Entries in Peace Talks (13)


Hillary Clinton Hopes for Renewed Talks with Taliban

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Tensions are running high between the U.S. and Afghanistan given the latest controversy involving an American Army sergeant who's suspected of slaying 16 Afghan civilians.

On top of that, the Taliban says it wants no part of entering into talks that might lead to an end to the 10-year-long conflict.

However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prefers to see the peace process as something that can be resuscitated through diplomacy.

Even as the Taliban seems more resolved than ever to fight to the death to regain control of Afghanistan, Clinton told reporters in Washington Wednesday, "We are committed to supporting Afghan reconciliation."

Clinton had just held talks with her counterpart, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul, when she reiterated demands that the Taliban renounce all ties with al Qaeda and work towards establishing human rights for all.

America's top enjoy is also pushing for the Taliban to reopen an office in Qatar where preliminary talks had begun to open the door to a possible resolution of the war.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan President Eager to Start Direct Talks with the Taliban

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Afghanistan's president wants his government to start direct talks with the Taliban in an effort to end the 10-year-long war that appears to have reached a stalemate.

In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, Hamid Karzai said, "In order to realize the objectives of the peace process, I invite the leadership of the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government."

Since Karzai's administration was installed seven years ago, the Taliban has refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, vowing to take back the country after its regime was deposed following the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

At the moment, officials from the Taliban -- the al-Qaeda linked group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. and allied troops, and which sheltered Osama bin Laden during the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks -- have set up an office in Qatar to communicate with the Obama administration. The two sides are reportedly working on a prisoner swap that would be a precursor to more serious talks about a peace process to end the long conflict.

Karzai made the announcement after conferring with President Obama by phone, who welcomed the news, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

However, in order for discussions with the Taliban to get underway, Karzai must first gain the cooperation of Pakistan, where militia leaders have taken refuge since being ousted a decade ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pakistan to Afghans: We Want to Help

George Doyle/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- When U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was the head of all international forces in Afghanistan, he used to joke that Afghans would blame the rain on Pakistan, so widespread was the belief that Pakistan and its feared intelligence service was manipulating everything in Afghanistan.

Now Pakistan wants to convince Afghans that it has turned over a new leaf. Pakistani government and intelligence officials have reached out to the very Afghan officials who led the fight against the Pakistan-backed Taliban. And Pakistan has replaced talk of using Afghanistan for “strategic depth” with talk of supporting “Afghan-led,” “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-driven” peace talks with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, used all those formulations in an interview with ABC News and a small group of foreign journalists in Islamabad Thursday during trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Her message about peace talks was a relatively new one, which the Pakistani government has been trying to deliver for the last few months: We will facilitate the peace talks that the Afghans ask us to facilitate.

“If [Afghan President Hamid Karzai] is supporting it, if he’s behind it, and if he thinks it’s going to mature into something, we have no choice” but to support it, she said. “I literally look at Pakistan having no choice.”

What Pakistan wants, Khar continued, is to know exactly what Afghanistan wants Pakistan to do.

“They have been wanting us to facilitate something, right? So we want complete clarity as to what that thing is,” she said. “We would like to play a supportive role....I don’t think we should have been made to guess as to what the Afghans want as much as we have made to.”

In reality, Pakistan doesn’t really need to wait for the Afghans to ask (or guess what they want). Pakistan has in its hands many of the peacemaking cards, if only because many senior Taliban commanders and their families live inside Pakistan’s borders. It can restrict their movement and even threaten them, or let them move and speak freely.

And it seems that Pakistan has taken at least a small step toward supporting what, until now, has been a U.S.-dominated peace process. After a year of talks with the U.S., the Taliban have opened an office in Qatar, and U.S. officials have discussed the possibility of sending five Afghan detainees currently in Guantanamo to Qatar as a “confidence-building measure” to jumpstart further peace talks. Pakistan has played its part, according to a senior Afghan official: It recently allowed the families of the detainees to travel from Pakistan to Qatar.

Even in the corridors of power, Afghan skepticism of Pakistan’s true intentions -- despite the Pakistani foreign minister’s statements -- remains high. And that’s what Khar admits she needs to fight.

