Obama’s outreach to Taliban backed by intensive Saudi-brokered contacts

On Feb. 20, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 385 disclosed that from late December, agents of Saudi intelligence chief Prince Mogrin Abdul Aziz paved the way for Richard Holbrooke’s mission to Afghanistan and Pakistan as Barack Obama’s special envoy.
This initiative also laid the groundwork for US president Barack Obama’s hint at possible talks with moderate Taliban elements to The New York Times Sunday, March 8, a month after he approved another 17,000 troops for Afghanistan.
Karzai welcomed the move saying he had long supported dialogue with Taliban members who are not connected with terrorists.
The Saudis launched their mediation bid in the last week of December 2008, DEBKA-Net-Weekly first revealed, when Mullah Omar and party secretly visited Saudi Arabia in the guise of early Ramadan pilgrims. His two senior companions were Aghajan Mutasim and Abdul Hakim Mujahid.
Karzai was represented by his older brother Qayum
In two audiences, King Abdullah promised that if the Taliban pledged to stop fighting and joined the Afghan civilian government, it could count on Saudi political and financial support for its role in the Kabul administration.
That Mullah Omar was willing to travel to the kingdom while fighting US-led forces alongside Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda was taken in Washington and Riyadh as a hopeful sign that a breakthrough was possible toward a negotiated end to the conflict.
In his New York Times interview, Obama admitted that the US was not winning the war.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources noted that it took four weeks into his presidency for Obama to put in his first phone call to Karzai on Tuesday, Feb. 17. “It had become necessary,” they said, “to pour oil on relations marred in recent weeks by leaked hints in the US media that the administration was looking for ways to remove the Afghan president.”
Vice president Joe Biden and other advisers had been pressing Obama to get rid of Karzai quickly – even if this meant postponing the August presidential elections. But Holbrooke, who departed Kabul for New Delhi in the middle of the week with a comprehensive South Asia peace plan, warned the US president that ditching the Afghan president at this juncture would be unwise and could put the peace track with Taliban at risk. He urged Obama to stick with Karzai and show him a willingness to cooperate. End of quote form DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
Vice president Joe Biden will report on the Afghanistan situation with NATO allies in Brussels Monday, March 9, laying the ground for the president’s discussion early next month at the G20 summit in London and the EU-US summit in Prague.
The United States has called for a high level international conference to map out a new strategy on Afghanistan to which all its neighbors would be invited, including Iran.
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