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.
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"I don't think anything is happening here," said a U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with a journalist.Skip to next paragraph
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Furthermore, the insurgents have expanded to 34 of Afghanistan's 36 provinces, and they think they're winning and that they only have to out-wait the Obama administration, which set July 2011 as the start of a U.S. troop withdrawal.
"If I were sitting on the side of those trying to be brought into some kind of reconciliation process, I'd be saying time is on my side," said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan who requested anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.
Tarar, a key player in Afghanistan from the 1979-89 Soviet occupation until 2001, said he trained Omar after he graduated from an Islamic seminary in 1985 to fight as a guerrilla against the Soviet forces. At the time, the ISI was running secret camps for "mujahideen" fighters along the Afghan border with U.S. funding.
Tarar, who worked closely with the CIA and was schooled in guerrilla warfare at Fort Bragg, N.C., arranged for Omar's medical treatment after he was injured. They met again in 1994 after the Pakistani official was posted in the western Afghan city of Herat and "got closer to each other," Tarar said.
The ISI saw the potential of Omar's movement of Islamic purists in the mid-1990s and heavily backed them against the government formed by the victorious anti-Soviet mujahideen. When the Taliban swept into Kabul in 1996, they gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistani security establishment thinks that Omar's ambitions are limited to Afghanistan, and that the Taliban can now be persuaded to share power with other Afghan factions.
"Mullah Omar is highly respected, very faithful to his country. He's the only answer. He's a very reasonable man," said Tarar, who insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity. "He's a very effective man, no other man is effective. He's for peace, not war. The Americans don't realize this. He wants his country to be peaceful. He doesn't want to destroy his country."
Tarar said that Omar would be willing to cut a deal, if it would lead to the departure of foreign troops and included funds to rebuild Afghanistan. "I can help," he said. "But can I trust the Americans?"
Pakistan admitted last weekend that it is talking to "all levels" of the Taliban.
Western diplomats think the ISI must be involved in any negotiations or it would act as a spoiler, continuing to provide aid to the Taliban and allied insurgent groups as part of a goal to install in Kabul a pro-Pakistan regime that would sever close ties with India
Tarar said that without talks, the war would grind on with U.S. forces ignoring the counterinsurgency textbooks that call for the use of minimal force and winning the support of the people.
"The time is on the Taliban's side. The longer the Americans stay, the more complete will be their defeat. They will not be routed but they will be worn out, psychologically and physically," he said.
(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Landay reported from Washington.)
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