October 25th, 2010
10:23 AM ET

Holbrooke: Nothing close to formal peace talks

Reconciliation talks in Afghanistan between the government and Taliban insurgents are less formal than full-fledged peace negotiations, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

In comments to CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" program, Holbrooke said the contacts so far involve "an increasing number of Taliban at high levels" who have approached President Hamid Karzai's government to talk about possible reconciliation.

According to Holbrooke, media reports may have created the false impression of formal negotiations akin to the process that led to the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian conflict.

"That is not the case," said Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan who was a major figure in the Dayton talks.

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, has acknowledged that U.S. and NATO troops are ensuring security for Taliban fighters and insurgent leaders who want to travel to meet with government officials.

"Indeed, in certain respects, we do facilitate that," Petraeus recently told a London audience, "given that, needless to say, it would not be the easiest of tasks for a senior Taliban commander to enter Afghanistan and make his way to Kabul" if the NATO forces were not aware and willing to allow it to happen.

Inside the International Security Assistance Force, it is privately acknowledged by top officials that this has included "safe passage," essentially promising not to attack or bomb convoys or locations that may involve insurgents trying to contact the Karzai government.

But several top ISAF officials also caution that substantive progress has not yet been made in getting Taliban and insurgent leaders to talk to the government. As one indicator, British Maj. Gen. Phil Jones, head of the ISAF reintegration effort, told CNN that safe passage events "are fairly rare things, to be frank."

Holbrooke said lack of a clear Taliban leadership structure prevents the contacts so far from approaching any kind of formal negotiation.

"There's no Ho Chi Minh. There's no Slobodan Milosevic. There's no Palestinian authority," he said in reference to well-known peace negotiations involving Vietnam, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East. "There is a widely dispersed group of people that we roughly call the enemy."

Among the elements comprising enemy forces in Afghanistan are al Qaeda, "with which there's no possibility of any discussion at all," as well as the Afghan Taliban, which "seems to be a loose organization with a very shadowy arrangement," Holbrooke said.

He also named the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, a terrorist group that that has tried to attack the United States; the Haqqani network, which he called "a notorious, separate group of Afghan Taliban inside Pakistan who do a great deal of the mayhem and carnage inside Afghanistan;" and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba group involved in the Mumbai, India, terrorist attack.

"Now, I've just listed five groups. An expert could add another 30," Holbrooke said. "So the idea of peace talks ... doesn't really add up to the way this thing is going to evolve."

Holbrooke emphasized that a successful solution to the Afghanistan conflict remains a "daunting task," and that a military solution is not the goal.

"We can't win it militarily, and we don't seek to win it militarily because a pure military victory is not possible, as Gen. Petraeus and his colleagues have repeatedly said," Holbrooke explained.

"The American public should understand that this is not going to be solved overnight," he said. "It is going to be a difficult struggle. It has a political component, where you're not trying to win this war militarily, and a Dayton-type negotiation is also very unlikely. But some kind of political element to this is essential, and we are looking at every aspect of this."

In Afghanistan, Petraeus' military strategy includes significantly increasing ground and air attacks to pressure the Taliban into believing they have no option but to come to the negotiating table.

ISAF officials say the current rate of strikes is about four to five times what it was 18 months ago.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley recently said American officials are not involved in the talks between the Afghan government and members of the Taliban leadership, but U.S. officials do have "some knowledge" of what's going on during the meetings.

Crowley said ISAF has advance knowledge of the meetings and ensures that "there is safe passage for these meetings to take place."

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Taliban
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. LarryKegel(US Army)

    Why can't You talk like that all the Time??? That makes more sense than when you say 360 degree and 180 degree!!!

    October 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. markjuliansmith

    Has it not occurred to NATO this is simply to provide Taliban leaders protection status so that they will be able to operate more freely than they do at the moment and also garner bags of money which are flying around destined for no good purpose. Which are exactly what these Taliban talks are – for no good purpose.

    October 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      Do You think the Taliban want to talk PEACE with us because They are winning the war??? It is because between Afghanistan and Pakistan they do not have any place else to go!!!

      October 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        Will you knock off the right-wing nonsense,Phunnie boy? It's starting to get old.

        October 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RightTrurnClyde

    The Army knew and Gate3 knew and Obama knew (ABOUT THE ROGUE PLATOON). but the Liberal media won't make an issue of it. Thy howled and screamed about Abu Graibe which was bad, but not a murdering platoon. Oh they don't care if their boy. There's no moral outcry - no notice. They can be incensed about the slightest remark by a conservative and then ignore murder, bribery, wheeling-dealing .. Byrd was a KKK chief (no mention until after he died). They don't care. (the blacks don't care either .. if Byrd was the Devil himself) Well people you get what you deserve.

