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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Afghanistan: Drastic Changes for the Taliban

Dec 15, 2012 10:04 PM EST

Afghanistan’s insurgents are thinking of joining the political process—and seeking common cause against Kabul with their old enemies. Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report.

The Taliban seem never to tire of talking about not talking. They have vowed over and over that they won’t negotiate peace until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan—and that they’ll never under any circumstances sit down with President Hamid Karzai’s “puppet regime.” But now the group’s leadership appears to be reconsidering.

According to Zabihullah, a senior Taliban leader who is privy to deliberations inside the insurgency’s Quetta Shura, the ruling council’s political committee is rethinking its positions on a whole range of issues. The possibility of peace talks is only one of the items under review by the committee—which, as far as that goes, may have no more than limited control over the Taliban’s battlefield commanders, says Zabihullah, who uses only the single name and has proved in the past to be a reliable informant. The leadership is also debating the insurgents’ longstanding hostilities against the former Northern Alliance; the Taliban’s rejectionist stance toward the Afghan Constitution; and even the idea of participation in Afghanistan’s next presidential and National Assembly elections.

The deliberations are no doubt encouraged by the fact that Karzai will be constitutionally barred from running for a third term in 2014. And even though the discussions so far have been preliminary and internal, the fact that they are taking place at all could signal big changes ahead.

Afghan children search for plastic and metal items amongst the garbage on the outskirts of Herat on Dec. 13, 2012. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty)

The most startling shift so far has been in the Taliban’s attitude toward the Northern Alliance. The Taliban, almost entirely ethnic Pashtun, spent seven years waging war without mercy against the ethnic militias of the NA—predominantly Sunni Muslim Tajiks and Uzbeks and Shiite Hazaras.... Continue Reading... 

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