WikiLeaks: Peace Negotiations Only Option for Afghanistan?
The remarkably moderate private views of a group of former Taliban regime officials are revealed in detail by the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.
Two of the most prominent members of the “ex-Taliban” who have presented themselves as potential peace envoys argued that the movement did not oppose women going to school or working, and that the Taliban had learned the lessons of their “mistakes” while in power.
“Old strict rules” such as bans on television and music would not be reintroduced, the Americans were told.
In media interviews the former senior officials in the pre-2001 regime have been much more cautious about their views on power-sharing than in private talks with foreign diplomats.
In a meeting with US diplomats in 2008, Abdul Wakil Muttawakil said the Taliban’s “biggest mistake” had been its harsh form of social control. This included “meddling in private lives” through institutions such as the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which imposed harsh punishments for people who played music or men who did not have sufficiently long beards.
Read related article “WikiLeaks cables: ex-Taliban admit mistakes over ‘old strict rules'” in the Guardian here.
Document 1: Hamid Karzai’s brother on preliminary Taliban peace talks. Hamid Karzai’s influential older brother, Qayum, tells US Ambassador William Wood what happened during preliminary peace talks held between Afghan officials and Taliban proxies in Saudi Arabia in September 2008.
Saturday, 18 October 2008, 10:06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 002782
STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT
EO 12958 DECL: 10/17/2018
TAGS PTER, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: QAYUM KARZAI AND AMBASSADOR DISCUSS SAUDI
REF: A. KABUL 2746 B. RIYADH 1510
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. On October 13, Abdul Qayum Karzai described to the Ambassador the potential Saudi reconciliation process. He and Abdullah Anas developed the current initiative a year ago and secured Taliban engagement through Anas’ connection to Mullah Abdul Salam Zaif (former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan). He led a recent Afghan delegation of 17, including former Taliban officials, to Saudi Arabia for an informal meeting of mullahs and an iftar dinner with the King. Qayum expressed concern about the fragility of the process and its vulnerability to being “usurped” by the government. Saudi Arabia agreed to continue facilitating talks, but was firm it would not serve as an intermediary for the Taliban – they must work directly with Afghanistan. Qayum said the King is concerned about being too closely linked to the Taliban and that media speculation regarding the recent Saudi-hosted event made some officials there nervous. Qayum assured the Ambassador the U.S. would be consulted at every step and asked that the U.S. urge the Saudis to remain engaged. (Qayum is President Karzai’s brother and an American citizen.)
2. (C) For the past two and a half years, Qayum said he had been seeking a “bottom-up” process for engagement with reconciliable Taliban outside a governmental framework. Although many senior Taliban were interested in ending hostilities, individual reconciliation was not an option for them politically. In October 2007, Qayum met with Abdullah Anas (former Algerian mujahideen commander now living in London) to discuss Anas’ proposal of engaging Muslim clerics and scholars to create a framework for talks with the Taliban. Qayum suggested Saudi Arabia or Dubai. Anas agreed and began to consul prominent Muslim scholars, rallying them around their shared concern that Taliban violence gave Islam “a bad name” throughout the world.
SEEKING SAUDI INVOLVEMENT
3. (C) Anas and Qayum met with Dr. Mansour, advisor to King Abdullah, to ask Saudi Arabia to host the first engagement in this process: gathering a “group of mullahs.” Mansour reacted positively to Saudi Arabia serving this role, in part because as it would dilute Saudi Arabia’s identification with Pakistan – and extremism. According to Qayum, Mansour stated “the international community sees us as a front.” Qayum noted that the Saudis see a directly link between Afghanistan’s security and their own stability concerns.
TALIBAN MULLAH ZAIF AGREES TO PARTICIPATE
4. (C) In April 2008, Qayum hosted Dr. Mansour, Anas and Mullah Abdul Salam Zaif, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and informal line to Mullah Omar, at his home in Kandahar. Qayum said that when his guests arrived the television was showing footage of a Taliban bombing attack on a mosque earlier that day. The men were visibly upset by the carnage, including Zaif. The shared reaction to the bombing set the tone for constructive talks and Zaif agreed to participate. Qayum shared his view that Zaif is trying to carve a political space within the Taliban for reconciliation.
