Mullah Omar talks about Afghan peace

The Sunday Times is reporting today that Taliban leader Mullah Omar has approved talks aimed at ending war in Afghanistan and is participating in Saudi-sponsored peace negotiations.

Omar has apparently allowed his representatives to attend the Saudi-sponsored peace negotiations. The paper quoted one of the mediators, Abdullah Anas, a who is said to be a former friend of Osama Bin Laden and now lives in London (lucky for us), as saying: “Mullah Omar has given the green light to talks.”

The paper also quoted Afghan government sources as confirming it had been in contact with Omar who is believed to be somewhere in Pakistan – but then who isn’t.

News of the talks come after President Obama last week suggested there could be talks with moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of a “process of reconciliation” – as long as that’s not capitualation. Obama told the New York Times that US forces in Iraq had persuaded some Islamic radicals alienated by the tactics of al-Qaeda to co-operate, which sounds similar to the success in Iraq that the US had with disaffected Sunnis.

At the same time AP reports General David Petraeus, speaking before about 800 people at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council, as saying that an Iraq-style surge cannot be a solution to the problems in Afghanistan. But if you only have a total of 38,000 (including the 17,000 just green lit) US troops in the country compraed to 150,000 in Iraq then your options are more militarily limited. Petraeus, the new US commander in Afghanistan, wants that US number to rise to 60,000, but that is only likely to happen if fairweather Nato members, France and Germany, commit more troops along with Britain.

In his speech Petraeus appeared to reflect the general pessimism about Afghanistan and said that it has been spiraling downward and is likely to get worse before it gets better. Petraeus said more resources are needed in Afghanistan, both military and especially civil to help build a stable government there.

“The secretary of defense and I are among the biggest champions with members of Congress for increasing the resourcing for the State Department and the Agency for International Development,” he said.

All his as four Nato soldiers (no country as yet named) were killed by a roadside bomb today and two on Saturday. Britain also suffered another casualty bring the number killed in Afghanistan to 150.

I posted last year, ‘Why are we in Afghanistan’, about the attacks reaching a new high, and Britain’s secret Taliban talks. Looks like it is really on now.

Let’s hope it all gets better before Pakistan really comes apart. Although Jason Burke in the Observer today says it isn’t quite as bad as all that.