Mixed reaction, signals to Karzai's outreach to Taliban

Kabul, Sept.10 (ANI): After nine years of war, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has little faith about the NATO coalition forces routing the Taliban, and therefore, according to his aides, he is reaching out to the insurgents.

Karzai, a Pashtun, is seeking a negotiated peace deal with the Taliban.

"If you just rely on the military-we've seen the result," explains Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the senior presidential adviser for peace and reconciliation.

"There is no purely military solution in Afghanistan," he adds.

While American military commanders are backing Karzai's effort, key leaders of Afghanistan's three largest ethnic minorities have told The Wall Street Journal that they oppose his outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group's return to power and reignite the civil war.

Mohammed Mohaqeq, a lawmaker and former warlord representing the 2.5-million-strong Hazara minority, said: "We feel betrayed by the president. It seems that what President Karzai pursues now is the Talibanization of Afghanistan. The only difference between him and the Taliban is that he sits in the presidential palace and the Taliban sit in the mountains."

Karzai's overtures, formally launched at a June peace conference where he called insurgents "brothers" and "dear Talibs," included asking the United Nations to remove Taliban leaders from the international sanctions black list and ordering the freeing of Taliban suspects from government custody.

A separate government-sponsored conference of clerics in Kabul passed a resolution singling out insufficient enforcement of Sharia Islamic laws, the Taliban's key demand, as the obstacle to peace.

This month, Karzai created a formal negotiating committee for talks with Taliban leaders.

These steps have been reciprocated so far with an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes:

The past three months were the deadliest for coalition forces since the war began, with 270 allied fatalities, almost as many as in all of 2008. The Taliban's official position is to reject any talks as long as foreign troops remain here.

Accounting for some 42 percent of Afghanistan's 28 million people, the Pashtuns have historically dominated the Afghan state. Their supremacy was diminished in 2001 when the Northern Alliance of ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias ousted the Taliban regime with American help. (ANI)

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