Secret talks with Taliban fall apart because of leaks
Sources in the Afghan government aren't taking kindly to our desire to negotiate with the Taliban.
The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by 'paranoid' Afghan government figures.
Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's former private secretary, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. The meetings were chaired by Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The talks were described as a preliminary exercise aimed at agreeing a series of confidence-building measures to persuade the Taliban that the United States and its allies are serious about a negotiated settlement, sources close to the talks told The Daily Telegraph.
They said Taliban leaders were extremely nervous about entering talks because of widespread scepticism among their own commanders who believed the Americans were only seeking dialogue to divide their movement and fears that any discussions would damage their own credibility.
But after only three sessions details of two meetings in Germany and one in Qatar - held in March and April - were leaked to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel news magazine which named Tayeb Agha as the key Taliban negotiator.
For all his bluster about overbearing Americans, President Karzai is not anxious to see us leave Afghanistan any time soon. He is fully aware that his newly trained army and police force doesn't stand a chance against the Taliban and in a matter of months after we depart, his government would either be forced into a humiliating agreement with the Taliban, or he would be deposed.
Still, I wouldn't make too much of these talks. Taliban leadership is so nebulous, it's very possible that Mr. Agha doesn't speak for all the Taliban, and that any agreement he reaches with us would not be honored by many Taliban commanders.