Bid to split Taliban, Al Qaeda
In Afghanistan, US and NATO reassess their strategy amid concerns that their efforts are failing.
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Some who attended the Mecca meetings say that future meetings are being planned in places like Dubai, and both sides are looking into meeting regularly in the coming months.Skip to next paragraph
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Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads an insurgent network allied with the Taliban, may not be fighting for purely nationalist or other ideological reasons.
"Hekmatyar's main concern is power, and he will do whatever it takes to get it back," says Waliullah Rahmani of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies, an independent think tank. Mr. Hekmatyar was one of the few warlords not offered a position in the post-Taliban government.
In the spring, Hekmatyar sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, stating, "I have dedicated my whole life to struggle, but I am old." The letter goes on to imply that Mr. Karzai should remove all foreign troops from urban centers. A similar message was sent in October.
According to Waheed Muzhda, a former Taliban official who has seen one of the letters and is familiar with the negotiation process, Hekmatyar may be interested in a senior government post.
Splitting the insurgency, however, may prove difficult. "Many of the Taliban's financial resources come from Al Qaeda," says analyst Mr. Rahmani. The Taliban may also lack sufficient incentive to split from Al Qaeda or negotiate with the Afghan government as long as they feel they are winning the war and their havens in Pakistan are not threatened.
"Omar and his followers have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they can hold out long enough for foreign forces to withdraw," says Matthew DuPee, a researcher with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
But if the US can weaken the insurgency, it could force splits in insurgents' ranks. "If you achieve a measure of military success, then you are in a position to negotiate with the warlords," says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The US must also offer incentives, such as more autonomy on the local level and more resources, he adds.
"If your end game is negotiated settlement, then you need both sticks and carrots," he says.
• Gordon Lubold contributed from Washington.