Pakistan spy: US should talk to the Taliban's Mullah Omar
To succeed in Afghanistan, the US must negotiate a deal with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, says retired Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a former Pakistan intelligence officer. He trained Mullah Omar to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The U.S. must negotiate a political settlement to the Afghanistan war directly with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar because any bid to split the insurgency through defections will fail, said the Pakistani former intelligence officer who trained the insurgent chief.Skip to next paragraph
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Omar is open to such talks, asserted retired Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a former operative of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). He is popularly known as Colonel Imam, whose exploits have gained him near-legendary status in central Asia.
"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, you'll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive," said Tarar, a tall, imposing man with a long gray beard and white turban, in an interview with McClatchy.
His comments came as the U.S. and its NATO allies appear increasingly anxious to find a path toward a political resolution to the more than eight-year-old war whose escalating human and financial costs are fueling growing popular opposition.
In Washington, U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones was asked by McClatchy if the Obama administration ruled out having the ISI act as a conduit between Omar and the U.S., as Pakistani officials are advocating.
"We are pursuing a general strategy of engagement," replied Jones, a former four-star Marine general. "We'll see where this takes us."
Senior U.S. and European officials have in recent days been heavily promoting a "re-integration" plan under which low-level Taliban fighters are to be offered jobs, education and protection in return for renouncing al Qaida and defecting to the Afghan government. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to unveil the initiative at an international conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday.
Karzai also is being encouraged to reach out to senior Taliban leaders, who U.S. commanders think may be induced to switch sides under the pressure of a stepped up military campaign by the 116,000-strong U.S.-led international force bolstered by 30,000 more American soldiers, most of who are due to arrive this summer.
"The U.S. remains committed to continued engagement by the Afghan government to politically reconcile any Afghan citizen willing to renounce Al Qaeda and violence and to accept the Afghan Constitution," said an administration official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Some U.S. officials and experts, however, see little chance for progress on a political resolution.
Omar, who has led the Taliban since its inception in 1992 and is thought to be directing the insurgency from a sanctuary in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, has repeatedly rejected negotiations until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan, they pointed out.