Monday, June 20, 2011

Irony: WH, in '09, amenable to Pakistan-brokered US-Taliban peace talks

In my previous post, I noted - with irony - that the Obama administration is currently engaged in peace negotiations with the Taliban despite the fact that Barack Obama - during a Presidential debate in October of 2008 - excoriated the Pakistani government for conducting peace talks with the Taliban.

"We have to change our policies with Pakistan," said Obama in '08. "We can't coddle a dictator, give him billions of dollars, and then he's making peace treaties with the Taliban..."

However, the irony doesn't end there.

According to a July 2009 CNN report, the Obama administration expressed a willingness to allow the Pakistan government to broker peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban, despite the fact that the administration, a few months earlier, criticized the Pakistani government for "abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists":
The Pakistan military has declared that not only is it in contact with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar but that it can bring him and other commanders to the negotiating table with the United States.

The acknowledgment of on-going communication with Taliban forces using sanctuary in Pakistan to launch military strikes against U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan is part of a new diplomatic overture to help the Obama administration find an end to the long-running conflict...

In [an interview with CNN, Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations director general, Maj. Athar] Abbas, said in return for any role as a broker between the United States and the Taliban, Pakistan wants concessions from Washington over Islamabad's concerns with longtime rival India.

And senior U.S. officials have told CNN the Obama administration is willing both to talk to top Taliban leaders and to raise some of Pakistan's concerns with India...

Abbas told CNN... that the Pakistan military is now still in contact with militant commanders such as Mullah Omar, Jalalladin Haqqani, Mullah Nazir and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hizb-e-Islami...

Retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI, Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA, is known as the "Godfather of the Taliban." He, too, said talks can be arranged. In terms of U.S. interests in Afghanistan, he said, there is only one man who can make it happen.

"Mullah Omar, nobody else," Gul said.

He insisted the Obama administration, through the Pakistan military, can access Mullah Omar. "Why not?" he said, "Is he a terrorist by any definition? Has he indulged in any act of terrorism?"

[The ISPR later issued a statement denying Abbas's remarks, which, of course, is not surprising.]
Nevertheless, according to CNN, senior U.S. officials conceded that the Obama administration was "willing both to talk to top Taliban leaders and to raise some of Pakistan's concerns with India..."

A CNN video quotes U.S. officials as saying the administration would even be willing to talk to Mullah Omar:
Senior US officials [told] CNN the Obama administration is willing to raise [those] concerns with India and the U.S. is willing to talk with Mullah Omar and other Taliban commanders.
Clearly, U.S. officials, in their remarks to CNN, were responding to Pakistan's offer to mediate peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban.

In April of 2009, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Pakistani for "abdicating" control to the Taliban.

"I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

If my memory serves me correctly, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at the time, also echoed that sentiment.

Truth be told, the Obama administration, until recently, consistently criticized the Pakistani government for refusing to take decisive action against the Taliban.

Conclusion: While the Obama administration [in 2009] appeared amenable to Pakistan's offer to broker peace talks between the US and the Taliban, it publicly rebuked the Pakistani government for capitulating to the Taliban. And, as I noted in my previous post, while Barack Obama - in 2008 - slammed the Pakistani government for talking to the Taliban, he and his administration, right now, are doing just that: talking to the Taliban.....

Ultimately, the Obama administration's position with regards to the Taliban is nothing more than a tangled web of confusion and mixed messages, interspersed with a heavy dose of political posturing, which, sadly, is jeopardizing the security and stability of the entire free world....

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