The Independent is reporting tonight that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Britain on a brief visit for Prince Charles’ 60th birthday party, will hold a secret meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. During the meeting, Karzai is expected to brief Brown on the status of the much ballyhooed “secret” talks between his government and militants with Taliban ties.
The previous “secret talks,” facilitated by the Saudi government didn’t actually include any Taliban. The closest thing was former Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil who was publicly disowned by the Taliban movement over five years ago.
But the Independent is reporting that now Karzai’s government is in talks with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar is a former mujahedin commander from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and is a “specially designated global terrorist” according to the US State Department.
But though Hekmatyar appears to have some past ties with Osama bin Laden, his ties to the Taliban are unclear at best. He was an outspoken opponent of the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, and was the target of an unsuccessful US Predator drone attack in 2002. His own militant group has been accused of a variety of attacks in Afghanistan, but he denies any direct links with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Talks with Hekmatyar may be valuable to the Afghan government, but they still fall far short of talks with the Taliban itself.