QAYUM PREPARES THE GROUND AND THE SAUDIS ENGAGE – CAUTIOUSLY
5. (C) As a result of Qayum’s, and then President Karzai’s, meetings with Dr. Mansour, King Abdullah called Karzai directly to discuss the proposed process. (The King’s role energized Karzai’s interest in the process for the first time.) Over the next few months Qayum hosted a number of Taliban representatives in Kandahar to continue preparations.
6. (C) Through the spring and summer representatives from both Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan shuttled back and forth. Qayum and former Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid worked
KABUL 00002782 002 OF 003
closely together, traveling to Saudi to meet with Mansour and Prince Miqrin, head of Saudi intelligence. Mansour made more visits to Kabul and Anas continued to serve as go-between with Zaif and Taliban. In August, Saudi Arabia agreed to host an initial contact meeting during Ramadan — stressing the importance of maintaining a low profile. While indicating the King Abdullah’s desire to assist, Miqrin made it clear the King was approaching the process cautiously and did not want to be linked too closely to the Taliban. Miqrin said Saudi Arabia didn’t want “to be alone in this,” highlighting the importance of keeping the U.S. and U.K. informed. Miqrin also stressed the Taliban leadership should not see Saudi Arabia’s willingness to support the talks as an indication the country would serve as an intermediary; the Taliban must pursue the reconciliation process directly with Afghanistan.
THE SEPTEMBER MEETING
7. (C) In organizing the trip, Qayum, Mansour and Zaif agreed the focus would be on religious activities and peaceful exchanges, in keeping with the Ramadan season. Both sides agreed a large group would not be advisable so there were 17 in the Afghan delegation, and only a subset would attend all meetings. In addition to Zaif, Maulavi Ahmad Mutawakkil (Taliban ex-Foreign Minister), Maulvi Abdul Hadi Shinwari (former chief justice) and current Afghan senator Arsala Rahmani agreed to attend. Qayum denied reports that Hekmatyar sent a representative; he said Hekmatyar’s nephew was in Saudi Arabia at the same time, but did not participate in the talks.
8. (C) Qayum said the Saudis orchestrated the encounter carefully. When the Taliban group arrived, Qayum went to his room while Mansour remained with the group to welcome them. Mansour, like Miqrin, made opening points to the Taliban: Saudi Arabia condemned the killing of innocents in Afghanistan and viewed the Afghan constitution with the same respect as its own; both share a common basis in the Koran. The Saudis further clarified they would not support any Taliban proposals that infringed on the authority of the central Afghan government – such as the establishment of autonomous regions.
9. (C) Qayum said Prince Miqrin called him just before dawn to brief him on the dinner and meeting. Miqrin said a large group had come from Medina to meet the Afghan delegation and there had been an enthusiastic response from the Quetta participants. Qayum said everyone reacted nervously when details of the process first leaked to the media – especially the Taliban participants and the Saudis. Miqrin suggested an alternative location might be needed for talks – perhaps Dubai.
QAYUM DETERMINED TO KEEP PROCESS DISCIPLINED AND OUT OF GOVT HANDS
10. (C) The Ambassador praised Qayum’s leadership on this important issue. He stressed that such talks require discipline and patience. Afghanistan must deal from a position of strength. Qayum agreed, saying that if the military pressure on the Taliban eased the process would fail. He confided what he had told Dr. Mansour – that the engagement must be kept simple and focused at the beginning – with the same facilitators guiding it until it matured. It would collapse if too many people – or governments – became involved. Qayum repeatedly expressed concern that the government might “usurp” the process: “An Afghan government-based negotiation would lead to everyone at the table demanding a slice (of the government), but the government would be unable to satisfy all of these competing demands and would take the blame for the negotiations’ failure.”
11. (C) The Ambassador asked that the U.S. be advised if Afghanistan engaged any Taliban with ties to Al Qaeda and/or global terrorism in the reconciliation process – figures like Mullah Omar and Mullah Barader. The U.S. did not oppose this
KABUL 00002782 003 OF 003
process, stressed the Ambassador, but would not be a participant either. Qayum accepted this and commented that he saw no way for Mullah Omar to survive the process – he didn’t have the intelligence or popular support to emerge on top. He and Barader were hated by too many elements within the Pashtun spectrum. Perhaps exile was an option for them. In closing, Qayum assured the Ambassador that the U.S. would be kept informed of all developments.
