Foreign Policy Blogs

Karzai Negotiation Gambit with Mullah Omar

kar.jpgIt appears that the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar may yet still have his day in the hot Afghan sun as President Karzai has publicly invited him to negotiations to end the violent conflict that has plagued the state since 2001. Karzai has promised the Taliban leader, who was ousted from power by the US in 2001, full protection from all sides. Karzai is taking a hardline on the issue, basically telling the international community, which holds a large stake in the country, to back off, at least regarding discussions with high Taliban officials. Karzai stated:

"If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices: remove me, or leave if they disagree."

Karzai is no doubt trying to distance himself from the NATO international forces to strengthen his domestic appeal and legitimacy with his presidency up for election early next year. However, Karzai did stop by the UK late last week and reportedly briefed PM Gordon Brown on the possible negotiations. The US government has not vocally gone against the proposal, but cautioned that Omar, nor any other major Taliban figure, has never shown a ‘willingness to negotiate.’ In fact, Mullah Omar has not responded in any known way to Karzai's rapprochement.

bro.jpgNegotiations with insurgents is already ongoing and will be necessary if Afghanistan and Pakistan are to find long-lasting piece, and this will include dealings with people with blood on their hands, but is effective and moral policy to hold free and fair talks with a person who led a brutal regime, which provided explicit shelter to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks? Mullah Omar still has a $10 million dollar US bounty on his head! This policy does not sound right to me. However, this conflict is one of immense challenges and duration and if making a deal with Omar or others his type, could bring peace and stability to the region, it may be worth it. But what would that peace look like? Would it require putting Omar and other Taliban leaders back in the government, but just at lesser positions? Too dangerous for me. Will it mean giving the FATA and southern Afghan provinces near total autonomy? That is not acceptable either, too much of a security risk.

What would negotiations between Karzai and Omar look like? What would be the best case scenario? What would each side have to give up? What would you do if you were the US? What would you do if you were Karzai? Mullah Omar?

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

Great Decisions Discussion group