KANDAHAR: Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban for the first time, military and diplomatic officials say, as Canada softens its ban on speaking with the militiamen. After years of rejecting any contact with them, Canadian officials say those involved with the mission are now rethinking the policy in hopes of helping peace efforts led by the Afghan government.
The Canadian work on political solutions follows two separate tracks: tactical discussions at a local level in Kandahar, and strategic talks through the Kabul government and its allies. Neither type of negotiation appears to have made progress so far, though efforts are still in the early stages. In Kabul, the topic is under discussion within the Afghan government and among members of the Policy Action Group, a high-level committee that includes Canada, as major international players try to find agreement among themselves about so-called “red lines,” or parameters for talks with top Taliban commanders.
President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, but there is heated debate about how such dialogue might affect Afghanistan’s constitution, laws and state structure. The Taliban have called for strict Islamic laws, for instance, and insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has suggested a rewriting of the constitution. Some participants in the discussions are even suggesting Taliban leaders should be given political posts, or control over districts or provinces, though this is fiercely contested.
The United States is said to want to maintain an ability to continue military operations in Afghanistan, which it views as crucial to the fight against al-Qaeda and other extremists. In Kandahar, the Canadian military seems to be moving cautiously toward smaller, more localized talks with insurgents. There’s little agreement among those with a stake in Afghanistan about whether to negotiate with the Taliban, and if so how to go about it. These are some of the positions.-SANA