12. (C) Qayum has President Karzai’s confidence, but is a neophyte in such a process. The encounter in Saudi Arabia was with Afghan and Taliban proxies, rather than decision-makers. It is especially unclear what connection Zaif and the other so-called Taliban representatives have with the Taliban leadership, although there are reports that Zaif met with two representatives from the Quetta Shura who had shadowed the delegation to follow developments and report back. President Karzai is interested in this process at least as much because it represents a step forward in support from King Abdullah as because it holds some prospect for neutralizing some or all of the Taliban. That said, this encounter could bring Saudi Arabia closer to Afghanistan and could have some benefits with the Taliban, especially if other pressures on the Taliban continue to grow. We intend to be supportive, but without unrealistic expectations, and certainly with no direct U.S. involvement.
Document 2: Former Taliban says peace is ‘only option now’ for Afghanistan. An early 2010 account of the views of Mullah Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan who has tried to act as a peace broker between the Afghan government and the insurgency. He tells the Americans that peace is the only option for Afghanistan but that there was currently too much ‘talk and good intentions’ and not enough ‘action, strategy and sincerity’.
Tuesday, 09 February 2010, 10:54
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000503
EO 12958 DECL: 02/08/2020
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: MULLAH ZAEEF: PEACE NOW A NECESSITY
REF: A. KABUL 0484 B. KABUL 0441
KABUL 00000503 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Acting Deputy Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli; Reasons ( b) and (d).
1. (S) Summary: Former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef advocates peace as “the only option now” for Afghanistan. While encouraged by the latest attention to achieving peace in Afghanistan, he believes action and sincerity, not talk and good intentions, are required to make progress. He also wants negotiations among all involved parties, including armed Taliban and those who are active within the constitutional order, and that obstacles such as the UN and U.S. “blacklists” must be removed before these talks can start. Zaeef’s viewpoint could reflect his annoyance at the pace of reconciliation talks that may have left him on the sidelines. End Summary.
– – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – –
2. (S) In a recent meeting on February 8 with former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef at his modest residence in Kabul’s Pasthun-dominant Khush-Haal neighborhood, Zaeef told us he was convinced that there is no longer any other option than peace for Afghanistan: peace is “a requirement” for Afghans, Americans, and the international community at large. However, while encouraged by the latest attention to political settlement in Afghanistan, “talk and good intentions are not enough; rather, action, strategy, and sincerity are required to make progress.” In particular, Zaeef expressed skepticism about Karzai’s true intentions, because “Karzai is deceiving all sides. “When he sits with me, he tells me he wants the foreign troops to leave, then he tells you he wants them to stay forever, and he tells yet a third story to Islamic leaders of other countries,” Zaeef said. Karzai’s only clear objective is to remain in power; he thinks the presence of foreign troops will help him do so, opined Zaeef.
3. (S) Zaeef posited that the peace process must first start with negotiations among all involved parties, including armed and disarmed Taliban, and that “hurdles” must be removed before entering these talks; only after successful negotiations can reintegration and reconciliation occur, he asserted. To our query regarding which hindrances must be removed, he listed ending the Taliban’s isolation by removing them from the UN (1267) and U.S. blacklists (Zaeef continues on the 1267 list) and the cessation of foreign hostilities against the group during the negotiations.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Taliban Saved Afghanistan from Disintegration
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
4. (S) While most Afghans want an end to hostilities, Zaeef said, warlords do not and they were the reason the Taliban seized control of the country to begin with. Without Taliban intervention and its imposition of a strong dictatorship, Afghanistan would have been divided between Pakistan and Iran. Zaeef said when the Taliban seized power, their first priority was to instill order and governance by ruling with a strict hand. They had also tried to establish a central government to defend against “challenges from the region,” and had attempted to “clear the country of warlords” who had ruled pieces of the country and had committed horrible human rights abuses. “Unfortunately, we were unable to even achieve our first goal,” he lamented. Zaeef insisted that if the Taliban had remained in power, it would have gradually become more moderate.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Taliban Are Not Misogynists
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
5. (S) Like Muttawakil (Ref. A), Zaeef asserted that the Taliban were not misogynists who opposed women’s education and the right to work, as long as their actions did not violate Islam. While acknowledging the Taliban made some mistakes, he countered that saving Afghanistan from disintegration far outweighed the Taliban’s negative actions. Moreover, now that conditions in Afghanistan had changed, he believed if peace were made with the Taliban, the “old strict rules” would not return. He asserted that Mullah Omar’s intention was not to topple the Afghan government; rather he sought reforms to the Constitution and other laws so they could be in accordance with Islam. (Comment: While some “ex-Taliban” assert that the Taliban seek only minor – unspecified – Constitutional revisions, others insist that
KABUL 00000503 002.2 OF 002
the changes must be so far-reaching, such as reversing equal protections for women and elevating Sharia law above other constitutional provisions, that it amounts to a full revision. End Comment.)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Foreigners Will Never Win A Military Victory
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
6. (S) Responding to our reference to extreme versus moderate Taliban elements, Zaeef suggested that we should instead differentiate the Taliban by whether they choose force or peace to achieve their objectives. Ultimately, however, the armed Taliban obey the orders of their political leaders; therefore, only a political solution will work, reasoned Zaeef. Furthermore, while Americans have attempted to make the war an international cause, it is “clearly America’s war” and the Iranians, Russians, Chinese, and Pakistanis, and even the British, are content for various reasons to see you mired in a quagmire here, he said. Foreigners have never won a military victory in Afghanistan, Zaeef warned.
