Can Mullah Omar Be Negotiated With?

Hamid Karzai first spoke of negotiations with Mullah Omar in November 2008. Now, as the Afghan government is once again renewing its efforts to negotiate with the Taliban the question of Mullah Omar once again reared its head.

As there is a large chasm between a strategy of a bottom-up abandonment of the Taliban or top-down restructuring of the organization to accept the Afghan government, the United States and Afghanistan must ask themselves if the likes of Mullah Omar are at all interested in negotiations.

Both governments must know whether their aim is to disempower the Taliban through a series of abandonments from the lower ranks without ties to Al Qaeda or to try to negotiate with the highest ranking Taliban leaders, like Mullah Omar, and have them bring about a large ideological shift among the Taliban to accept the Afghan government.

A former ISI brigadier who is thought to have trained Mullah Omar claims that Mullah Omar would be open to sincere negotiations:

“If a sincere message comes from the Americans, these people (the Taliban) are very big-hearted. They will listen. But if you try to divide the Taliban, youll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive,” said Tarar, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers.

Mullah Omar open to talks: Colonel Imam [Dawn.com]

United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on the other hand has firmly stated that there is no chance of negotiating with Mullah Omar and others at his level within the Taliban:

I do not expect Mullah Omar and those people to be at all interested in this. In fact, theyve made it very clear that theyre not,” Clinton told CNN.

“I think there are many members of the Taliban who will see this chance to reenter society under these very stringent conditions to be attractive enough to test,” she said.

“In general, you dont make peace with your friends; you make peace with your enemies. And I think what President Karzai is trying to do is to send some very clear messages,” she said.

Mullah Omar not interested in peace talks: Clinton [Press Trust of India]