“The burden that Pakistan carries is of trying to claim more than its due share” in Afghanistan, she admitted. “That historical baggage is still there.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Karzai in Pakistan for Peace Talks; Admits Secret Talks with Taliban

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Islamabad Thursday to hold talks, believed to be aimed at making peace with the Taliban, with Pakistani officials.

The day before, Karzai admitted to the Wall Street Journal that his government has engaged in secret talks with the militant group in an effort to end the 10-year war.  This comes after it was confirmed last month that the U.S. has been holding secret talks with the Taliban and was trying to get Afghanistan on board.

"There have been contacts between the U.S. government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban," Karzai told the newspaper Wednesday.

The Afghan leader didn't disclose any more details, fearing it could damage the process, and Taliban spokesmen couldn't be reached for confirmation.

Later on Thursday, Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were met in Islamabad by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss trade issues.

The three leaders are expected to hold a press conference on Friday.

Recently, Vice President Joe Biden made headlines when he said of the al Qaeda-linked group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Afghanistan, "The Taliban, per se, is not our enemy." The Obama administration supported his statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta On Mideast Peace Talks: ‘Just Get to the Damn Table’

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is known for his colorful language, and he had some advice Friday night for restarting the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians: “Just get to the damn table.”

Panetta was speaking at a Brookings Institution forum on the Middle East when during a question and answer session, he was asked what steps Israel should take to get talks underway again.

A frustrated Panetta replied to applause, “Just get to the damn table, just get to the table,” adding, “the problem right now is we can’t get them to the same table … to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences.”

He said the obstacles to a potential agreement are known, but if both sides were to “sit at a table and work through those concerns, then the U.S. would assist them in a process that could eventually lead to a peace agreement.” 

But “if they aren’t at the table, this will never happen,” he said. “So, first and foremost, get to the damn table.”

The comments were reminiscent of Panetta’s colorful advice to Iraq’s leaders this past summer when he famously told them, “Dammit, make a decision.” At the time Panetta was visiting Iraq, he was frustrated with Iraqi leaders for not deciding whether they wanted the U.S. to remain in Iraq beyond this year’s troop withdrawal deadline.

In his prepared remarks at Friday night’s forum, Panetta urged Israel to address its growing isolation with its neighbors.

Panetta also reaffirmed the administration’s worries about the threat that a nuclear armed Iran would pose, and that the U.S. was doing all it could to prevent that from happening. He worried that it might lead to a regional nuclear arms race or even worse, a regional conflict.   

Panetta also warned about the unintended consequences of a strike on Iran that might lead it to regain regional support and potentially lead to attacks on U.S. ships and military bases.

Touching on the turmoil in Syria, Panetta expressed confidence that international pressure exerted on Syria was having an effect and that it was "a matter of time" before Syrian President Basher al-Assad stepped down. But for that to happen, Panetta said the international community needed to keep the pressure on Assad’s government.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan to Revive Peace Talks

U.S. Department of State(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Following her unannounced visit to Libya to offer the new government there U.S. support, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up in Afghanistan Wednesday in an effort to jump start a peaceful ending to the 10-year-long war.

During her stay, Clinton will hold talks with President Hamid Karzai and other officials about ways of including the Taliban in peace talks.  The task was made more difficult by the murder last month of Afghanistan's top negotiator, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Karzi, who viewed Rabbani as the best person for the job, has been reluctant to resume the peace process, insisting that Pakistan must also be involved.  Kabul has suggested that Pakistan's rogue spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, may have ordered the assassination.

Nonetheless, Clinton and the White House are pushing for a resumption of negotiations, which might also include the Haqqani network, another militant group with possible ties to the Pakistani government.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US to Reveal New Ideas for Mideast Peace Talks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted Friday that the U.S. will offer some ideas for a way forward next week in the stalled Mideast peace talks. She refused, however, to reveal what those ideas might be.

In an interview with al Hurra television Friday, Clinton said, "We have been talking with both parties very substantively, and I think that the United States can play a role to help each make decisions about very difficult matters that then can be presented to the other side."

