Taliban have not split from al Qaeda: sources

Mullah Omar.

The Taliban have not broken ranks with al Qaeda, senior US military and intelligence sources told The Long War Journal. The idea that the Taliban has severed relations is promoted by European countries who wish to back out of Afghanistan after years of bloody fighting, the sources, who wish to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject, said.

The reports of a split between al Qaeda and the Taliban originated with CNN after sources claimed senior Taliban leaders were in Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah and several members of the Afghan government.

But sources familiar with al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region told The Long War Journal there is no evidence of a split, and the members of the so-called Taliban delegation have no influence with the senior Taliban leadership.

“There are no indications that Mullah Omar or anyone part of the Taliban’s Shura Majlis (or executive council) cut their ties with Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda,” one senior source said. “If there is a denunciation or discussion of a break with al Qaeda, I do not see it.”

Several members of the Afghan Taliban still serve on al Qaeda’s executive leadership council, and there are no indications anyone has been expelled.

“Omar sacrificed his country and his throne to protect Osama” by opposing the US in the run-up to the US invasion in 2001, a source said. “Why, after the Taliban is in ascendancy in Afghanistan in Pakistan, would they abandon al Qaeda now?”

Negotiators are Taliban outsiders

The press reports have focused on the members of the so-called Taliban peace negotiators, but have failed to review at who exactly is participating in the talks. A look at the Afghans involved shows these are men who have fallen out of favor with the Taliban high command.

“There were no senior leaders of the Taliban present in Saudi Arabia,” one senior source told The Long War Journal. “Not one member of the Taliban Shura Majlis. Not even one senior Taliban official in good standing with the leadership.”

“They are all outsiders,” the source reiterated.

Included in the Taliban negotiating team are Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Mullah Mohamed Tayeb Agha, according to a report in Asharq al Awsat.


Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil.

Mutawakil, who served as the Taliban’s foreign minister in 2001, has long fallen out of favor with the Taliban, according to sources as well as reports in the press. “He has no authority among the Taliban leaders who matter,” said one senior source.

The BBC describes Mutawakil as “the more respectable face of the Taliban” as he is considered as “articulate and relatively moderate.” He is “several rungs of power removed from the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.” and broke ranks after Omar refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2002 he claimedhe sent an aide to warn the US of the Sept. 11 attacks but was ignored.

Mutawakil surrendered to the US in February 2002 without seeking approval from the senior Taliban leadership. He was detained by the US and then placed under house arrest in Kabul. The Taliban ejected Mutawakil from the movement in 2003, saying he “does not represent our will”. Mutawakil contested the elections in 2005.

Mutawakil has been behind numerous failed attempts to promote reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “He is probably sincere but just completely powerless,” a source told The Long War Journal.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, another purported representative of the Taliban in the Saudi Arabia negotiations, served as the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan. He was detained by the Pakistani security services in 2002 and sent to the Guantanamo Detention Facility in Cuba before he was released in 2006.

Zaeef is also seen as a “moderate” Taliban and was considered a candidate to join the interim Afghan government. “Zaeef has no standing with the current Taliban leadership,” a source said.

Mullah Mohamed Tayeb Agha was also in attendance in Saudi Arabia. While Agha is described as “the spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Omar,” he hasn’t held this role for a decade. “That was back in the 1990s,” a source familiar with the Taliban leadership said.

The Taliban reject peace talks

Mullah Omar and the Taliban have openly rejected the idea their followers are in negotiations with the Afghan government. Omar and the Taliban issued two press releases since Sept. 28 to quell the rumors.

The first statement, issued by the Taliban on Sept 28, rejected any idea of a peace agreement. “The Shura Council of the Islamic Emriate of Afghanistan considers such baseless rumors as part of the failed efforts by our enemies to create distrust and doubts among Afghans, other nations, and the mujahideed,” the statement read. “No official member of the Taliban–now or in the past–has ever negotiated with the US or the puppet Afghan government.”

The Taliban then went out of its way to denounce those negotiating under its banner, and clearly referred to Mutawakil, Zaeef, and Agha. “A handful of former Taliban officials who are under house arrest or who have surrendered do not represent the Islamic Emirate.”

The Taliban then clearly lay out their strategy to retake power in Afghanistan. The statement is clear they do not seek accommodation, but the removal of NATO troops and the ouster of the Karzai regime. “If out fight was for control of ministries and other prominent positions in the puppet administration, then such negotiations would make sense–but this is not the case,” the statement read. “Our struggle is to implement the rules of Allah in Afghanistan by eradicating the enemies of Islam… Our struggle will continue until the departure of all foreign troops.”

In a statement signed by Mullah Omar on Sept. 30, he was clear that he believed the Taliban was close to victory and offered the US harsh terms for peace. “If you demonstrate an intention of withdrawing your forces, we once again will demonstrate our principles by giving you the right of safe passage, in order to show that we never harm anyone maliciously,” Omar said. He also went out of his way to praise the mujahideen, both Afghan and foreign, in their willingness to take the fight to the West.

