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article imageTaliban negotiators leave Qatar to see snow in Norway

By Ken Hanly     Feb 27, 2013 in Politics
Doha - More than a year ago about a dozen or so Taliban representatives came to Doha in Qatar to prepare negotiations with the US with the aim of eventually entering direct Afghan-to-Afghan talks with the Karzai government for some type of peace deal.
An anonymous Doha-based representative of the Taliban said that many different countries were trying to woo them. Even after a year the group has failed to open a formal office. There is little evidence of any progress towards peace. Apparently, all the attention bothers the Taliban. The representative said: "They want to be left alone for a while."
British and German representatives have been particularly active in wooing the group who are said to be representing the Mullah Omar branch of the Taliban.
Germany has been very active in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table. However, one representative is apparently so active that the Taliban would like him out of the process! A representative of the Taliban apparently asked a diplomat from another country to advise him to back off! If there is a breakthrough in negotiations, everyone would like to share in the credit. This is one reason why Qatar is hosting the group.
Afghan officials claim that any negotiated solution that would see the Taliban lay down their arms is far in the future. Meanwhile, the Taliban in Doha, tired of being pestered, have taken off for Norway, to see the snow they said. Even in Norway politics followed them. A source told Al Jazeera:"Karzai sent a message to the Norwegians offering the Taliban the Ministry of Justice and the position of Chief Justice.". Al Jazeera claims a second source also confirmed the offer. The Afghan government has so far not commented on the offer. The Taliban are unlikely to be enticed into laying down their arms as long as there are foreign troops in Afghanistan.
A source who took part in informal talks with the head Taliban negotiator, Diliwar, in December said that there were few signs the group was ready to lay down their arms:"They were clearly reading from a paper. What they did say centred around war and the battlefield. You could tell Dilawar was surprised that everyone else was talking about coalitions and elections. They still think they can win on the battlefield."
Tactics on the ground indicate the Taliban are targeting the Afghan government with the UN reporting recently a 700% increase in attacks on Afghan officials.
In spite of this situation, the Afghan government considers the Taliban office in Doha as a positive step towards an eventual peaceful settlement of Afghanistan's future. Even if there were successful negotiations with the group, it is not clear how much difference this might make on the battlefield. Not only are there a number of different insurgent groups, there may be a disconnect between those negotiating and those in the struggle on the ground.
Colin Cockburn, with the Center for American Progress points out that almost every actor in the conflict has the potential to disrupt any political settlement. Many observers now see the Doha Process as it is called as dysfunctional. Many critics point out that the process does not reach into Afghanistan itself and does not include civil society representatives..
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