Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has confirmed that negotiations with the U.S. are taking place, disproving the long-held assumption that a Taliban precondition to talks was American troop withdrawal.
While not backing down from his ultimate goal of ousting the foreign occupiers, Omar, in a statement released Monday, admitted to “contacts which have been made with some parties for the release of prisoners,” and also hinted that the Taliban, if returned to power, won’t “monopolize” political power as the Taliban of the 1990s did.
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and expert on the Taliban, considers the statement very significant. “By acknowledging that there have been contacts with the Americans, Mullah Omar is sending a clear message to his fighters that future political talks are a possibility,” Rashid writes, “while signaling to the Americans that he may eventually be prepared to broaden the scope of the dialogue and those already participating in it.”
Talks are still in their infancy, though, as the Taliban manage to upscale their insurgency and the US maintains a full-scale war and occupation force of approximately 140,000 troops. And Omar boasted that the Taliban is getting better at fighting the U.S. military “with the passage of each day,” claiming that his forces are “gaining access to hardware which is instrumental in causing greater losses to the enemy” — probably a reference to the downing of a Chinook earlier this month.
Simultaneously, the US has not let up in its military domination and support of the corrupt Karzai government. But many have noted these negotiations as the possible seedlings of a political settlement to this decade-long war.