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Talking Peace—Again

by Newsweek Pakistan

Shah Marai—AFP

The Taliban has little reason to respond to Kabul’s offers of unconditional peace

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking in Kabul at a “peace conference” on Feb. 28, offered the Taliban peace talks “with no preconditions,” unless of course asking the militants to become a legitimate political party and take part in elections is a precondition. The Afghan Taliban understandably had no “official response” to the offer but one unofficial reply from the “uncentralized” leadership went through the familiar litany of objections to the status quo in Afghanistan: Kabul had a legitimate government that was unfairly toppled by America and the current government is illegitimate, functioning while the country was under occupation.

It is difficult to get the Afghan Taliban to talk for two reasons: they are strategically fragmented and their warlords control most of the country. No one has been able to refashion the organization into something cohesive, not even Pakistan when it was the only state supporting its savage government under Mullah Umar. After 9/11, Pakistan thought it could guide the Taliban government through the ensuing crisis, only to discover that its own negotiators were converted to tribalism, which they confused with Islam. General Musharraf, who then ruled in Pakistan, thought he could continue to be an ally of America but soon discovered that he could be killed by personnel of his own Army for it. The “tribal” in Taliban inspired Pakistan into thinking about its own destiny as an Islamic state.

Today, after 17 years of America’s longest war abroad, Pakistan stands isolated. Its Afghan Taliban inspiration didn’t bind it to the rest of the Islamic world, and its imitation of the “tribal purity” of Taliban has not led to victories against India. More than half of Pakistan looks like Afghanistan, which it didn’t under British Raj. It has no writ of the state where it had before 1947 and practically no one pays income tax where there is. The only megacity, Karachi, has no-go areas where different ethnic communities brawl in imitation of Afghanistan.

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