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'Taliban may accept US bases in Afghanistan'

world Updated: Sep 11, 2012 00:19 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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The Taliban are reportedly willing to negotiate a ceasefire, renounce al Qaeda terrorists and even allow the US to set up several military bases in Afghanistan. But it will not negotiate with President Hamid Karzai and would keep men and women segregated in education and the workplace.

The Taliban wishlist for an Afghan peace deal is set out in a major report released on Monday by the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based strategic affairs thinktank. It is based on detailed interviews with four senior Taliban interlocutors, including some who are close to Mullah Omar, the organisation's leader.

According to the report, the Taliban leadership and base "deeply regret" their past association with the al Qaeda. But the interlocutors were also clear that any peace deal would be compromised by US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Although the report makes no direct reference to India, there are clear implications for New Delhi in what the interlocutors had to say. One, a former deputy and founding member of the Taliban, said once a peace deal was in place, "the Taliban would spread the word not to host international terrorists," including the Pakistan-based LeT. Dissenters would be "sought out" and "dealt with."

The interlocutors, none of whom were named, said a joint commission comprising nominees of the Taliban, coalition forces and the Afghan government could deal with the Haqqani network. The Haqqanis "do not have the capacity to stand up to the combined strength of the top Taliban leaders)."

"The wider implication for India is that it has got to start thinking about the reconciliation and interlocution process, which is a shadowy topic in New Delhi," said co-author Dr Rudra Chaudhuri of King's College London.

Chaudhuri said the interlocutors gave their views to him on a range of topics related to India, including the 1999 hijack of Indian Airlines IC814 flight.

"They know that the backlash from Pakistan will be huge over anything to do with India and Afghanistan. But they do realise that India is the main economic player in Afghanistan. This is not the Taliban of the 90s."