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>> Asharq Al-Awsat


SAUDI MEDIATION: THE TALIBAN'S LAST CHANCE

Asharq Al-Awsat - February 1, 2010 by Muhammad Diyab Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for Saudi mediation between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement and tribal groups in order to achieve peace in the country is the right move but is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the most capable country in the world of undertaking this role due to its position in the Islamic world and also because its mediation is internationally acceptable. The Taliban movement may have no way of breaking its international isolation other than by accepting Saudi mediation. This is the only opportunity open to the Taliban, and the Taliban must not throw this away, especially as Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban regime. This was when the Taliban movement was working to protect the citizens of Afghanistan from the oppression of the Afghan warlords, resisting corruption and eradicating drug cultivation in the country. However when the Taliban took control of the majority of the country the movement became more extremist, restricting representations of modern life, and restricting women's rights, and even Afghan antiquities were not safe from this extremism and narrow-mindedness. However the most important and dangerous mistake made by the Taliban was to turn Afghanistan into a safe haven for terrorism and terrorists, this was a transformation that precipitated their clash with the international community, and resulted in their defeat following the September 11 attacks. The statements made by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on President Karzai's request for Saudi mediation are logical, for he did not close the door on this, but stated that this request should be made by Afghanistan officially, and that the Taliban should confirm its intention to attend negotiations by cutting ties with terrorists. Prince Saud al-Faisal said the Taliban's sincere intentions to establish peace must begin with cutting its ties with militants, and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden. He said that it is not logical for Saudi Arabia to mediate a crisis between two parties, one of whom is providing a safe haven to terrorist groups that are hostile to Saudi Arabia and the world at large. Karzai's call for Saudi mediation may hold the only hope for the Taliban to put an end to its [international] isolation, displacement, and pursuit. This is a good opportunity for the Taliban to improve its image, and rectify its mistakes and its relations with the international community, thereby becoming an acceptable component of Afghan society. Will the Taliban survive, ending its alliance with the militants? Or will it continue in its obstinacy, clinging to the mistakes that it made in the past, collapsing – along with its allies – in a spiral of violence, the result of which is already a foregone conclusion? If the Afghan government is asking for mediation with the Taliban today, then a Taliban rejection of this would limit the choices of the Afghan government and the world, and therefore the war against the Taliban movement and its allies would become inevitable, if this happens then the Taliban would have committed a fatal mistake.





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