    October 26, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • S Eanwar

      @RightTrurnClyde, mmmm the liberal north east. wow what an educated openion... i am impressed.

      October 26, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        I don't know what his post has to do with this one but as far as the Rogue Platoon, having spent a great deal of time in the middle east I can certainly see how something like that can happen. It's very frustrating dealing with these people and most of them don't want to take any responsibility or get involved in their own country. Honestly I'm surprised we haven't seen more of it.

        October 27, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
      • Spiro T.Agnew

        Thanks Phunnie boy,keep up the good work. If you stay at it long enough,maybe the people will start to believe your right-wing nonsense which in turn, is good for us right-wing thugs!

        October 27, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        Prophet Mohammet: What do You expect when You have a Government that is more corrupted than the Tarriest Your fighting??? Then You have he Tarriest telling Them They will wipe out Their Families if They don't help!!! The US can only do so much at one time to help things get better there...

        October 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      I hate to tell You but it is the African Americans and Hispanics mostly there dieing so that You can have Free Speech here!!!

      October 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • LarryKegel(US Army)

        Hey Phunnie boy,you know better than that. The war in Afghanistan has absolutely nothing to do with the freedom of speech or any other freedom. The war is only for the benefit of the right-wing thugs in Washington!

        October 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • aaron

        Larry I have been there a few times. It's more than just blacks and hispanics fighting and getting killed. The way you make it sound all the white and asian soldiers are at a country club drinking martinis. Hate to break the news to you but that is just left wing/conspiracy kook nonsense!!! That and your assertion that it's "right-wing thugs" in washington that are gaining from these wars. Facts and common sense will tell you it's BOTH sides of the political aisle that are benefitting.

        October 28, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • Atticus Finch

        LarryKegel(US Army),

        I suspect that your screen name is a misnomer.

        November 1, 2010 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Omar

    ****Statement of Islamic Emirate regarding the latest organized enemy propaganda
    Thursday, 21 October 2010 13:41 – .The NATO forces in Afghanistan, in collaboration with their Afghan puppets and western media outlets under the leadership of U.S have been trying by diplomatic maneuver and organized propaganda to make it appear as though Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate were ready for negotiations and that they have made progress in this regard.

    Although the Islamic Emirate has previously issued a number statements regarding this subject, in which it clearly rejects such false claims and calls it a failed last ditch effort by the enemy but the impudent enemy persistently keeps putting forward such mind boggling lies through its propaganda channels and through the bought out leaders of the so called Peace Council without presenting any kind of credible proof whatsoever.

    Once again, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to remind the world and its countrymen its stance on the issue. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan refutes outright these false claims neither has it sent any delegations for talks and neither does it intend to negotiate at a time when the country is under occupation.

    In this regard, we must say to Burhanuddin Rabbani and the other degraded faces not to revive old enmities by promoting these false allegations nor should they run the propaganda campaigns to please America. As Afghans, they should not aid General Petreaus’s strategy (bullets and negotiations) developed by the Pentagon because the General wants to have this strategy worked through your hands in such a wicked way that Afghanistan may permanently become a colony of America.

    From our point of view, another reason for this intense fabricated propaganda by Karzai and General Petreaus is also likely to win the confidence of the people by making it seem as if Kabul administration (the crooked and corrupt regime) could bring forth a solution to the problems of Afghanistan.

    The Islamic Emirate irrefutably believes that in the presence of foreign invaders, peace talks and any kinds of negotiation deals will be futile as they will not yield a positive outcome for the Afghan people and nation. For this reason, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again calls on the invaders to stop wasting their time on failed propaganda and military campaigns instead leave Afghanistan so it can enjoy a few years in peace and independence.

    Insisting on continuing your crimes may get you nothing but lose political and economical credibility in the eyes of the world which is likely to end up bringing about far more fatal casualties on your part.

    October 26, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • OneYearInAfghanistan

      Truth is the first casualty in war, particularly in a war heavily dependent on information operations such as a counter insurgency fight. The non government "forces" here are a mix of actors includingdrug smugglers, highway bandits, religous zealots, opportunistic power brokers, foriegn interlopers, and many others, many using the unemployed and weak for thier own benefit. Hardly an organized lot. This propaganda is about as useful as a chocolate coffee cup. The only thing I can say for sure is that unlike the leaders of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", I'm actually in Afghanstan.

      October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • S Eanwar

        @OneYearInAfghanistan Well said, I am so tired of "KNOW ALL" commentators. Something real life is like a breathof fresh air in the direction of positive disucssions. not like the most goons, I am sure, have their personal and in most cases unobjective line of goon thought to promote.

