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Diplomacy with Fundamentalists: The United States and the Taliban

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After the Taliban had become a permanent factor in Afghan politics at the beginning of 1995, the US administration started talking to them, mainly through the American Embassy in Islamabad. Declassified documents about the administration's dealings with the Taliban, which were obtained and published by the National Security Archive, give insight into the relationship between the two unlikely partners. The Americans discussed various issues with the Taliban, such as peace in Afghanistan, the fight against narcotics, human rights, the proposed Unocal gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, and terrorism. The Taliban demanded recognition as Afghanistan's legitimate government and wanted access to additional revenue. American talks with the Taliban survived the deterioration of the relationship from original friendliness to opposition to the promotion of sanctions and finally to threats. Since the end of summer 1998, a solution to the issue of Osama Bin Laden has been the US administration's top issue. The Americans asked the Taliban with urgency to take Bin Laden into custody or to expel him. The US administration, however, did not offer the Taliban anything in return. Persuasion was not enough to achieve the desired result and the administration's strategy was self-defeating.


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