Saturday, June 25, 2011

US not in talks with 'real Taliban'


So called US talks with the Taliban are only with groups friendly toward Karzai in the north. The stronghold of the Taliban lies in southern Afghanistan.

Press TV talks with Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor at Quaid-I-Azam university, Islamabad who dissects the numerous factors influencing talks and negotiation with the Taliban and the US. Following is a transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Our other guest Gareth Porter has said that talks with the Taliban are in part an effort by the US to sew some kind of a division between the Taliban and Pakistan. The British representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan said that the talks are held with the sole aim of finding a solution to Afghanistan without any involvement of foreign players. Is that a reference to Pakistan?

Zafar Jaspal: Indeed there is an effort in Afghanistan for political settlement because Obama wants his 2012 elections to win. Public opinion in the US is very much against this war. They are not willing to pay 120 billion dollars for this war. In that context Robert Gates made the statement that if we can handle Afghanistan without Pakistan that germinates a new option for them (US) that they can deal with - And that confirms that they are confident that they can divide and deal with the Taliban without Pakistan.

However, at the same time we cannot forget what the reality on the ground is. The Taliban who are dealing with the US, their number is only 1,700 and the majority of them are from the northern side and they are not from the Taliban of other areas of Afghanistan. These people who they are engaged with are already on the payroll of Karzai.

The real cold heart of this insurgency, they are Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Omar and under the leadership of what we call Khakani - I think that will be dubious when they start feeling as if they can deal with the Taliban bypassing Pakistan. They can; but the question is - How can they secure the border?

Press TV: We have been getting contradictory statements from the White House. On the one hand we are hearing General Petraeus speaking of a need to have more troops on the ground; Gates saying there needs to be more troops on the ground, but on the other hand we hear of official confirmation that talks are underway and this has been confirmed by Britain. So do you think this show that the counter insurgency strategy has not been working and that the US is not willing to admit that?

Zafar Jaspal: I submit that we can see in what is happening within the US there is a big divide. There's a divide between the strategists; between the Pentagon; and the White House and that divide is very much visible.

When Obama was going to announce the withdrawal of 10,000 troops this year and a further 23,000 next year, General Petraeus was clearly saying that whatever we achieved they (those numbers) are not confirmed. We can see in the testimony of Admiral Mullen in the Senate he also said the same thing - it still needs two seasons that is next year 2012 and 2013 to fight with the Taliban with the same number of troops. Whereas, Obama is concerned about his next term.

If we look at the interlinked developments recently in one week, one development was the UN resolution on 17th June dividing the Taliban and al-Qaeda into two separate organizations; treating them differently. Second, on June 19th when Robert Gates admitted on CNN that yes we are in touch with the Taliban. Third, four parliamentarians of Germany have said we want the Taliban represented and according to reports they have invited the Taliban to participate in the December 2011 World conference. And fourth, on the one side they say we can without Pakistan, but we see that Karzai was in Islamabad last week and he was requesting Pakistan to support the peace reconstruction process.

All these things give us the idea that at the rhetorical level is one thing, but at the practical level is another thing. So, Americans at the rhetorical level try to save what we call their grandeur. But practically, they are unable.

Press TV: Regarding the issue of the presence of military forces in Afghanistan for how long they are planning to stay there. There are suggestions being made that the US is planning to stay there permanently or at least have a semi-permanent presence - would you agree that there is a desire for a permanent presence in Afghanistan?

Zafar Jaspal: Theoretically speaking yes the US has a desire; it has the desire to sustain its control in Afghanistan. Practically though things are different.

Washington has mapped up that OK we have a ground base and we will keep our forces there. But when you see the ground reality, with 100,000 troops they are not able to control certain parts; they have limited successes. Despite all these goodwill gestures and olive branches the crisis and violence is increasing in Afghanistan.

Secondly, when we see the US thinking like this and wanting a permanent presence, France has already announced it will be taking its troops out immediately. Germany is thinking and Britain is also on the same thinking process. If we put all these elements together, yes they (US) have wishful thinking.

On the other side don't forget that the Americans only invested 3.5 billion dollars in the civilian development projects. And according to estimates, when the withdrawals start, these civilians projects will start shrinking and today it was reported that the Congress was not ready to give permission to the Obama administration to spend more than that amount.

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