On secret talks - Julian E. Barnes and Richard Pérez-Peña in NYT:
‘The C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, traveled to Kabul for talks with the Taliban leadership, American officials familiar with his visit said on Tuesday, conducting the administration’s highest-level in-person talks so far with the new de facto leaders of Afghanistan.
Mr. Burns, a former longtime diplomat who is the Biden administration’s most experienced back-channel negotiator, met on Monday with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban leader who had led diplomatic negotiations in Qatar with the U.S. government that began during the Trump administration.
While American officials would not provide details of the brief trip, they said Mr. Burns was not there to negotiate an extension of President Biden’s planned Aug. 31 troop withdrawal. Indeed, after Mr. Burns departed, the Taliban announced they would reject any postponement of the American military’s departure, and Mr. Biden said he would not seek one, though he left open the possibility of shifting course.
Mr. Burns’s negotiations appeared to be more general, covering the evacuation operations and terrorist threats. American officials need the Taliban to tolerate the evacuation flights and to help stop the Islamic State or others from mounting attacks on Afghan civilians, including any suicide bombings outside the airport, American officials have said.’
‘Mr. Burns, who titled his memoir “The Back Channel,” specialized in delicate, secret communications during his long State Department career. A former ambassador to Russia and Jordan who rose to the department’s No. 3 post during the Obama administration, he was responsible for the initial undisclosed discussions that ultimately led to the Iran nuclear talks in the Obama administration.
When Mr. Burns was chosen to run the C.I.A., officials in the incoming administration said he would act as a traditional intelligence chief assessing threats, not take on his old work as a diplomat. But the State Department tapped him as the Biden administration faces its gravest national security and foreign policy crisis.
Dispatching Mr. Burns also fit because with the fall of the Afghan government and the withdrawal of American diplomats and troops, the C.I.A. will bear much of the responsibility for monitoring Afghanistan going forward.
The visit was Mr. Burns’s second to Kabul this year. In April, as concerns mounted about the Afghan government’s ability to effectively fight the Taliban, Mr. Burns met there with Afghan intelligence officials.’
‘Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief sponsor and the Americans had long accused Pakistan of sheltering them, so the arrests of Mr. Baradar and other Taliban leaders came as a surprise. But it soon emerged that the Pakistanis, fearing a loss of influence in Afghanistan, wanted to sabotage prospects for a brokered end to the war.
With Mr. Baradar out of the picture, the nascent talks collapsed. Kai Eide, a former United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, later said, “I believe that he was already, before his arrest, the most prominent Taliban leader in favor of finding a political settlement.” In his absence, other Taliban leaders rose to prominence and Mr. Baradar’s longtime ally and mentor, Mullah Omar, died.
In 2018, under pressure from the United States, Pakistan released Mr. Baradar and he quickly became the Taliban’s chief negotiator in talks with the United States held in Doha, Qatar.
When those talks produced the February 2020 agreement for American troops to withdraw, Mr. Baradar signed on behalf of the Taliban. A few days later, he spoke with Donald J. Trump — the first conversation between a U.S. president and a Taliban leader.’
Read the article here.
Pakistan, an ally, recipient of billions of American aid, is a major sponsor of the Taliban. One of the other sponsors of course is Saudi-Arabia. We don’t need to embrace all kinds of conspiracy theories to conclude that “we” are fighting an enemy with the one hand and supporting them with two fingers of the other hand.
Also, the CIA and the Taliban have as is, or should be, widely known a common enemy: IS.
(‘ISIL Khursan is the tiny Afghan branch of the terrorist organization, which hates the Taliban as much as it hates Americans, and which the Taliban do not control.’) See here.
The other question: who exactly were these intelligence officials Mr. Burns met in April, when it was already known once again that Taliban takeover was just a matter of time?
Are these intelligence officials now working for the Taliban?
Switching sides is not an Asian specialty, think of Italy in the First World War.