Outlook dim for peace jirga, scholars say

May 14, 2010 at 12:23 PM

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- Reintegration and reconciliation talks planned for Afghan insurgents may produce few near-term gains because the Taliban feel victorious, U.S. scholars say.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his trip to Washington this week trumpeted a reintegration and reconciliation strategy aimed at bringing low- and mid-level Taliban officials into the political fray.

Taliban leaders in March said they wouldn't hold peace talks with the Karzai government until foreign troops left Afghanistan.

Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank, said the Taliban leadership believes it is winning the war in Afghanistan, meaning peace talks could yield little in the short term.

"Our ability to discern what's in the heart of Taliban leadership is limited by all the filters through which we can observe this," he cautioned. "This is a very secretive collection of insurgent organizations, which have very substantial divisions among them."

Karzai touting the so-called peace jirga, said Biddle, is part of his effort to show Afghans and the international community he has the ability to lead during war with an insurgency led by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

"Karzai would like to be seen as the man who made peace," he said. "He's much more comfortable in that role than he is in the warrior role."

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