Europe looking for an out

The eagerness to promote reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government stems from European governments looking to extract themselves from the Afghan conflict, senior sources tell The Long War Journal.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • ST333 says:

    Clearly the European leaders have lost their collective will and want out. It’s a shame since it gives their military’s a black eye and makes them seem weak and inadequate. I think the only true way to clean up Afghanistan is to increase our presence there and that is going to take some time. NATO is a good idea but not really practical in reality. Hopefully NATO will hold on long enough for us to replace them in AF without losing ground and then I sever ties with the current NATO countries and seek to renegotiate our agreement with the European nations. This should serve as a lesson to the US for future conflicts. That’s not Winston Churchill’s UK anymore and we need to plan appropriately.

  • ST333 says:

    As for “negotiating”, maybe the UK and European nations should consult with their last great leader:
    “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” —Sir Winston Churchill

  • Thanos says:

    I agree entirely. This is designed to stall the Nato winter offensive, the motive is clear.
    There was a short period when there was a rift back during the formation of TTP,(2006) it was mostly over who would lead where and strategy. That is long over and now they are at war with Pakistan as well and they are all working in concert.

  • TEM says:

    NICE JOB BILL!! Your website was refered to as a source on FoxNews today. Specifically this story.
    The thing that I am very concerned about is this, those estimated 600 US citizens, usually second generation Americans. who are between the ages of 18-22, who spent 6-8 years, due to their parents or grandparents wishes, in some of the most radiacl Madrassas in Pakistan, especially two specific ones located in Karachi.
    These young people have been indocrinated in the most twisted,radical form of Islam and preaches the young men’s oblligation to commit to worldwide jihad, especially against the west.
    These young men have or will eventually receive terrorist training. The young men have received no academic in math,science, english, or any of the other required academic fields that USA high schools require. They are uneducated and have been brainwashed in to believing jihad against the non- Muslims is their obligation to Allah. This makes for a very dangerous situation
    The 7/7 subway (tube) bombers were second generation British citizens, who were indoctrinated in these 1-2 specific, radical madrassas in Karachi.
    The Pakistani goverment, under Musharaff, outlawed foreign residents from attending these breeding ground for terrorism and jihad, usually directed at the very countries they call home.
    Their have been hearings in Congress on this matter, due to the FBI receiving reports that there are anywhere between 50-100 USA citizens between the ages of 8-17 being held against their will in these quasi-prisons, being indoctrinated in hate for “non-believers”, receiving no education, being taught death in the name of jihad will make one a marty, and recieving paramilitary training with the sole purpose of visiting violence when they return to their home countries.
    I know of at least 2 US congressmen,who have received complaints from their consituents that they have children being beaten and held against their will in these problem indoctrination factories in primarily Karachi.
    Since the indoctinated and return to the US, they pass directly through customs,since they have a US passport. The Islamic radicals know this and have exploited this loophole.
    I know the FBI, TSA,and homeland security have started checking those young men who have spent severall years in Pakistan and are checking for rope burns on the arms and/or hands, as well as scarring, or scars left from being burned, all tell -tell sign they have received some type of military training.
    The ACLU and the chairmen of the Congressional judicary are attempting the feds from stopping this practice, under the guise of “profiling”.
    I have spoken to an aide who works for the chairmen of the congessional cairmen of homeland security as well as a contact I have on Senator Thad Cochran’s staff.
    There have been hearings on this practice and the radical indoctrination facilities located in Karachi.
    For some reason, the main stream media has ignored this very serious situation and unless the
    FBI knows the whereabouts of al those who have been indoctrinated, then this can and probably will
    Lead to another terrorist attack, from homegrown USA citizens, just like in London.
    If I lived in a community where I knew young men were returning from a 7 year stint in Karachi,I would alert the FBI or contact homeland security and take it to your representative and/or senator.
    If it in a city where these individuals are residents
    I would put together my own survelliance crew,even going as far as bugging their mosque or
    meeting locations, so I could monitor their activity
    myself. This would be the last resort and only if
    the FBI was not taking the threat serious.
    Guys, these US citizens being held against their
    will,need to be released and sent back to their
    parents and the State Dept need to be crystal clear
    of that demand.
    Then we better all keep a keen eye on those potential threat and alert the FBI. If they are unwilling to take action call your state or local law enforcement officer.
    This entire sorry episode and the seriousness of
    the potential consequences are much to dire to
    I do know this, the FBI knows several of these
    indoctrinated citzens are located in the Houston,
    Dallas metroplex, Atlanta, New York, the Detroit
    area, and several locations in California.
    Every person can make a difference just by
    being vigilant in your daily activities and observe
    your surroundings.
    I hope I am wrong, however I truly believe
    another terrorist attack with the next 12 months
    is very likely and the perputrators will be US
    In the mean time, I want those young men, whose lives are being destroyed to be relased and sent home! That is State’s job and if they can’t
    or won’t solve it, then they will have to look at
    other options.
    Very,very scary stuff, complete with dire consequences, it won’t be easy for the FBI and local
    law enforcement,however it shouldn’t be impossible. All of us need to be observant of our
    surroundings and contact law enforcement.
    Let’s all pray that it isn’t to late to stop the insanity and save lives.
    I also encourage every single reader of this site to contact their US representative and Senator and
    alert their staff what is occuring.

