mail reports (Doug Saunders, NATO weighs Taliban truce in plans for Afghan peace, 25 January 2010).

The paper says that “the scenario of a negotiated peace and a joint government involving the Taliban, once considered unlikely and controversial, is gaining momentum ahead of a critical summit on Afghanistan in London on Thursday. Within a 24-hour period, senior figures in the Afghan government and the United Nations – and perhaps most startlingly, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan – all endorsed seeking some form of peace settlement with the Taliban…”

The paper reports that officials are hoping to achieve a negotiated peace with moderate Taliban elements by mid-2011:

According to briefings by British government and North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials, the withdrawal of Canadian troops in June of 2011 is likely to coincide with a “negotiated peace” with moderate factions of the Taliban and a program to integrate former fighters into the Afghan National Army. The process could begin much sooner, however, with Taliban leaders being invited to a peace conference this spring, officials said.

There will be a “National Reintegration Organization” in Kabul designed to “reach out to insurgents who are prepared to work peacefully within the constitutional framework and have no links to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda,” according to a leaked draft of the summit communiqué. This idea has been mooted before in Afghanistan, but for the first time there will be sufficient international financing to put former Taliban fighters on the military or government payroll.

A key question remaining concerns which Taliban leaders may be willing to settle for a negotiated end to the insurgency. A recent Wall Street Journal report (Matthew Rosenberg, New Wave of Warlords Bedevils U.S., 20 January 2010) suggests that Sirajuddin Haqqani and other members of the latest generation of Taliban leaders may be less inclined than their predecessors to accept a negotiated settlement.

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