The checkpoint at the entrance to the Loya Jirga complex in Kabul highlights the challenge facing President Hamid Karzai as his administration strives to reconcile with moderate Taliban elements. Security at the Jirga is perhaps heavier than at a major Western airport, with all vehicles and equipment being swabbed and checked for evidence of bomb-making residue. The government’s fear of a car bombing appears to be just as great as its desire to win insurgents back over to its side.
The three-day loya jirga, or grand council, which will mull Karzai’s reconciliation and reintegration plan, is scheduled to open June 2. Taliban representatives have not been explicitly invited to participate in the debates, said Najib Amin, a deputy on the meeting’s organizing committee. But, Amin added, the Taliban will have sympathizers among the participants who can represent the Islamic militants’ interests. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive].
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Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 19 years.