Taliban leaders ‘offered asylum’ under London peace plan
Great! And while we’re at it, why not Â offer them a generous pension plan and welfare for their extended tribes…
Taliban leaders could be offered exile abroad and have their names deleted from a UN sanctions blacklist as part of a peace plan for Afghanistan to be unveiled in London next week.
A briefing paper on theÂ Afghan government’s proposals seen byÂ The Daily Telegraph says any peace deal may include “potential exile in a third country” for insurgent leaders.
The document does not name any country, but Saudi Arabia, which recognised the former Taliban regime, is believed to be a possible candidate to give leaders a new life.
The plan was endorsed by Afghan ministers and the international community in Kabul on Tuesday. It envisages a twin-track strategy aiming separately at foot soldiers and the leadership.
After eight years of intensifying fighting Nato commanders have acknowledged political negotiation is the only solution to the worsening fighting.
They are now backing a “carrot and stick” strategy of more troops to reverse the Taliban’s military momentum coupled with incentives for fighters to rejoin society.
International donors are preparing to pay hundreds of millions of pounds towards the scheme, with Japan and the US already allocating substantial budgets.
In the first phase, junior fighters, who commanders believe are mainly motivated by money, will be offered jobs, training and education if they lay down their weapons and renounce violence.
* Sure. Jobs, training and education is all they want. Trust me: they’re just like us, if we just throw enough money at it, the problem will go away…!
In other news:
Further incentives could include pensions for older fighters and allotments of land.
Villages which persuade their men to give up their struggle will get a “peace dividend” of aid and development.
Fighters would be offered security and protection from reprisal, which has so far led to the deaths of many who have tried to defect.
A peaceÂ jirga, or tribal council, will be held by President Hamid Karzai after the London conference to kick start the plan.
A separate push will later target the Taliban high command. It could include giving them asylum or political positions if they lay down their weapons, break links with al-Qaeda and agree to abide by the Afghan constitution the paper said.
They would also see their names taken off a UN sanctions list of Taliban and al-Qaeda which has frozen their assets and blocked foreign travel. Any deal would also need their removal from United States “kill or capture” lists.
The report says: “The government reaches its hand out to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to offer them a dignified and respectful way to renounce violence and peacefully reintegrate into their communities and separate themselves from their past.”
The plan will be unveiled to the London conference on Jan 28 by Mr Karzai and his adviser Mohammad Masoom Stanakzai.
Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban deputy higher education minister who appears on the UN list despite now being a senator, said peace relied on talks with members of the insurgents’ ruling Quetta Shura.
He said: “I am sure dealing with the Taliban soldiers is not the solution. They are strongly linked to their commanders and trust them. First you have to talk to the most senior people.”
He said while Mullah Mohammad Omar remained the nominal head of the movement, negotiations now relied on his lieutenants in Quetta, Pakistan.
Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said earlier this week he doubted the Taliban high command would consider a settlement until the momentum of the insurgency had been reversed. He also questioned whether reconciliation with Mullah Omar was realistic.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, another blacklisted former Taliban ambassador who spent several years at Guantanamo, said the reintegration plan was corrupt and would hinder peace efforts.
“While America is talking about peace talks, on the one hand it wants to divide the Taliban and buy some of them with money, and on the other hand it sends more troops for the war,” he said.
“These are all contradictory issues and no one can make decisions in such a situation.
“The Taliban say these are all a conspiracy against them and this will harden their position.”