US Pressure and Taliban Rapprochement: Can Karzai Satisfy Everyone?

The reports of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to reach some sort of satisfactory deal with the Taliban simply will not die. The latest claims from the Sunday Telegraph have President Karzai offering the Taliban ministries within his government in return for an end to the seven year long conflict.

And while the US has expressed support for the talks, they are reportedly insisting that the Taliban make a full split from al-Qaeda, submit themselves completely to the Afghan government, and even provide information about terrorist operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan in return. The Taliban hasn’t commented yet on the latest reports, but has publicly rejected all prior overtures.

And the US demands made to the Taliban might not even be as big of a stumbling block to rapprochement as the US demands made to Karzai. The US, frustrated by the high amount of corruption in the Afghan government, has pressed Karzai to reshuffle his cabinet.

When it comes to corruption within the Afghan government, few can match the almost legendary corruption of the Interior Ministry of which a former official said “they wouldn’t sleep with their wives without wanting a backhander (British slang for “bribe”) first.”

The man charged with tackling the ministry’s corruption is former Education Minister Muhammad Hanif Atmar. And while officials seem quite impressed with his job in rebuilding Afghanistan’s education system, his role in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan during the Soviet era is likely to raise a few eyebrows.

Before Minister Atmar’s ascent to the head of one of the current Afghan government’s most power ministries, he served as an operative in the infamous KHAD, the KGB-run secret police of the Soviet era Afghan government. How will the Taliban react to peace with a government which has just appointed a high ranking official whose early career consisted of serving in a special-operations unit, fighting against the anti-Soviet mujahideen?

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.