| Updated at: 0847 PST, Thursday, September 30, 2010|
KABUL: A council appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to broker a peace deal with the Taliban is so heavily stacked with warlords and militia leaders it could be set up for failure, analysts said.
The High Peace Council is Karzai's brainchild for opening a dialogue with the insurgents who have been trying to topple his government since the 2001 US-led invasion overthrew their regime almost nine years ago.
"This council is mandated to broker peace," Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer said this week as he announced its 68 members.
The Taliban leadership has repeatedly said it will not enter into dialogue with the Afghan government until all foreign troops -- currently more than 152,000 from the United States and NATO -- have left.
The commander of those forces, US General David Petraeus, said that Taliban leaders, mid-level commanders and grassroots fighting men had made "overtures" to the Afghan government and to NATO.
A Taliban spokesman denied the assertion.
Nevertheless, Petraeus has indicated NATO and US support for efforts to open peace talks with the Taliban as a useful adjunct to the counter-insurgency effort that got the green light from President Barack Obama late last year.
The High Peace Council was suggested earlier this year by tribal, religious and community leaders from across the country who gathered in Kabul for a "peace jirga," or conference, on the country's future.
The composition of the council, however, has raised concerns that men involved in atrocities against civilians and bloody battles with each other and the Taliban might not be the best qualified to make peace.
Razaq Mamoon, an independent Afghan political analyst, said the pasts of the new peacemakers showed them largely good at breaking peace but not so adept at brokering an end to a bloody and seemingly intransigent war.
"It's an unlikely and challenging composition for the goal that has been set," said Mamoon, referring to the council.
"They are from a historical background that has hardly been involved in any peace deals. Indeed, some of them have fought the Taliban in the past."
Among the council members is Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president and party to the 1992-1996 civil war that the United Nations has estimated killed around 80,000 civilians.
Rabbani's role on one side of the bloody civil war ended when the Taliban took power in 1996. He then fought the Islamists and helped the US-led invading forces that finally toppled them in 2001.
"There are too many names here that Afghans will associate with war crimes, warlordism and corruption," said Rachel Reid, analyst with New York-based Human Rights Watch, calling the council members "unlikely peacemakers".
Warlords Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayaf and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq both fought the Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, then became bitter rivals during the civil war, before joining forces against the Taliban.
Sayaf is also accused of ordering a massacre of Hazaras after his men took control of a Kabul village from a rival faction in 1993.
Mohaqiq, a leader of the ethnic Hazara minority, has been accused of murdering dozens of Taliban fighters during the militia's advance northwards in the late 1990s.
And the Taliban stand accused of massacring hundreds of ethnic Hazaras during their push through central Afghanistan towards the north dominated by Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.
Nader Nadery, of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said: "The list puts an interesting mix of people together.
"It seems that the council will be a symbolic entity rather then being a body to facilitate reconciliation, because some figures in the council are not seen by the Taliban as those who should be reconciled with in the first place."
Mamoon said Karzai seemed closer to brokering a peace deal with the Taliban through secret talks with Pakistan, his Western backers and tribal power brokers than through his High Peace Council.
"The peace council is rather symbolic," Mamoon said.
"I think Pakistan, the United States and the Afghan government have already agreed on making a peace deal with the Taliban," he said.