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So, this week in Afghanistan.

There was some talk. And the talk was pretty wild.

The United States announced direct talks with the Taliban.

The US is to open direct talks with Taliban leaders within days, it was revealed on Tuesday, after Washington agreed to drop a series of preconditions that have previously held back negotiations over the future of Afghanistan.

Taliban peace talks: 'Peace and reconciliation' negotiations to take place in Qatar

The United States told the press what the Taliban would say.
So later today in Doha, the Taliban will release a statement that says two things:  First, that they oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries; and second, that they support an Afghan peace process.  

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on Afghanistan -- Via Conference Call

The Taliban talked to the press, in Qatar, and said some things beyond what the U.S. had said they would say.
How nicely the Taleban had managed to present themselves - beards neatly trimmed (a crime in the old days), the Islamic Emirate flag draped in the background and flowers round the podium (fresh rather than Taleban-era plastic). The introduction by the deputy foreign minister of Qatar only enhanced the show of respectability. As to what they said, it did not look like they had conceded much.

The Opening of the Taleban Office in Qatar

Afghanistan objected to what the Taliban said.
Officials said they were furious that the office in Doha was accredited to the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", the name used by the Taliban when they held power.

Hamid Karzai plunges Taliban peace talks into doubt

Afghanistan stopped talking with the Taliban.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he will refuse peace talks with the Taliban in a new office in Qatar unless only Afghans are involved and violence stops, after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed four American troops.

Afghan President Karzai rejects peace talks with the Taliban

Afghanistan stopped talking with the United States.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has canceled bilateral security talks with the United States, apparently to protest the opening of formal talks with the Taliban insurgent group.

Afghanistan Cancels Security Talks With United States

The United States called up Afghanistan on the telephone.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised Karzai during phone conversations Tuesday and Wednesday that the Taliban's flag and nameplate would be removed.
Afghanistan asked us to send them a letter.
Karzai also wants a formal letter from the United States supporting the Afghan government.

Afghan President Karzai now willing to join Taliban peace talks

The United States would not openly talk about the letter.
The White House would not confirm or deny the existence of the letter.

U.S. Scrambles to Save Taliban Talks After Afghan Backlash

But was willing to talk about the letter in private.
But an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mr. Obama had sent one offering such assurances.
The United States told Qatar to tell the Taliban to take the flag down.
A statement by the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quoted by the Qatar News Agency, said that the Taliban office should be known as “the Political Bureau of the Afghan Taliban in Doha and not the political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

At the Taliban Office, Waiting for Progress on Talks

Afghanistan will now talk to the Taliban and the United States again.
Aghanistan President Hamid Karzai is now willing to join peace talks with the Taliban, his spokesman says, a day after rejecting the negotiations over the way the militant group opened an office in Qatar

Afghan President Karzai now willing to join Taliban peace talks

But the Taliban might not talk to Afghanistan or the United States.
The official said, “The governments of America and of Qatar backtracked on the promise they made to us on the flag and the name. It was agreed we could use them. But because of the Kabul regime they backtracked.”

Taliban consider to cancel peace talks with US and Afghanistan

Or then again, maybe they will.
A Taliban spokesman in Doha, Shaheen Suhail, suggested the Taliban were willing to move forward despite "much anger" among some members over the removal of the name and the lowering of the Taliban flag — a white flag emblazoned with a Quranic verse in black.

Taliban signal willingness to meet demands for Afghan peace talks amid US warnings

What to say about all this? I don't know.
At the moment, one would have to conclude that the opening of this office has made the Taleban look strong, the Americans desperate and President Karzai angry.

The Opening of the Taleban Office in Qatar

More talk about Afghanistan, after the fold.

Field Marshal First Vice President Mohammed Fahim spoke to the assembled governors of Afghanistan. The Field Marshal addressed the governors as the mujahedin.

Fahim delivered his controversial speech at the national governor’s conference in Kabul, where he addressed the assembled governors mainly as former mujahedin (not true of all, but certainly for most) and as members of a ruling elite facing a possible loss of power.

Getting Ready for Change. Or: What to Make of Fahim’s Speech

Fahim said some nice things in the speech.
We are all flowers from one garden ... We need to view each other with eyes of love.
But in addition to calling up the flower gardens of Afghanistan, and what they represent, Fahim called up some not so nice things too.
The First Vic-President of Afghanistan Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim warned about ignoring the Mujahidin in the upcoming round of presidency and said, ignoring Mujahidin is the resume of civil war in Afghanistan.

Fahim, If Mujahidin Are Ignored, I Will Take Gun and Will Climb Mountain

There seems to be a rule of rhetoric among Afghan politicians. If you threaten civil war, you must point out that civil war would be bad. But Fahim had some trouble doing even this. He couldn't quite spurt it out.
He did make some (very) faint acknowledgements of the mujahedin’s chequered past: “Unfortunately when we were victorious, the inexperience and unfamiliarity with governing and the interference by the neighbours who didn’t want us to have a strong system or strong army…” [unfinished sentence].
Having to point out that civil war would be bad can work to their purpose anyway. If their message is "don't make me start shooting."

General Abdul Rashid Dostum is the leader of the National Front. And Dostum, this week, started some shooting. This was the situation in Afghanistan before all the dueling Taliban negotiations talk:

Even by the standards of an Afghan warlord turned politician, it was a memorable spat, involving wild accusations, dueling news conferences, a Twitter feed and — this being Afghanistan — actual gunplay.

After Gunfire, Politicians in Afghanistan Trade Accusations

The shooting happened when Dostum's men visited Jowzjan Governor Mohammad Aleem Sayee.
Gov. Mohammad Aleem Sayee, however, said in a telephone interview that General Dostum had called him the night before demanding that he join a plot to, in effect, start a new civil war. When he refused, the warlord promised to come by and kill him and his family.
After the gunfire, Sayee held a news conference where he made some accusations. Brave man.
“These warlords would like to take Afghanistan back to those old days,” he said. “They are dreaming of the time they were running small fiefs around the country. They are threatening ordinary people and trying to intimidate them with the 2014 deadline of foreign forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

James Warlick is Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not even Wikipedia has heard about this. Wikipedia thinks he is merely the former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Bulgaria.

El Snarkistani follows him on twitter, though.

There might be snark, about the former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, at the link.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, and to Iraq, and to the United Nations. He came up with and negotiated the plan to hand Afghanistan over to the warlords, it is said.

Khalilzad seems to have gone freelance in Afghanistan lately. He's talking and negotiating among the politicians all on his own.

Saudi-backed anti-Western Wahhabi fundamentalist and bin Laden associate Abdul-Rab Sayyaf is a Member of Parliament, to list his official position. He's the kind of guy U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations will name themselves after.

Back in the days when Khalilzad handed Afghanistan over to the warlords, he had made a deal with Sayyaf. Afghanistan would have constitutional protections for women, and ethnic minorities, and religious pluralism. But Sayyaf would get the Supreme Court.

And in Afghanistan today, Sayyaf counts as associated with the U.S. friendly

Closer to the government, the largely mujahedin platform of tanzeem leader Abdul-Rab Sayyaf and the gathered Pashtun technocrats (5)

5) The gathered technocrats appear to include former American Ambassador to Kabul Zalmai Khalilzad, head of the transition process and former presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, president’s brother Qayum Karzai, current Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwal, current Minister of Education Farooq Wardak, former head of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance Jailani Popal, and former Minister of Interior Ali Ahmad Jalali).

Getting Ready for Change. Or: What to Make of Fahim’s Speech

technocrats, I guess. Pretty wild talk.
 

Originally posted to Garrett on Sun Jun 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in Afghanistan.

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