Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Taliban leader confirms peace talks

RELUCTANT ALLIES:Some analysts say the Taliban is taking advantage of tensions between Islamabad and Washington to drive a wedge further into already frayed ties

AP, PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Despite the Taliban’s record of indiscriminate violence, much of it directed at civilians, there is political and public support for talks. In September, the weak civilian government announced it was prepared to “give peace a chance” with militants, pandering to right-wing Islamist parties and their supporters.

Many Pakistanis share the hard-line religious and anti-US views of the Taliban.

They believe the militants could be brought into the fold if only Islamabad severed its alliance with Washington, which they blame for sparking the insurgency by invading Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

That narrative has gained strength over the last year, during which a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis, a unilateral US raid killed Osama bin Laden and the deadly border attacks on Nov 26. Following each incident, the army whipped up anti-US sentiment among the public.

The army maintains the border strike was a deliberate attack by the US-led coalition. US officials deny that, saying it was tragic mistake. The army response has helped popularize further the narrative that the US — not the Taliban — is the country’s enemy, giving militants and their supporters who have long argued along those lines fresh legitimacy.

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