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Talking with the Taliban: a timeline

As hopes for potential peace talks with the Taliban once again ebb and flow, it’s worth taking a look at the history of efforts to engage with the Taliban. Since late 2007, discussions about discussions have oscillated with a fairly regular rhythm, and it does not seem the situation will be much different this time around. Below, you’ll find a timeline of key events and a chronological list of newspaper articles about talking with the Taliban (with a separate list for the Pakistani Taliban in particular) since late 2007.

Timeline of key events

2007

December: Michael Semple, Acting Representative for the EU in Afghanistan, and Mervyn Patterson, political officer with United Nations assistance mission, expelled for holding talks with Taliban representatives. Possibly provided Taliban commanders with financial support and mobile phone cards to persuade them to switch sides. US allegedly alerted Afghan authorities.

2008

September: On Eid, President Karzai said he repeatedly sought the intervention of the Saudi royal family to bring the Taliban to negotiations. On the same day, Mullah Omar called on Afghans to continue holy war against foreign troops. King Abdullah hosted a “Ramadan breakfast” with representatives from the Afghan government and Taliban at the end of September, but both sides denied any real negotiations took place.

October: Pashtun tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan scheduled to meet in Islamabad for a “jirgagai” (mini-jirga) to discuss tackling militant violence. No representatives from the Taliban were present. A draft recommendation in a White House assessment of Afghan strategy calls for some talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, with US participation. Idea supported by Gen. David Petraeus, who publicly endorsed talks with “less extreme Taliban elements.” Afghan government actively pursuing possibility of peace talks with Taliban and other insurgent groups.

November: President Karzai offers Mullah Omar safe passage for negotiations, says he would resist demands to hand the Taliban leader over to US authorities. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid responded that the Taliban “will not take part in any peace talks with Karzai… until such a day when foreign forces leave Afghanistan.”

2009

March: Afghan government reportedly in preliminary discussions with Taliban representatives to discuss potential for negotiations.

August: Afghan presidential candidates weigh in on talks with Taliban. Karzai vocally supports negotiations, promises to hold tribal gathering with Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar if re-elected. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani say grass-roots approach through community and tribal councils must come first, and Mr. Ghani advocates cease-fire as next step before peace negotiations.

September: Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna calls for a “political settlement” in Afghanistan, saying that military solution is not possible. Also makes claim that Pakistani ISI aids Afghan Taliban in its insurgency.

October: East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta calls for talks with Taliban. Obama administration begins considering high-level talks with Taliban.

November: In face of negative assessments of Afghan war, US and European governments differ on how talks with Taliban might take place. US reportedly favors engaging with low-level militants, while some European governments advocate top-level peace talks.

2010

January: Al Jazeera reports (Youtube) that Afghan and Taliban officials had secret talks in the Maldives. The Taliban’s leadership council releases a statement rejecting peace talks and calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces. Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, who is in charge of reconciliation talks, dismisses Taliban denials and says contacts between the government and the Taliban have been occurring and will continue.

February: President Karzai travels to Saudi Arabia to try and revive peace talks with Taliban leadership. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, allegedly head of the Taliban’s political arm and chief military strategist, is captured in Pakistan.

September: President Karzai’s pursual of high-level talks and reconciliation with the Taliban alienates leaders of Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minority groups.

October: US forces reportedly facilitating passage of senior Taliban leaders to Kabul in support of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leadership.

November: A man claiming to be Taliban official Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour revealed to be an impostor, dashing hopes of progress in peace talks.

2011

February: President Karzai calls for the release of Taliban official Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa from Guantanamo Bay to join in reconciliation talks.

April: Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai confirms the government has been engaging in reconciliation talks with the Taliban for some time, with US support.

May: US officials reportedly participated in meetings with a high-level Taliban official, Tayeb Agha (who was arrested by Pakistani authorities the previous year and released). In June, President Karzai publicly asserts US involvement in talks with the Taliban, and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirms that the US was involved in early-stage talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls talks “very preliminary.”

October: The Afghan government ceases peace talks with the Taliban, two weeks after men claiming to be Taliban representatives killed Afghan peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani.

December: Afghanistan recalled its ambassador in Qatar, protesting attempts to exclude Kabul from US-backed efforts to open a Taliban office. The US, Germany and Qatar have been attempting to revive peace talks. The US reportedly considers transferring Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for confidence-building measures from the Taliban officials.

2012

January: The Taliban agree to open an office in Qatar for peace talks. President Karzai initially makes demands for his support, but by 5 January supports direct US-Taliban talks.

List of Articles

I’ll have to ask my US readers to forgive the international date format. I originally prepared this for a British research organization, and it would take ages to reformat the dates to my standard style.

Afghan Taliban

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Pakistani Taliban

2008

2009

2010

2011

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4 Comments

  1. “Hopes”? What hope for the girls whose faces they burned off with acid? And will do again when we leave?

    Anyone who talks to terrorists is a terrorist – and needs to be treated like one. And to see his family treated like they treat their victims.

    Don’t talk the talk if you’re the same kind of sick hypocrite who isn’t willing to walk the walk.

    • John,

      I’m not sure what your hyperbolic comment is meant to be in reply to. If you read past the second word of this post, you’ll see that it is a collection of links to articles and op-eds presenting a timeline of the history of US-Taliban peace talks.

      You’re welcome to find op-eds advocating such talks (some of which are linked on this page) and go call their authors terrorists.

  2. This has been a great help! Thanks so much! (:

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  1. Managing Expectations in Taliban Talks « Commentary Magazine

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