U.S. Meets with Taliban as Afghanistan Situation Worsens

| June 2003

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with representatives of the Taliban in an effort to negotiate a political solution to the worsening guerrilla war in Afghanistan.

The Asia Times reports that FBI agents and members of Pakistan?s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency met with Taliban leaders at an Air Force base in Samungli, Pakistan. The Taliban officials were told that they may be allowed a role in Afghanistan?s new government if they fulfill several conditions, including removing Mullah Omar as supreme Taliban leader, evicting all Pakistani, Arab, and other foreign soldiers currently engaged in military operations against U.S. and other forces in the country, returning all U.S. and allied P.O.W.s, and allowing Afghans living abroad to return and play a role in the new government.

Taliban representatives reportedly refused outright to remove Omar, but were flexible on other points. Still, the meeting made little progress, and sources familiar with the negotiations said they did not know if further meetings had been scheduled.

The meeting was sparked by a deteriorating political climate and widespread military skirmishes throughout the country, which U.S. and allied forces liberated from Taliban rule less than two years ago. Supported by clerics and religious students, fighters loyal to the ousted Taliban regime are skirmishing with U.S. and allied troops almost daily, and are gaining strength outside of the capital, which is controlled by the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai.

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