Did UN Envoy Actually Meet With the Taliban?

According to the Washington Post, the Taliban leadership council in Quetta is denying that United Nations’ special representative Kai Eide met with any of its members in Dubai last month.

The denial came in response to news reports that Kai Eide, the outgoing U.N. envoy, held a meeting in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, earlier this month with members of the Taliban leadership. The United Nations has not confirmed that such a meeting took place, although Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Paris on Friday that Eide wanted to draw ‘his own conclusion about the mind-set of some of the Taliban members.’ In an e-mailed statement, the Taliban leadership council described such a meeting as ‘mere futile and baseless rumors. The Leadership Council once again emphasizes continuation of Islamic Jihad against all invaders as a means to frustrate these conspiracies,’ the statement read. Little is known about the alleged secret talks, including whom Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, met with from the Taliban and what was discussed.

I asked a friend, an Afghanistan-focused intelligence analyst who usually knows what’s up, if he had any idea what —if anything—happened in Dubai between Eide and members of the Taliban, and my friend said he didn’t know. That set off some alarm bells, but I find it difficult to believe Eide didn’t meet with someone from the Taliban, or some kind of intermediary. The timing of the reported secret meeting, two weeks before the United Nations removed five former Taliban leaders from its terrorist list (a move announced one day before the London conference) is just too tight, and the Guardian, which broke the ‘secret meeting’ story, isn’t exactly the Daily Mail. Not to mention the fact that Eide has repeatedly expressed his opinion that Afghanistan’s conflict can only be ended through a political solution brokered with the insurgency.

Afghan civil society is already on edge over the prospect of negotiations with the Taliban, and this confusion is not helping things. 

Photo: Flickr (UNAMA)