Reports emerged today claiming there have been secret talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban aimed at getting a formal peace process going between the two sides.
Officials familiar with the situation say a top member of the Afghan Peace Council, current DM-nominee Mohammad Stanekzai, led the Afghan government’s side of the talks last week, and met with three former Taliban officials in the Pakistan-organized talks, held in Urumqi, China.
Taliban leaders issued a statement rejecting the report as a baseless rumor, and claiming it was “propaganda” aimed at shorting up the flagging morale of Afghan forces.
It is not usual for the Taliban to reject reports of talks, as they have insisted they won’t agree to any formal talks until NATO forces withdraw from the country.
That said, there have been a lot of “talks about talks” held by the two sides, and the Taliban’s denial could just be an attempt to establish a distinction between the two, and not a rejection that the meetings as such occurred.
A lot of the details make sense, as Pakistan has been trying to get more actively involved in the peace process since Ghani’s election in Afghanistan, and holding the meeting in western China would be a good way to ensure the talks don’t get taken over by the US or other NATO powers.
Still and all, NATO’s announcements that they intend to keep troops in Afghanistan for many years to come are doing major damage to the idea of talks, as the Taliban almost certainly won’t endorse formal talks without an endpoint in sight for the Western occupation.