Monday, March 26, 2007

U.S. Talks With Iraqi Insurgents Confirmed

Regular readers here are familiar with this story (see inter alia Details of High-Level US Talks With Iraqi Insurgent Groups Revealed).

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Iraq is now confirming it.

The senior American envoy in Iraq, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks last year with men he believed represented major insurgent groups in a drive to bring militant Sunni Arabs into politics.

"There were discussions with the representatives of various groups in the aftermath of the elections, and during the formation of the government before the Samarra incident, and some discussions afterwards as well," Mr. Khalilzad said in a farewell interview on Friday at his home inside the fortified Green Zone. He is the first American official to publicly acknowledge holding such talks.

The meetings began in early 2006 and were quite possibly the first attempts at sustained contact between senior American officials here and the Sunni Arab insurgency. Mr. Khalilzad flew to Jordan for some of the talks, which included self-identified representatives of the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, two leading nationalist factions, American and Iraqi officials said. Mr. Khalilzad declined to give details on the meetings, but other officials said the efforts had foundered by the summer, after the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra set off waves of sectarian violence.

Mr. Khalilzad's willingness even to approach rebel groups seemed at odds with the public position of some Bush administration officials that the United States does not negotiate with insurgents. It was not clear whether he had to seek permission from Washington before engaging in these talks.

It may not be clear to the New York Times, but rest assured, it is clear to everybody else that the discussions had been approved at the highest level of the U.S. government.

No question.

Mr. Khalilzad said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq at the time, was also engaged in talks at some point, but the ambassador gave no details. Other officials said they knew of no such engagement by General Casey.

The "other officials" must not have seen the March 19, 2006 episode of Meet The Press or read about Gen. Casey's anguished and palpitant verbosity that day on this blog (see comment section):

Speaking of slip-up, Gen. Casey on Meet The Press today inadvertently let slip the CIA/Iraqi Insurgent negotiations.

MR. RUSSERT: You're having negotiations with the insurgents?

GEN. CASEY: No, I said we are, we are seeing people coming forward and being more willing to talk. I'm, I'm not negotiating with any insurgents.

MR. RUSSERT: You're having conversations with the insurgents?

GEN. CASEY: I'm, I'm not having any conversations with insurgents, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Then who are they talking to?

GEN. CASEY: They're talking to political folks, people who, who talk to us, and passing messages.


Blogger Meatball One said...

slick one, effwit

3/26/2007 2:17 PM  

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