The US and Afghan governments have both been in secret talks with the Haqqani network, which they have come to believe is the most powerful and ruthless of all the Afghan insurgent groups, sources tell the Guardian. The US has been talking to the network through intermediaries for more than a year, while the Karzai administration held direct talks this summer; both believe the group cannot be excluded if a lasting peace settlement is to be reached. The talks are all described as extremely tentative.
No one would confirm the talks on record, but asked about them off-record, a senior Pakistani official said, “You wouldn’t be wrong.” The Haqqani group has close ties to al-Qaeda, and is now considered even more important than Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura leadership council. “The Quetta Shura is still important, but not as much as people thought two years ago. Its prestige and impact have waned,” said one Western official. “Now the military threat comes from the Haqqanis.” Of course, news broke yesterday that Karzai is negotiating with Mullah Omar as well.