Afghanistan’s Taliban militia group leaders met with their northern opponents this weekend for peace talks brokered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson and sponsored by the U.N. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Taliban and northern opposition leaders agreed to discuss a cease-fire, possible prisoner exchange and the resolution of the Taliban’s human rights violations that are leading to a decrease in international humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, according to U.N. official James Ngobi.
Taliban leader Mohammad Omar said he believed peace in Afghanistan rested on finding a religious rather than a political solution to the conflict. The Taliban militia group gained control of the Afghan capital city of Kabul in September of 1996 and currently controls 85 percent of the country. Since the takeover, Taliban leaders have inflicted decrees that violate women’s human rights, including forbidding women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, brother or son, prohibiting girls from obtaining an education and restricting women’s access to healthcare. From media reports, it was unclear whether restoration of women’s rights was discussed in the first day of negotiations.
Last week, President Clinton met with the President of Turkmenistan. The leaders discussed improving relations between the two countries and creating a transnational pipeline that would pass through Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A U.S.-based oil and gas company, Unocal, holds a 46.5 percent stake in the pipeline, which could earn the Taliban militia group $50 to $100 million a year.