– – – –
– – – –
7. (S) Zaeef has been relatively quiet during the government’s formulation of the reintegration/reconciliation policy unveiled in London, although he is certainly one of Karzai’s informal advisors in this regard and appears to maintain contact with Taliban leadership. He appeared annoyed at not being more engaged in the policy development and also may be waiting less patiently for his delisting in view of the January 25 breakthrough which delisted five other Afghans.
8. (S) In a February 5 Inter Press Service (IPS) article by Gareth Porter, titled “Peace Talks May Follow Ex-Taliban Mediators Plan,” Porter claimed that Karzai had personally asked ex-Taliban officials to help start the peace negotiations through a “road map” for a political settlement and mentions Zaeef, Muttawakil, and former Taliban commander Arsullah Rahmani (currently a Parliamentarian) as “ex-Taliban” liaisons. The article also suggests that Mullah Omar may have selected Zaeef as his point of contact for talks with the Americans and NATO and laid down some initial conditions of settlement. Some of those conditions coincide with President Karzai’s call at the London Conference for an end to night raids and detentions by foreigners. No matter how reconstituted, the Taliban mentality remains one that many Afghans fear (Ref. B), and the Government of Afghanistan should increase its efforts to assure the whole population that there will be no peace deal at the expense of non-Pashtuns and women’s rights. End Comment.
Document 3: Moderate Taliban distance themselves from regime. In a 2008 cable the US Embassy gives its assessment on former Taliban regime officials who had presented themselves as potential peace mediators with the insurgent leadership. They claim that they ‘reject Mullah Omar’s fanaticism, rigidity and alliance with Al Qaeda, but that they fear the Taliban are in the ascendant and becoming more extreme.’
Thursday, 31 July 2008, 06:53
C O N F I D E N T I A L KABUL 001975
STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS, SA/PB, S/CT
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC PASS FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT
EO 12958 DECL: 07/30/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PTER, PINR, AF
SUBJECT: EX-TALIBAN SEEK MEDIATION ROLE
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Jeremiah Howard, for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) On July 29, President Karzai gave the Ambassador a plan for negotiations with the Taliban that he had received from Taliban reconcilees (SEPTEL). In a meeting arranged by the presidency at our request the next day, prominent ex-Taliban said they are well-placed to mediate reconciliation with the insurgency, but argued they are hampered from doing so by their inclusion on U.N. List 1267. In earlier discussions, former Taliban government officials told us they reject Mullah Omar’s fanaticism, rigidity and alliance with Al Qaeda, but that they fear the Taliban are in the ascendant and becoming more extreme. They stressed they accept the current constitution in general, but do want amendments to make clear the primacy of Islam.
Presidency Wants to Exploit Ex-Taliban as Mediators
2. (C) On July 30, Deputy National Security Advisor Engineer Ibrahim Spinzada, who is seeking U.S. support in convincing Russia to allow removal of names from United Nations List 1267, responded to our earlier request to arrange a meeting for Political Officers with reconcilees from the former Taliban government. He convoked to the meeting ex-Foreign Minister Maulavi Ahmad Mutawakkil, the Taliban nominee for ambassador to the United Nations Abdul Hakim Mujadid (Note: The Taliban regime was never accepted as sovereign by a preponderance of the world community), ex-Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Habibullah Fawzi, and ex-Deputy Education Minister and current Afghan Senator Arsala Rahmani.
3. (C) The four ex-Taliban mentioned the plan for negotiations that had been given to President Karzai, and, without referring directly to its text, emphasized several key points:
— Force alone cannot defeat the Taliban in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, but since the roots of Taliban insurgency lie in Afghanistan, resolution of conflict here would undermine Taliban rebellion in the FATA and NWFP;
— If the Taliban are reconciled, allied opposition groups, including those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or the Haqqanis, would disappear;
— Ex-Taliban are an unused resource for President Karzai and the international community, since they alone have access to both political leaders and command levels of the insurgency, and are willing to mediate in negotiations;
— There should be no preconditions for negotiations, which could take place in the Gulf or Saudi Arabia, or in Afghanistan in the presence of international forces;
— Negotiations should be an incremental process, avoiding initially issues such as ceasefire or the prison at Guantanamo, and stressing instead the cessation of Taliban attacks on NGOs, schools or roads, government commitment to minimize civilian casualties and good-will detainee releases;
— Reconcilees represent a silent majority in the Taliban who simply want to end the war, and had publicly accepted the constitution though they would favor amendments to enhance the constitutional role of Islam;
— Negotiations, reconciliation and restoration of security can and should be followed by elections, and some ex-Taliban would like to be candidates.
— Only when key moderates are removed from the 1267 List will they have the credibility needed to convince insurgents they can guarantee agreements they broker with Karzai or the international community.
Ex-Taliban Moderates as an Inchoate Movement
4. (SBU) In the weeks leading up to our July 30 meeting, we established contact with numerous senior ex-Taliban. We provide the paragraphs below to give a sense of what they are thinking about how to end the insurgency and how best to achieve democratic — but Islamic — governance.
5. (SBU) Former Foreign Ministry aide Waheed Mujda has written a book on the Taliban (“Ahmed Rashid wrote from the outside, but I wrote from inside”). In the summer of 2001, he says he went to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to warn that Al Qaeda planned to use “massive explosives” to attack the U.S.
6. (SBU) Mujda repots that immediately after 9/11, the Taliban began to fracture over the wisdom and morality of attacking civilians, over lost economic opportunities if the Taliban isolated itself from the West, and over dangers to be faced if the U.S. occupied Afghanistan. There was also concern about growing reliance on Pakistan’s ISI and deepening ties to Al Qaeda. Mujda hoped at the time that the U.S. would wait to attack the Taliban, since he predicted there would be “within the year” a definitive split between urban intellectuals led by Foreign Minister Mutawakkil, and Mullah Omar’s village-based obscurantists. After the U.S. “installed” Karzai, though, he saw moderates’ chances evaporating, while many lower-ranking Taliban with little commitment to either Mutawakkil or Mullah Omar proved opportunistic, waiting simply to see if the international community and Karzai could govern.
7. (SBU) Mujda lamented that Karzai named governors who harassed ex-Taliban of all ranks rather than open a dialog. Meanwhile, Mujda alleged, international forces committed atrocities, such as breaking down doors and searching women, that “even the Soviets taught soldiers to avoid.” Afraid of “death or Guatanamo,” some moderates concluded they had n alternative but to return to Mullah Omar. Wth the war ongoing, he contends, the Taliban as expanded its original commitments to “sharia, security and territorial integrity,” to enompass an international dimension including demands that the U.S. leave Saudi Arabia.
Civilian Casualties and “Hunger Suicides”
8. (C) The Taliban’s Attorney General, Maulavi Jalal-u-Din Shinwari, agrees the Taliban is growing even more militant. Taliban ideologues have no serious doctrinal competition, he complained: the Karzai-allied Ulema Council is slow and inactive, meeting “only once a year, and that’s in the presidential palace.” Since moderates have limited effective intellectual or spiritual leadership, the Taliban and hardline mullahs in Pakistan have commandeered the right to define jihad, and channeled the jihadi impulse into “radical and violent forms.”