When the latest round of talks began approximately two months ago, the U.S. said that if appropriate, it would present its own ideas on how to move forward. The process has been stalled over a disagreement about Israeli settlement building, and perhaps now the time has come for a U.S. push.

"We're going to have some additional consultations with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. But there are a number of ways that we're going to move forward," she said.

Asked if the current round of talks were dead, Clinton replied, "We're not ready to say that," but added that there would be much more to say next week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Taliban Sends Fake Leader to Peace Talks with Afghan President

Photo Courtesy - Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- That high-ranking Taliban leader attending recent peace talks in Afghanistan was not the high-ranking leader that the U.S. and Afghan officials thought he was.

In fact, no one is sure of the man's real identity, but they are certain it wasn't Mullah Akhtar Muhammed Mansour, a top Taliban commander who operates out of Pakistan and is considered second only to supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

This discovery has greatly embarrassed the Afghan government, which actually paid the person pretending to be Mansour a great deal of money to show up at the negotiations, which also appear to be a bust.

The imposter even got as far as meeting with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, having gained access to the heavily protected presidential palace in Kabul.  It wasn't until the third appearance by the poseur that someone in Kandahar figured out that the man was not Mansour.

While U.S. and Afghan officials now admit to being fooled by the imposter, there was no information on how they actually reached the conclusion that the man wasn't Mansour.

There is speculation that he was likely a Taliban agent sent to gather information for the group's leadership, which is hiding out in Pakistan.  One senior Afghan official lamented, "The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service.  They are playing games."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Palestinian President Rebukes Isreali Prime Minister's Lecture

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Palestinian leaders on Sunday not to bypass direct talks and go straight to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state, saying it doesn't further the diplomatic process of peacemaking.  The Palestinian president responded by taking issue with the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

On a visit to Bethlehem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the press that Prime Minister Netanyahu should not lecture the Palestinians about unilateral steps when Israel, he said, has unilaterally been building settlements in the West Bank for decades on Palestinian land.

Abbas added what he called "invasions" and roadblocks to the list of Israel's one-sided actions, and stood firm that the Palestinians may indeed approach the U.N. to achieve statehood.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


NATO Official Describes Talks With Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The Afghan government is conducting secret meetings with Taliban leaders who are so significant that if the U.S. was not helping them enter Afghanistan, they would likely be killed by U.S. Special Forces.

"Any insurgent seeking to enter into talks could be subject to that kind of targeting," Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, told ABC News in an interview.

The journey usually begins in Quetta, the headquarters of the Afghan Taliban leadership and a city located in the Baluchistan province of northwest Pakistan.

The Afghan Taliban leaders drive in several vehicles northwest over the border into Kandahar in southeast Afghanistan.

Then, they either are sneaked onto NATO aircraft and flown to the Afghan capital of Kabul or driven there.  The U.S. military tracks the vehicles in the air and on the ground, clearing roads to ensure their occupants are not harmed by coalition forces.

Officials hope that the high-level talks will lead to low-level Taliban fighters turning in their weapons with a promise to stop fighting, and a pledge of allegiance to the Afghan constitution, but stress that the talks with the Taliban are only in the very initial stages.

"At this stage, it's really channels of between some significant leaders of the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan," Sedwill said.

"I don't think it's gone beyond that," he said.  "I don't think we're at the stage of real negotiations.  I know that [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai hopes we'll reach that point, but at this stage it's really...early steps."

And the foreign forces are eager to show they are in the backseat of the effort.

"The Afghan government is, in the end, leading this effort and will continue to do so," Sedwill said.

"President Karzai has put a peace process out there," he added.  "He's organized the peace jirga.  There is now the peace council.  He's made sure that there is now a respectable and honorable route back into the mainstream for these people if they're willing to take it."

With the war losing support among the American public, officials are under pressure to show progress by President Obama's December review, and certainly by the spring.

Meanwhile, Obama met with his national security team Wednesday for his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A White House statement issued after the meeting did not mention the talks, except for President Karzai's establishment of a high peace council to support Afghan-led reintegration and reconciliation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio