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Reuters — The Taliban said on Saturday it would not take part in peace talks brokered by representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States, casting doubt on efforts to revive negotiations.
The Taliban, ousted from power in a U.S.-led military intervention in 2001, has been waging a violent insurgency to try to topple Afghanistan's Western-backed government and re-establish a fundamentalist Islamic regime.
Following a meeting of the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group made up of representatives of the four countries in Kabul in February, officials said they expected direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to begin in early March.
Matthew Rosenberg (The New York Times) — In the winter of 2014, an Afghan with links to top Taliban leaders approached Afghanistan’s intelligence service with a startling tip: Mullah Muhammad Omar, the secretive leader of the Taliban, had died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.
The tip left the intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, with a mystery that would take 18 months to begin unraveling. But even with the Taliban confirming on Thursday that the man they called Emir al-Momineen, or Commander of the Faithful, was dead, American and Afghan officials said they were just starting to piece together the story of Mullah Omar’s final years and of his demise.
In interviews, Afghan, American and European officials offered insight into why it took so long to determine that Mullah Omar was dead: He may have been one of the world’s most wanted men — he carried a $10 million American bounty on his head — but by 2014 few people outside Afghanistan seemed to want him enough to put much effort into finding out whether he was dead or alive.
VOA News — Officials in western Afghanistan said a roadside bomb blast killed six policemen Saturday in Herat province as they were patrolling on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
The death toll was confirmed by the provincial governor's spokesman Ehsanullah Hayat, according to the French news agency AFP. The French news agency reports three policemen were also wounded in the explosion.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, but the blast has all the earmarks of the Taliban militants who frequently use roadside bombs as their weapon of choice.
Javid Ahmad (Foreign Affairs) — Recent reports about Iran recruiting and training Taliban fighters are alarming, but they aren’t new. International forces in Afghanistan have seized shipments of Iranian weapons en route to Taliban groups before, once in 2007 and again in 2011.
The shipments were big enough that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates went on the record about the “substantial” quantities of weapons that were unlikely to have crossed the border “without the knowledge of the Iranian government.”
Later, David Petraeus, who was commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time, explained that, in sending weapons to the Taliban, Iranian officials weren’t likely hoping that the Sunni group would succeed. But, he said, “they don't want us to succeed too easily either.”
James Dobbins and Carter Malkasian (Foreign Affairs) — Peace talks, if not peace itself, may be close at hand in Afghanistan. Over the past few months, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban have made unexpected strides toward talks. In early May, members of the Taliban and the Afghan government even met in Qatar and expressed real interest in starting official negotiations—a heartening step.
Since 2001, opportunities for peace talks have come and gone. Sometimes, the process has stalled for political reasons, such as the United States’ reticence to engage with the Taliban.
Other times, discussions have broken down due to miscommunications or a lack of political consensus. It was not until 2010 that the United States fully embraced peace talks as the best way to end the violence in Afghanistan, and even then, progress was slow and halting.