Radical Islamist cleric and longtime Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide Yusuf al-Qaradawi serves as a "key mediator in secret talks between the U.S. and the Taliban," according to unnamed government sources referenced in a report published late Wednesday in The Hindu.
In early December, the report said, "Qaradawi helped draw a road map for a deal between the Taliban and the United States, aimed at giving the superpower a face-saving political settlement ahead of its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan." The United States is expected to begin pulling out of Afghanistan in 2014.
The Qaradawi-brokered deal calls for significant American commitments, including "the release of prisoners still held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, the lifting of United Nations sanctions on its leadership and its recognition as a legitimate political group." In return, the Hindu's sources say, the Taliban would be "expected to sever its links to transnational organisations like al-Qaeda, end violence and eventually share power with the Afghan government."
If true, the report raises significant questions about American strategy in the talks and the enhancement of a radical cleric's stature.
Qaradawi repeatedly has lashed out against Jews, glorifying violence against them and calling for Allah to "count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one." In 2009, he prayed for the chance to kill a Jew before dying. He has readily encouraged suicide bombing as "the greatest of all sorts of Jihad in the Cause of Allah." And, perhaps most troubling when considering the nature of the talks, Qaradawi actively supported the killing of U.S. servicemen and women, writing in 2003:
"Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will…Although they are seen by some as being wrong, those defending against attempts to control Islamic countries have the intention of Jihad and bear a spirit of the defense of their homeland."
None of this should come as a surprise to U.S. officials. In September, Wikileaks released U.S. diplomatic cables showing, among other things, the government's awareness of the Doha-based cleric's support for "martyrdom operations" and the Iraqi insurgency.