9. (C) Shinwari lambasted international forces for repeated civilian casualty incidents, which make the Taliban’s recruiting and ideological tasks easier. These “indiscriminate attacks” enable the Taliban to argue the U.S. does not care about Afghans or Islam, and that Karzai is in complicity with the U.S. or incapable of curbing U.S. excesses. As if this intense anger were not enough, he sputtered, there is also the despair of deepening poverty and inequality, creating for the first time “hunger suicides,” who kill and die either to collect a Taliban payment or simply to lighten the economic burden on their families by removing one more mouth to feed.
Not a Loose Cannon
10. (SBU) Parliamentary Deputy Mullah Abdul Salaam Rocketi, whose name derives from his deft touch with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, warns that the U.S. has not carefully identified its enemies. If the U.S. continues to “fight everyone,” including Al Qaeda, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and both Taliban radicals and moderates, then he warns we cannot win, and that Pakistan, Iran or Russia will dominate Afghanistan.
11. (C) Rocketi counsels that “Karzai is lost,” a feckless ally for the U.S. whose cabinet, he argues, is driven by members’ separate and competing interests, unconcerned by the public’s needs. On the infrequent occasions when Karzai works up the courage or is forced to “fire the thieves,” Rocketi mutters, “he just replaces them with new thieves.” Karzai’s failure, he concludes, is “expanding the Taliban’s once narrow doors of entry into wide gates.” The U.S. must identify who within the Taliban is moderate or amenable to dialog, and work with them to seek peace and agree on how Afghanistan is to be governed.
Alternatives to Mullah Omar
12. (SBU) Two figures generally recognized as heading the ex-Taliban moderates are ex-Foreign Minister Mutawakkil, and ex-Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salim Zaef, who spent four years at Guantanamo and whom some see as the stronger of the two. We talked to them separately in late July.
13. (C) Mutawakil said the U.S. must realize there are two kinds of reconciliation. One, which he calls the U.S. strategy, is designed to entice insurgents into supporting Karzai. The other, he distinguished, is designed to end the war and achieve an understanding between the two warring Afghan sides. The war is being driven by foreign allies, he explained, but the U.S. on one side and Al Qaeda on the other have their own priorities. Mutawakil said he had advised Karzai to carry out negotiations with the insurgency, but to aim for incremental progress, concentrating first on small resolvable issues. Further, he had told Karzai, any negotiations must be conducted in private, with no interfering media coverage. The mediators, he half-joked, can be only “those whom neither the government nor Taliban want to be killed,” and who maintain impartial contact with both warring sides. To make mediation possible, Zaef and Mutawakkil agree, U.N. 1267 restrictions must be lifted.
14. (C) Mutawakkil and Zaef believe firmly that the international community is distancing itself irreparably from ordinary Afghans. Mutawakkil argues that, as the U.S.-led coalition intensifies military operations, it drives the Taliban to seek self-preservation by attaching itself more closely to Al Qaeda and the Pakistani ISI. Zaef warns that the U.S. lacks cultural knowledge and sensitivity necessary to run Afghanistan through Karzai, and that given the difficulty of running legitimate and credible elections, it should allow the transfer of governing authority to a Loya Jirga. He warns that to be effective and bring peace, the members of this Jirga cannot be named by Karzai or seen to be puppets of the U.S., and that they should be named by a pre-Jirga representing tribal and religious leaders from the entire country. He says there should also be a jirga commission to discuss “flaws” in the current constitution.
15. (C) Mutawakkil elaborated on what the Afghan constitution should be like. Democracy, he stipulated, is a means to a better and peaceful life, and is not a means in itself. An Islamic base can be built for a better life, and the Taliban’s biggest mistake was in not understanding the need to avoid meddling in private lives. The Department for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice did not understand proportionality: it used major force and applied severe punishments for even minor violations, and in so doing lost public confidence.
16. (C) The constitution, Mutawakkil continued, is as it stands now “a piece of paper,” which even Karzai’s nominal allies and opponents in Parliament fail to respect. He thinks the constitution should be amended to garner wider respect. The primary article to be amended is the commitment to freedom of religion, since Islam must be acknowledged as paramount. This would not affect the country’s Hindus and Sikhs (“there are no Afghan Christians and only one Jew”), who would continue to be allowed freedom of religion. No Muslim, though, Mutawakkil continued, could be allowed to abandon Islam without punishment in the form of prison or banishment.