Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, a former Foreign Minister for the pre-invasion Taliban government in Afghanistan, says that the Taliban might cut ties with al-Qaeda in the course of reconciliation talks with the post-war government, though the move should not be a pre-condition for such talks. Muttawakil said al-Qaeda was a guest of the Taliban and an ally in the present fight, but they “will not be allowed to create an obstacle” to peace negotiations.
Former Minister Muttawakil was also reportedly a participant in the long-rumored meeting in Saudi Arabia regarding Afghan reconciliation. No actual Taliban representatives were present at the meeting, which was apparently not a formal peace talk but rather a preliminary discussion.
It is unclear how much insight Muttawakil has into the present perspective of the Taliban, who publicly disowned him five years ago. The Taliban has denied any contact with the Afghan government, and insisted that the reports to the contrary were a plot to create mistrust with its allies.
However, the rumors of the peace talks simply will not die. Retired Pakistani Spy Chief Lt. General Hamid Gul says he believes the Taliban will agree to talks if certain demands are met. Among the demands are for the US to recognize that they are not terrorists, release all Taliban prisoners, and set a firm date for withdrawal of international forces.
Gul however did not seem to hold much hope for the prospect of such an arrangement, saying their either Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama or his Republican rival John McCain “want to continue following the same line of action that they have during the last seven years. And I am afraid that is going to bring disaster.” Both candidates have promised an increased troop presence in Afghanistan, and an increased focus on Pakistan.