  • JR says:

    With respect to airing US annoyance at British attempts to declare a (sham) victory and bug out…intentional leak, or is someone talking out of school? Are these sources people who have an impact on decisions, or are they just irritated soldiers? Not sure this is helpful – I remember how annoying it was when the smug Brits were lecturing us (the USA, in case anyone had any doubt) about our tactics in Iraq. It was highly irritating to read it in the paper. Don’t get me wrong – someone should tighten up their shot group – but it should be done privately among allies, not in the news.
    General Purpose Comment: LWJ is an outstanding website. I read it every day.

  • TEM says:

    Bill you have done a wonderful job getting this important info, for which the mainstream press has chosen to stick their heads in the sand and pretend
    therer is no terrorist threat.
    The entire country has the right to know what
    jepordizes our personal security.
    Europe, with the exceptionof England is a lost cause, they refuse and are unable to deal with
    Islamic terrorist, due to their extreme weakness
    and lack of will.
    Islam will take control of the better part of Europe
    without firing a single shot or igniting bombs.
    Some believe the USA NEEDS western Europe and
    they are still the same miltary powers they were
    60 years ago. Their performance in Afghanistan has been less than impressive and even though they
    won’t all the benefits of being a member of NATO
    they unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices.
    The USA, UK,and Australia will be standing alone within the next 10 years. That fact becomes
    closer to reality every day,month,and year.
    The radical Islamics have intimidated most of western Europe into givng up free speech, due to the fear of violence bt the radical Muslims.
    It is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog
    and it’s pitiful.

  • TLA says:

    I hear what you are saying about most of western Europe’s political ineptitude in dealing with a domineering Islamic influence (but also delete Britain out of being a useful force against it – their socialist government will allow anyone to do anything, with little repucussion).
    Strangely enough, I have recently read (somewhere) that it is Switzerland that has banned the construction of ANOTHER mosque, because it is not in the interests of the citizens (it could have been banned under the rather nice governmental system of Switzerland, that allows the population to have a say in policy).

  • Hi bill,
    I am posting the view of Walid Phares below because western seminarists get TIRED QUICK.
    “””The split within the Jihadist community is not about the philosophy of violence because Jihad is not only and always sheer military action. There are Jihadi goals to attain, and Jihadi “qital” (combat) is only one means to achieve these goals. The Salafists (Wahhabis or Muslim Brotherhood) can decide not to resort to Qital as long as they are making progress in changing the balance of power to their advantage. But as the balance is changing, they will move to the next stage and use all means at their disposal, including Jihadi Qital.
    The analytical mistake committed by some is to single out a “moment” in Jihadi strategy and think it is “the” Jihadi strategy. Hence we are witnessing the proliferation of academics’ and experts’ calls to “engage” with the non-violent Jihadis as if the latter were a category in itself. In fact, this is a truncated reading of the whole process of Jihadism. Worse, it is also a maneuver by the Jihadists in their war of ideas to ignite trends within the realm of their enemies (liberal democracies) which would actually slow down the process of containment. In short, what some call “engagement” is in fact a successful move on behalf of the long term Jihadist to obstruct the West and other democracies from moving forward in their own campaign. “””
    This talk by British fro a “good dictator” shows how they miss Musharaff one of those good fellow. If WEST AND THINKERS DONOT ASSESS THE THREAT POSED BY SAUDI ARABIA and its strategem, it will rue.

  • Freedom Now says:

    Truly educated people are aware of the unfaithfulness of the Taliban in negotiations.
    I agree with all the talking heads to a certain degree that we should talk to our enemies on some level. Yet to take them as serious partners we need some sort of factual basis to rely on, instead of these phony narratives that dominates the media during the long war.

  • Kidartbai says:

    I agree trusting every taliban could be a potential mistake, but using the Sunni awakening model in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the right way.

  • Kidartbai says:

    Is this an indication of a policy shift from the US? Seems to be mirroring very close to what Musharraf used to say.
    Petraeus sees value in talking to Taliban
    Wed Oct 8, 3:48 PM ET
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said on Wednesday that negotiations with some members of the Taliban could provide a way to reduce violence in sections of Afghanistan gripped by an intensifying insurgency.


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