Bitter Afghan enemies to meet for peace talks
Taliban militants arrested by joint Afghan forces are presented to the media at the governors home in Jalalabad east of Kabul. Photo: AP
TALIBAN representatives will this week meet their bitter foes from the Northern Alliance in an initiative aimed at heading off civil war in Afghanistan after NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.
The old enemies will be represented among 20 delegates attending a conference organised by a French think tank at an undisclosed location outside Paris.
The Taliban has insisted that the meeting will not involve negotiations, but a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council said simply getting the enemies in the same room was ''an excellent development''.
Northern Alliance leaders have been among the most opposed to any concessions to the Taliban in peace talks and have warned they will reject any secret deal between Kabul and the insurgents.
Many of its commanders have said they are re-arming and would rather fight than see their foes given any power.
The two factions fought through the late 1990s as the Taliban surged north and swept the northern forces back into a handful of besieged provinces.
But the tables turned dramatically after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when US special forces and air power reinforced the Northern Alliance to topple the Taliban.
Both sides accuse each other of massacres and atrocities. The enmity was compounded by ethnic divisions. The Taliban are largely Pashtuns and the alliance largely formed from the minority Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek groups.