        October 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
      • Omar

        One year in Afghanistan does not qualify you to be an expert on the field. Have you got open access to all the areas in Afghanistan? You must be hiding in your foxhole like the US and Nato who cannot move very far from their bases. Very far from the Western propaganda the leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are actively involved in the jihad against the invaders and are fighting side by side with the Afghan nation to rid Afghanistan of the infidel oppressive western forces.

        October 27, 2010 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
      • OneYearInAfghanistan

        Omar, I do not claim to be an "expert", but I do pay attention. Enough to know that rarely are things the way a "mouthpiece" such as yourself depicts things. And as for oppressive forces, I find that comment rather interesting, as the Taliban's oppressive practices are the reason that the Northern part of the country actively fought and drove them from power with Western help. Logic predicated on redifining terms such as "oppression" and "truth" to fit you agenda make it empty propaganda.

        October 27, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
      • Omar

        There is much to be learned from the undeniable fact that Mujahideen’s strong spirit of faith is not merely a theoretical fact but it is practically seen that the intense chase and the strong resistance against the enemy in the northern Afghanistan are much the same as in southern Afghanistan and those provided with the opportunity by Mujahideen to do Jihad keep carrying out their mission without regional, racial and linguistic prejudice and stand shoulder to shoulder with Mujahideen supporting them and taking part in the operations against the enemy besides giving the Mujahideen shelter during the night which leads up to the conclusion that all the claims by the enemy and their puppets that the Kabul puppet regime is winning the confidence of the Afghan people day by day are proving to be merely unfounded propaganda and lies.

        The Afghan nation have realized the fact that the only cause of the deviation of the new generation and destabilization of the Afghan national integrity and sovereignty is the continuation of the US invasion, whereas the withdrawal of the US invaders and their allies is the only way to save and maintain the Islamic values by forming a united Afghan nation.

        On the other hand, there is a growing pessimism against the Afghan war under the US leadership and people are openly showing their dislikes and reactions to the US invasion of Afghanistan. Last week, in a debate on the current Afghan war, the Australian parliamentary members strongly opposed to the war representing the views of the majority of the voters and described the Afghan war as “unwinable and unjustifiable”.

        From the standpoint of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the US forces do not only seem to have suffered defeat at the hands of Mujahideen on the ground in Afghanistan but are also faced with a defeat in the home country and the west as there are increasing criticism worldwide and the world posses anti-US views and is willing to help Afghans end the war and achieve their independence.

        October 29, 2010 at 4:36 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      We be better off if the UN was thrown out all together!!!

      October 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Prophet Mohammed

    So I guess what they are saying is we really don't know who the Taliban leaders are, or at least who in the Taliban has the authority to broker peace negotioations? After nine years you'd think we'd at least know who was in charge, maybe we have been killing all the Commanders after all.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      Will you stop insulting the Muslims by blogging your right-wing nonsense under the name of the Prophet Mohammed? Besides Phunnie boy,anybody with half a brain knows that none of it is true!!!

      October 26, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
      • The Prophet Mohammed

        Okay, Ernie, I won't offend any muslims becuase most of them can't read anyway. BTW I only speak the Truth. The Prophet has Spoken.

        October 26, 2010 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      I think He finally got it!!! (Smile)

      October 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan in Lafayette, IN

    Richard Holbrooke brought peace between the Muslims and Christians in the Serbia-Bosnia conflict, BUT when dealing with Muslims alone it will be a much harder peace to come by and surely his mission is to bring about peace to the waring parties!

    October 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      Are You trying to say They don't want to make PEACE??? They rather make everyone Slaves??? Isn't that the same thing the Republicans and the Tea Party are trying to do???

      October 28, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. john zambrano

    why don't the us marines use the navajo code talkers for the crazy war between the us and musilm world.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SCOTT

    while it is true there are crossroads in the middle east but with that we are at many other crossroads also that are being ignored for many years we have heard about the middle east conflict but in many ways it covered up the problems at home that our elected members of goverment have got no clue how to solve from the bank melt down to unemployment to people losing there homes its the old american cover up distract the people so they with not see whats going on here so this is to our president and members of congress and the senate if you want to solve the problems in america then solve them stop playing the money game and start getting back to basics creat jobs its not hard you could get this country back on its feet in 5 years if you wanted to and create millions of jobs it has been done before you just need to really use your brains instead of your check books rely on the american people instead of forgin labor the wast you put out every year is disgusting

    October 25, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • LarryKegel(US Army)

      How can You expect PEACE talk there when You have Hamas firing rockets into Israel all the time???

      October 28, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
      • NYBK Don

        I guess some one has to fight to stay alive from those Israeli tanks we see all the time.

        November 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |