Taliban leaders could be offered exile and have their names deleted from a UN sanctions blacklist as part of a peace plan for Afghanistan to be unveiled in London.
A briefing paper on the Afghan government’s proposals seen by The Daily Telegraph says any peace deal may include “potential exile in a third country” for insurgent leaders. The document does not name any country, but Saudi Arabia, which recognised the former Taliban regime, is believed to be a possible candidate to give leaders a new life.
After eight years of intensifying fighting Nato commanders have acknowledged political negotiation is the only solution to the worsening fighting.
They are now backing a “carrot and stick” strategy of more troops to reverse the Taliban’s military momentum coupled with incentives for fighters to rejoin society. International donors are preparing to pay hundreds of millions of pounds towards the scheme, with Japan and the US already allocating substantial budgets.
In the first phase, junior fighters, who commanders believe are mainly motivated by money, will be offered jobs, training and education if they lay down their weapons and renounce violence. Further incentives could include pensions for older fighters and allotments of land. Villages which persuade their men to give up their struggle will get a “peace dividend” of aid and development. Fighters would be offered security and protection from reprisal, which has so far led to the deaths of many who have tried to defect.
A separate push will later target the Taliban high command. It could include giving them asylum or political positions if they lay down their weapons, break links with al-Qaeda and agree to abide by the Afghan constitution the paper said. They would also see their names taken off a UN sanctions list of Taliban and al-Qaeda which has frozen their assets and blocked foreign travel. Any deal would also need their removal from United States “kill or capture” lists.
Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said earlier this week he doubted the Taliban high command would consider a settlement until the momentum of the insurgency had been reversed. He also questioned whether reconciliation with Mullah Omar was realistic.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, another blacklisted former Taliban ambassador who spent several years at Guantanamo, said the reintegration plan was corrupt and would hinder peace efforts. “While America is talking about peace talks, on the one hand it wants to divide the Taliban and buy some of them with money, and on the other hand it sends more troops for the war,” he said.
“The Taliban say these are all a conspiracy against them and this will harden their position.” UK TELEGRAPH