The Blackwater story has somewhat eclipsed the other story from yesterday which was the revelation that the US has been engaged in backchannel talks with senior Taliban. Among the four individuals acting as mediators from the Taliban/Saudi side are Abdullah Azzam’s son-in-law who lives in the UK but maintains close links with the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda as well as the current leader of Hizbul Mujahideen.
Things are pretty dysfunctional when these talks with the Afghan Taliban are continuing in parallel to the seemingly endless debate on troop escalation in Afghanistan to fight the, well, you know, Afghan Taliban. I am reminded of Amrullah Saleh’s blunt assessment of US policy in Afghanistan vis-a-vis Pakistan in the recently aired Frontline documentary on the war. He said, “you cannot incentivize good behavior”. Regardless of the outcome of these talks, we can be certain of one thing and that is that these talks will vindicate every backup plan that the Pakistan army ever came up with regarding the Afghan Taliban.
On a related note, check out this fascinating archive of declassified US government documents on the subject of the Afghan Taliban from 1996-2001.