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Haqqani Network Open to Peace Talks?

What’s going on with the Afghanistan insurgent-reconciliation process? Last month, the Kabul government seemed disinclined to deal with the leadership of the insurgency, including the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and key factional chiefs like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaleddin Haqqani. But now the Christian Science Monitor’s Anand Gopal reports that the government has talks open with Haqqani’s people:

… the [Karzai government's] mediating group began to contact the Taliban leadership and the heads of the Haqqani network. “We’ve contacted the Haqqanis indirectly,” says one member of the mediation team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They were open to hearing our proposals.”

The mediators drafted a road map for an eventual settlement. In the first stage, the Haqqani network should stop burning schools and targeting reconstruction teams, and the US military should stop house raids and release Haqqani-network prisoners (similar provisions were proposed to the Taliban).

Representatives of the Haqqani network have agreed in principle to the road map as a starting point for negotiations. But the specifics may change as talks proceed.

What spurred the Haqqani network to see an opening?

According to an Afghan senator quoted in the piece, President Obama’s recognition that the conflict doesn’t have a military solution shook loose some interest from the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Yet the road map under discussion calls, at this stage, for restrictions on U.S. military actions leading to ultimate U.S. withdrawal. Would the Obama administration accept that?

According to a knowledgeable source, the United States has three basic conditions for what it can’t accept from the Karzai government in terms of insurgent reconciliation: no al-Qaeda; no separate deals with insurgent groups that leave them in charge of provinces; and no restrictions on military operations. If Gopal’s report is accurate, a roadmap for peace with Haqqani tests the strength of those conditions.

As far as I can tell, Gopal is the first to detail this negotiations process. We’ll see if denials emerge from Haqqani’s people, as was the case earlier this week with the Taliban‘s Quetta Shura following reports that they were ready to deal with the Kabul government.

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