Taliban 'ready to disown al-Qaida'
10 September 2012
The Taliban regret their past association with al-Qaida and are ready to renounce the terror network as part of a negotiated return to political recognition in Afghanistan, according to a leading defence thinktank.
A report by the Royal United Services Institute based on interviews with three current members of the Taliban found that the group's internal doubts that al-Qaida planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are gone, with the Taliban now "100 per cent sure" of al-Qaida's role.
One former Taliban deputy minister and founding member said that al-Qaida, by planning the attacks and hosting terror training camps in the country, was responsible "for wrecking our work to create an Islamic state".
The comments, based on interviews conducted in July with former Taliban ministers, a Mujahideen commander and a mediator, also revealed that the Taliban were "far more pragmatic" about negotiating a return to Afghanistan than had otherwise been thought.
Any ceasefire or political settlement would need the approval of Taliban leader Mullah Omar in order to work, but the idea of a ceasefire would have "traction", the interviews found.
The Taliban also said that the US could maintain a security presence in the country, with around five long-term bases possible until 2024. The presence would be tolerated as long as Afghanistan was never used as a base to launch attacks against Iran or Pakistan and drone attacks from the country ceased, one of the interviewees said.
While the men interviewed said Mullah Omar broadly agreed to a political solution, they added that the Taliban would reject the current Afghan constitution in order to not appear to be surrendering to Hamid Karzai's government. They would also refuse to negotiate with the current Afghan government.
"They all stated, in different words, that the Taliban now recognise their links to al-Qaida before 9/11 were a mistake," report co-author Dr Rudra Chaudhuri told The Daily Telegraph.
"The report shows that the outlook of the Taliban leadership has changed over the last three years. There is an acceptance now that this conflict cannot be won and an outright victory is almost unforeseeable.
"They understand that the US military machine will stay on after 2014, and allowing bases to stay would be similar to those in Iraq — with clear red lines on what is and is not acceptable. They see the Americans as a safe bet.
"It will obviously be difficult for David Cameron to sell a deal with the Taliban when British troops are dying in Helmand. It will be equally difficult for the Taliban to sell negotiating with the so-called infidels. But a narrative is needed that is acceptable to both sides."