Reconciliation – a.k.a. talking to the Taleban – is a hot issue. Anything new is picked up quickly by the media world-wide, in particular when it comes from someone with a political weight like Gen. Petraeus. But please also read the small print.
So, here is what Gen. Petraeus said:
‘There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government and, indeed, have done that’ (New York Times, 27 September 2010, full report here).
It has also made headlines in CBS, The Globe and Mail (Canada), Die Welt and Handelsblatt (Germany), only to mention a few others.
And here is what Waheed Omar, a spokesman for the Afghan President, said (and what was only quoted in McClatchy newspapers):
Yes, there were contacts “at different levels of the Taliban”, going on “for weeks, if not months.” However, he said those now in contact can’t be characterized as the movement’s senior leaders [my emphasis].
By the way, neither of the statements necessarily needs to be true. But reporting the one without the other is insufficient and creates a wrong impression.
The update (29 September):
According to the Washington Times, Gen. Petraeus said, some Taliban fighters are looking to quit the fight. ‘There have already been 20 or soovertures from small groups around the country,’ he told Agence France-Presse [italics mine].
Can we have a clarification, please: ‘very high-level Taliban leaders’ or ‘small groups’?
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020