Twee jaar geleden heeft de Duitse veiligheidsdienst gesprekken gevoerd met Taliban-terroristen in Zürich. Omstreden, want de Taliban wordt als een terroristische organisatie beschouwd door de Europese Unie. Het doel van de Duitse veiligheidsdienst BND was om te peilen of de Taliban geïnteresseerd was in een breuk met Al-Qaida.
Hiervoor werden twee afgevaardigden van de Taliban als supersterren behandeld. De dienst zorgde ervoor dat ze ongestoord naar Zwitserland konden komen. Per limousine werden ze opgehaald en zijn drie dagen op de zesde verdieping van het Hilton hotel in de watten gelegd.
Na tien weken onderhandelen en nog vijf vluchten naar Europa eindigde de gesprekken omdat de Taliban weigerde afstand te doen van Bin Laden en kornuiten.
To negotiate with the Taliban or not? That is the question being discussed in Germany this autumn. But as it happens, the talks already took place — two years ago in Zürich.
A small welcoming committee was waiting for the two Afghans, arriving from Karachi, when they landed at Zürich airport. Agents from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) received the men at the gate and immediately bundled them into a limousine for the five-minute drive to the Hilton Airport Hotel. The two robed Muslims were welcome in Zürich, but secrecy was a top priority. The guests had to use a service entrance at the hotel — and the BND had reserved a suite on the sixth floor under an assumed name.
The BND was pursuing one goal in particular: It wanted to know whether or not the Taliban were prepared to withdraw from al-Qaida’s embrace. Creating a rift between the two groups is considered by the West as a precondition for the lasting success of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In return, the German government would intensify its involvement in reconstruction by building hospitals, roads and mosques — the sorts of projects that the German public tends to support.
The German talks eventually collapsed, apparently due to the insurgents’ refusal to distance themselves from al-Qaida. The BND took that refusal to mean that the Taliban is not all that interested in civilian reconstruction.
But the negotiations only came to an end after eight to 10 weeks of secret diplomacy. The German intelligence agency organized about half a dozen flights from Afghanistan to Europe, shuttling Taliban delegates back and forth. Sometimes the trips were disguised as family visits and sometimes as medical emergencies like that invented to explain the arrival of “the commander” and his advisor.