‘You have reached the office of the Taliban. Press 1 for jihad, press 2 for speeches against India and America, press 3 for suicide bombings or press 4 for the operator.’ This may no longer be in the realm of speculation with the Taliban about to open an office in Qatar, ostensibly the first step towards negotiations. Now the art of negotiation is something which comes quite naturally to the Taliban. Indeed, we have observed that they are second to none in the smoke and mirrors game of diplomacy. Which explains how a man posing as a Taliban negotiator was able to relieve the Americans of thousands of dollars before vanishing into the Khyber Pass.
The Taliban’s skilful persuasion tactics were seen again when a man, again posing as a negotiator, detonated a bomb in his turban while in conversation with former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani. But it is crucial to have a proper address from where to conduct the holy war. And what better place than petro-rich Qatar. It must have got a little tedious running operations from caves and crannies with only the passing goat for company. It must have been difficult to explain to like-minded souls eager to learn the gentle art of jihad that chez Taliban is right from the left fork in the Tora Bora mountains. Apart from the difficulty in negotiating all those hairpin bends, it must also have been hell to put out the best tea service on a good day given the inclement weather conditions.
We look forward to hearing the tenets of negotiation from the Taliban. For a start, will they talk to anyone whose beard does not meet the required specifications? What if, God forbid, a woman pops by for talks? Clearly, a manual is required and this can be hammered out in sunny Qatar. While there, the Taliban can also figure out how to bring the decadent Gulf countries to heel and make them fall in line with pure Islamic tradition. Let’s see what the boys are upto in Qatar. Oh dear, all lines on the route are busy.