Karzai Meets with Iran, Pakistan After Being Excluded from Taliban Talks

While the US and Taliban negotiate a settlement, Karzai meets with Iran and Pakistan for a settlement of their own

The Taliban have contradicted a claim Thursday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that it was taking part in secret negotiations with the Afghan government.

While the Taliban have been engaged in talks with U.S. officials, they rejected talking with Karzai’s government, which they’ve called a “puppet.”A Taliban statement said: “The Islamic Emirate strongly rejects Karzai’s remarks and adds that the Islamic Emirate has never met with the representatives of the powerless Kabul administration, and has made no decision to hold talks with the Karzai government, even in the future.”

The U.S. had seemed to intentionally leave Karzai’s government out of negotiations with the Taliban, which are taking place in Qatar and are aimed at some sort of political settlement ahead of an expected withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2014.

But Karzai was reportedly bitter at his exclusion. He then claimed he was in on the Taliban talks, apparently falsely.

In the meantime, though, Karzai has engaged in negotiations with the leadership in both Pakistan and Iran, seeming to snuff the U.S. out of important regional talks in return. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived Thursday in Islamabad for a summit with Pakistani leaders on how to approach peace in the region.

Pakistani leaders have close ties with the Afghan Taliban, and Iranian leaders have close ties with Taliban rivals in the Northern Alliance who formerly ruled Afghanistan and have been allied with the U.S. This has offered Karzai a broad start to peace negotiations with Afghanistan’s east and west neighbors.

Pakistan has had strident tensions with the U.S. for a long time, but increasingly so ever since U.S. warplanes “mistakenly” killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. Iranian leaders, on the other hand, have almost no diplomatic ties with the U.S. and have been the target of intense threats of attack and harsh economic sanctions from Washington.

Karzai reportedly demanded of the Pakistanis access to Taliban leaders for peace talks, a confrontation illustrating the tension between the U.S.-propped Afghan government and the insurgent Taliban, supported by the Pakistanis.

The Obama administration has not yet commented on the regional summit between Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, but they surely feel undercut by them. Many have suggested that a peaceful end to the war in Afghanistan is more likely to come from the three regional government’s at the summit than from the U.S. and the Taliban.

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.