The central justification of the U.S.-NATO war against the Afghan Taliban – that the Taliban would allow al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan – has been challenged by new historical evidence of offers by the Taliban leadership to reconcile with the Hamid Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001.
The evidence of the Taliban peace initiatives comes from a new paper drawn from the first book-length study of Taliban- al Qaeda relations thus far, as well as an account in another recent study on the Taliban in Kandahar province by journalist Anand Gopal.
In a paper published Monday by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn recount the decision by the Taliban leadership in 2002 to offer political reconciliation with the U.S.-backed Afghan administration.
Citing an unidentified former Taliban official who participated in the decision, they report that the entire senior Taliban political leadership met in Pakistan in November 2002 to consider an offer of reconciliation with the new Afghan government in which they would “join the political process” in Afghanistan.
“We discussed whether to join the political process in Afghanistan or not and we took a decision that, yes, we should go and join the process,” the former Taliban leader told the co-authors.