Taliban Peace Talks Dominate Afghan Race

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 18, 2009 6:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – As Afghans prepare to vote on Thursday, the top issue for all the leading presidential candidates remains whether and how to negotiate with the Taliban. Hamid Karzai, still predicted to win, has made vocal calls for negotiations but has done little so far in office, and Taliban insurgents are imperiling the election. His top challengers both want a more grass-roots approach to peacemaking. Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's main rival, told the New York Times, "If you lose the people, you lose the war."

Foreign government and international organizations also remain divided on how much to engage the Taliban. The UN's mission wants to see a wide-ranging peace process immediately, while the US and NATO want further military action to weaken the Taliban before any negotiation takes place. "It’s not going to happen until the insurgency is weaker and the government is stronger," said one Western diplomat in Kabul.

An Army carry team walks away from a transfer case containing the remains of Army Cpl. Nicholas R. Roush on Monday, Aug. 17, 2009 at Dover Air Force Base, Del.   (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai gestures to supporters during an election campaign rally in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 17, 2009.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Supporters of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah attend an election rally in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 17, 2009. Afghans will head to the polls on Aug. 20 to elect a new president.   (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
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Of course it is possible to make peace with the Taliban—they are Afghans. The reason they are fighting is because they are not getting the opportunity to make peace. - Abdul Wahid Baghrani, a tribal leader in Helmand province

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