It will be fascinating to watch the reaction of these Taliban envoys when faced with the (blasphemous?) IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. But who exactly are these people?
Well, at least they won't be able to pose as impostors -- as the one who killed Afghan political icon Burhanuddin Rabbani in September 2011 with a suicide bomb disguised in his turban.
Or the fake Taliban "negotiator" who bagged a fistful of dollars from US and UK intelligence in 2010.
But what about the Supreme Leader, Mullah Omar?
He's not exactly booking a flight on Qatar Airways. On the contrary; acting on one of his directives, last Sunday the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have formed a five-member Shura advisory council.
Their key decision: the Pakistani Taliban will no longer be fighting the Pakistani army, as in suicide bombings and kidnappings in the tribal areas. They will focus their firepower on the occupying US/NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Mullah Omar's message was unambiguous: "Convey my message to the Pakistani Taliban that you have forgotten the real purpose, which is to fight the invading forces in Afghanistan and liberate it from their occupation."
Only one factor could possibly allow Mullah Omar to form a united
AfPak front to launch the umpteenth summer offensive against US/NATO;
the Pakistani ISI promising the Pakistani Taliban it would not attack
them anymore -- and neither would US drones.
So if a united AfPak Taliban is getting ready to rumble and control more Afghan land in 2012 than that which they already do, what about those Taliban trekking to Doha?
There's no better clue to Taliban intentions than one of their official declarations; "The stance of [the] Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the beginning has been to bring about the end of the invasion of Afghanistan and to let the Afghans establish an Islamic government of their own choosing which does not pose danger to anyone."
In Taliban talk, "does not pose danger to anyone" means no more safe bases for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's about all Washington will get -- if those Taliban are released from Guantanamo, of course.
As for the Taliban trekking to Doha, these will be the so-called
"good Taliban" -- a mirage Washington has been entertaining for years.
Most of this bunch lives in Kabul -- protected by Karzai's elaborate
made-in-USA security apparatus.
After all, there is no monolithic "Taliban" -- it's a Pashtun-style coalition of the willing.
The Haqqani network, for instance, won't be flying to Doha. On the other hand the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar faction -- via his son-in-law -- is already talking to NATO hands in Kabul.
Once again, it's instructive to go back to the official Islamic Emirate's take on "negotiations"; "The perturbing reports spread by some news agencies and Western officials about negotiations have no reality and are strongly rejected by Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."