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American officials have participated in three meetings this year with an English-speaking Afghan who was once a personal assistant to the renegade Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. Those meetings, in Germany and Qatar, appear to have accomplished little more than confirming the man’s identity, and perhaps not even that, according to officials familiar with the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss the secret talks.
Adding another layer of complexity to the already murky effort, the English-speaking Afghan, Tayeb Agha, who was an aide to Mullah Omar during the Taliban’s rise to power, was arrested by Pakistani authorities last year and then released, leading American officials to assume that he is negotiating on behalf of the Taliban with the blessings of the Pakistani authorities.
“We’re at that stage where it’s very confusing,” one senior administration official said, adding that the meetings could not even be called “talks” at this stage, let alone “peace talks.”
“With any use of air power comes this public expectation that airplanes will prove our resolve, that we’ll be able to deter the enemy, that they can’t possibly win and will capitulate,” said Tami Davis Biddle, a military historian at the U.S. Army War College. “But this idea that aerial bombardment equals capitulation is a really flawed equation.”
Rebel spokesman Mohamed Ali said opposition leaders are mystified by what they perceive as the coalition’s reluctance to more forcefully attack Gaddafi troops on the front lines.
“NATO is a mystery to us,” Ali, who is based in Doha, Qatar, said in an interview via Skype. “This is getting to a stage where it’s getting very, very dangerous.”
The poll conducted for The Des Moines Register shows Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, with support from 23 percent in Iowa. Bachmann is right on his heels. The Minnesota representative who plans to launch her campaign in Iowa on Monday has support from 22 percent.
A counseling clinic run by her husband has received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, money that in part came from the federal government. A family farm in Wisconsin, in which the congresswoman is a partner, received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich on Saturday said the adoption of same-sex marriage in New York showed the nation is "drifting toward a terrible muddle."
President Obama's next major fundraising filing will show a dramatic increase in the number of small donors so far this year compared with 2008, his campaign said Saturday.
"We had 180,000 contributors at this point in the last campaign; now it's well over 300,000," said spokesman Ben LaBolt in an email previewing the upcoming filing. LaBolt declined to elaborate except to say in his note that the filing will show "small dollar contributors back in greater numbers."
ON THIS DATE….
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush went back on his “no-new-taxes” campaign pledge, conceding that tax increases would have to be included in any deficit-reduction package worked out with congressional negotiators.
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