AP photo and caption: Afghans offer prayers over the coffin containing the body of Malam Awal Gul, an Afghan prisoner who died at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Cuba last week, during his burial ceremony in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday.
From the New York Times:
Kabul -- President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he wanted to bring a Taliban official being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison back to Afghanistan to join in reconciliation talks.
No, not the prisoner whose funeral took place this week (photo above), creating an opportunity for anti-American protest; rather, a Taliban poohbah named Mullah Khairkhwa.
His remarks seconded a request by the government’s High Peace Council calling for the release of the Taliban figure, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, who has been held at the prison on the United States military base in Cuba since 2002. Mr. Khairkhwa, from Kandahar, reportedly had been the Taliban interior minister and also the governor of Herat Province during the Taliban government....
American officials declined to comment immediately. But they have expressed reluctance to release Taliban figures held at Guantánamo ever since one high-profile prisoner, Mullah Abdul Quyam Zakir, was turned over to the Afghans and later ended up back with the Taliban, where he rose to second in command. Mr. Karzai suggested that Afghan officials would be able to win Mr. Khairkhwa’s release. A spokeswoman for the American Embassy, Kerri Hannan, said, “The United States supports the work of the High Peace Council,” but did not comment on calls to release Mr. Khairkhwa.
I've got it. Let's swap Mr. Taliban for the Christian convert still facing death for apostasy in US-liberated Afghanistan and be done with it. The whole thing.
Efforts to start reconciliation talks with the Taliban are a high priority of Mr. Karzai’s government, which last year formed the High Peace Council, whose 70 members include a dozen former Taliban officials. One of those, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, who now leads the council’s political prisoner committee, also called for Mr. Khairkhwa’s return.
Mr. Rahmani said the initiative began when Mr. Khairkhwa’s American lawyer, Frank Goldsmith, wrote to Mr. Karzai recently saying that his client would be eager to join the peace process. His e-mail was passed along to the High Peace Council, which recommended asking for his release. As Mr. Rahmani envisions it, Mr. Khairkhwa would be sent to Kabul but kept there under house arrest.
“He is a very smart guy, a very good Muslim and a good person to help us in our aim, which is bringing peace and stability to our country,” Mr. Rahmani said.
The move is yet another possible point of contention between Mr. Karzai and American officials. Mr. Karzai also said Tuesday that he was seeking more information on the death of a Taliban detainee at Guantánamo, Awal Gul, 48, who American officials said died at the prison camp last week after exercising.
Mr. Gul’s body was returned to his hometown, Jalalabad, over the weekend, and a funeral service there on Monday drew several thousand mourners, many chanting anti-American slogans and vowing revenge for what they said was his murder.
Mr. Karzai also repeated his call, first made during a security conference in Munich on Saturday, for the dissolution of Provincial Reconstruction Teams around the country.
That's a brand new Karzai demand -- first made Saturday, as noted in the story.
The teams, staffed by American and other NATO civilians, are in charge of disbursing large-scale aid and development projects in support of the war effort, with an overall budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They are a cornerstone of the NATO strategy in Afghanistan.
Bribery ... booty ... jizya ... payola ... "What do you need?"
Afghan officials would prefer that such funds flowed through their own government ministries, but American officials have resisted that because of concerns about widespread corruption and a lack of adequate staffing in the ministries to handle the funds responsibly.
“We seriously and insistently want them to be removed,” Mr. Karzai said of the reconstruction teams. “
But, but -- how will we buy, I mean, win Afghan "hearts and minds"?
"I hope the international community would deal with us from Afghanistan’s point of view, not from the point of view of their own national interest.”
You know, that's a great idea. AND VICE VERSA.