US-Afghan talks collapse after initiative leaked
Exploratory peace talks between the US and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, Western diplomats have said.
The collapse of the negotiations at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by some "paranoid" Afghan government figures.
Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings, which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, the former private secretary to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. The meetings were chaired by Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The talks were described as a preliminary exercise aimed at agreeing a series of confidence-building measures to persuade the Taliban that the US and its allies were serious about a negotiated settlement, sources close to the talks said.
They added that Taliban leaders were nervous about entering talks because of widespread scepticism among their commanders who believed the US was seeking dialogue only to divide their movement and feared any discussions would damage their credibility.
After only three sessions, details of two meetings in Germany and Qatar -- held in March and April -- were leaked to 'The Washington Post' and 'Der Spiegel' magazine, which named Tayeb Agha as the key Taliban negotiator.
According to diplomatic sources, Tayeb Agha has not been seen since.
"The talks were a big deal, the real thing. I hope people will learn the lesson on the importance of confidentiality in the early stages.
"People in the US are horrified about what has happened," said one source. Sources in Kabul confirmed that the talks appeared to have been "blown out of the water" by the publicity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)