you don't declare Marshall law in NYC
US says it's ready to talk to Taliban chief
Dean Nelson Washington
October 30, 2011
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the House foreign affairs committee. She told the committee the US would continue to 'fight, talk and build' in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Photo: Alex Wong
WASHINGTON is ready to negotiate with Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who sheltered Osama bin Laden as he plotted the September 11 attacks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told a Congress committee that the US regards his involvement as crucial to the prospects for peace in Afghanistan.
Her comments have been taken as a significant shift in US policy, from moves to divide the Taliban-led insurgency and isolate Mullah Omar to an acknowledgement of his leadership.
Earlier this month it emerged that US officials had met leaders of the Haqqani network, the Taliban faction blamed for some of the most devastating attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Last week, the faction's commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, warned Washington that only the Quetta Shura, the Taliban-led militant organisation, could negotiate a peace deal and that his fighters would not be divided.
In an appearance before the House foreign affairs committee, Mrs Clinton said the US would continue to ''fight, talk and build'' in Afghanistan and Pakistan to test any willingness to negotiate. She said there was ''evidence going both ways'' on its intentions.
Doubts were raised over the Taliban leadership's intentions after the assassination last month by a suicide bomber of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president and the head of the High Peace Council.
Mrs Clinton said last month's Haqqani meeting was not a ''negotiation'' and that no meetings had followed it, but stressed that any future negotiations with the Taliban would need the Quetta Shura's blessing.
A US Defence Department report to Congress released on Friday said violence in Afghanistan went down in the past year, reversing five straight years of sharp increases.
Still, the insurgency remained ''capable'' and ''resilient'', and its havens across the border in Pakistan remained the biggest risks ''to the process of turning security gains into a durable, stable Afghanistan'', according to the report. The violence dropped particularly in the country's south-west, west and north, the Pentagon reported.
Security in the country's eastern region remains tenuous because of the sanctuary and support from Pakistan.
The report sets the stage for President Barack Obama to proceed with his plan to give the Afghan government full command of its security by the end of 2014.
The US has begun to pull out troops, with the first 10,000 out of almost 100,000 expected to leave by the end of this year.
''The most significant development during this reporting period is the reduction in year-over-year violence,'' the Pentagon said in the congressionally mandated report.
The Pentagon attributed the improved security to increasingly effective joint operations with Afghan security forces.
The Afghan National Army now numbers more than 170,000, and the Afghan National Police exceeds 136,000. They are due to expand to 195,000 soldiers and 157,000 police officers by October next year.
Ten years ago, Taliban fighters in their thousands abandoned power, fled their military posts and melted away into the countryside, allowing Western-led forces to capture Afghanistan without a fight.
Today, that rag-tag militia has evolved into a sophisticated guerrilla force which has recently hit several high-value targets and all but derailed American plans for a smooth and successful drawdown of troops.
Significantly, they have achieved this despite the absence of a charismatic leader, a unified chain of command and a politico-economic vision.
So how did they do it?
Despite a lengthy history of small-scale mining of gems, gold, copper, and coal, systematic exploration of Afghanistan's mineral resources did not begin until the 1960s. In the 1970s Afghanistan was discovered to have a wide variety of mineral resources, but only coal, iron ore, copper ore, and gemstones were targeted for development. Natural gas fields are scattered throughout much of Afghanistan. Recent analysis by the United States Geological Survey has indicated significant unexploited oil reserves in the north as well. After their invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviets endeavored to export some of the country's resources to the USSR. Natural gas, for example, was exported by pipeline across the Amu Darya into the USSR in the 1980s. Ongoing hostilities, however, severely hampered this effort and finally cut off the natural gas export. By the mid-1990s there was little mineral or oil and gas extraction.
Mining in Afghanistan
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution explains that if Afghanistan generates about $10 bn per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average 1.6 billion (bn) barrels (bbl) of crude oil, 15.7 trillion cubic feet (440 bn m3) of natural gas, and 562 million bbl of natural gas liquids. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other minerals.
Government officials estimate that the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth between $900 bn and $3 trillion. One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". Another 2009–2011 USGS study estimated that the Khanashin carbonatite in Helmand Province contained 1,000,000 metric tons (1,100,000 short tons) of rare earth elements.
We've lost 1,500 brave men and there's nothing in Afghanistan worth one of their lives.
Unexpected Road Block to Afghanistan Peace: Gitmo
By Spencer Ackerman/Wired
January 13, 2012 |
Photo: Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban after 10 years of war in Afghanistan is hard enough. But the stalemated politics of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility risk effectively killing the negotiations before they even have the chance to end the war.
The Taliban leadership has evidently decided it wants to talk peace terms. Among the things it wants as a gesture of good faith from its U.S. adversaries: the release of five detainees from Guantanamo.
Provisions in the defense bill recently signed into law by President Obama make it difficult to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, the terrorism detention complex that turns 10 years old this week. But they’re a symptom of a greater obstacle to a peace deal: Congress’ broad, bipartisan allergy to releasing any detainees from Gitmo at all.
The calendar actually makes it worse than that. 2012 is an election year. Opening Guantanamo Bay’s doors as a gesture to the Taliban is a narrative practically begging for a political attack ad.
An administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the super-sensitive proposition, tells Danger Room that Obama hasn’t actually made a decision — except to rule out a straight detainee release. “We would never consider an outright release,” the official says. “The only thing we’d consider is a transfer into third-party custody.” And that might actually provide the administration with a way to get the talks going, get the detainees out of Gitmo without freeing them, and keep Congress on board.
Outside analysts, however, aren’t convinced. “Politically,” says Karen Greenberg, who directs Fordham Law School’s Center for National Security, “it’s a nonstarter.”
The White House is furious at a story last week in the Guardian that incorrectly reported that the Obama team already reached a deal with the Taliban. “The United States has not decided to release any Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in return for the Taliban’s agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations,” read a White House statement.
Too late. The story already bounced around the conservative blogosphere. “That move shows [Obama's] (short-sighted) willingness to deal with an enemy in order to pursue withdrawal from Afghanistan,” judged Blackfive. “While You Were Watching Iowa, Obama Was Springing Taliban Terrorists from Gitmo,” was National Review‘s headline.
That’s a warmup for what the Obama team can expect if it actually goes through with the gesture. ......
..... The upshot is that no one has been released from Guantanamo since Jan. 6, 2011. ..........
Whatever scuttles these talks (whether Gitmo or pissing marines) is to be commended.
What is the US going to offer the Taliban that will prevent them from continuing a civil war? Full and utter control of the country?
The Taliban is not going to be satisfied with being allowed to form one of many political parties within the country.
These talks, much like the so-called Paris Peace Talks relative to Vietnam, are a sham.