Two Taliban leaders have denied recent reports that the leader of the Afghan group, Mullah Omar, is currently in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
Both Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi and Mohammed Ibrahim Hanafi, a Taliban military commander in the southern province in Helmand, denied talks were underway and said reconciliation is not possible as long as foreign troops are in Afghanistan.
“These reports are baseless,” Ahmadi said according to Reuters, which picked up the report from the Pakistan-based AIP news agency. “Our position remains unchanged. We will conduct jihad and continue resistance as long as foreign forces are present in Afghanistan.”
“If you wait for 3,000 years, our position is that the Taliban will not enter into any kind of talks in the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan,” Ahmadi continued.
Hanafi, who leads Taliban fighters and said he will move north to support the Taliban’s planned spring offensive in the Kabul region, also said that talks would not take place unless NATO forces exit the country.
“I don’t think there can be any discussion of peace until the foreigners leave Afghanistan,” Hanafi told CNN.
Last fall, Mullah Omar and the Taliban denied being involved in negotiations in Saudi Arabia and mocked the West for seeking a political end to the Afghan war. Then, as now, Omar and the Taliban demanded that any talks be conditioned on the withdrawal of NATO forces, the end of the Karzai regime, and the reinstatement of the Taliban government.
Other reports from the fall of 2008 claimed the Taliban had broken with al Qaeda over negotiations, but no split between the groups has been detected.
Rumors of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban re-emerged this weekend after The London Times reported that President Hamid Karzai’s brother is conducting talks in Saudi Arabia with the Taliban. Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, was reported to have backed these peace talks that are said to be ongoing with members of Omar’s inner circle as well as Taliban field commanders. But no Taliban leader has been identified as participating in any such talks.
Current talks not being held with Taliban representatives
The identity of one of the so-called Taliban negotiators who claimed peace talks are currently underway indicates that no senior Taliban leaders or their representatives are involved. Abdullah Anas, a former mujahedeen leader who was once close to Osama bin Laden, claimed that talks with the government are underway and are showing promise.
But since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the US, Abdullah Anas has been critical of bin Laden and the global jihad. He currently lives in Britain and where he preaches moderation at a mosque.
Anas is not close to the Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. He is part of a circle of former Taliban leaders and spokesmen who have been expelled from the group and are seeking to curry favor with supporters in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This group includes Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Mullah Mohamed Tayeb Agha.
Mutawakil served as the Taliban’s foreign minister in 2001 and broke ranks after Omar refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks. He surrendered to US forces in 2002 and has repeatedly tried to negotiate peace agreements.
Zaeef served as the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He was detained by Pakistani security forces in 2002 and was sent to the Guantanamo Detention Facility in Cuba before he was released in 2006. Prior to his arrest he had been considered a candidate to join the interim Afghan government.
Agha was a spokesman for Mullah Omar in the 1990s but has since fallen out of favor with the Taliban leadership.
A Sept. 29, 2008, Taliban press release denying negotiations with the Afghan government and the West described the three men as “a handful of former Taliban officials who are under house arrest or who have surrendered [and] do not represent the Islamic Emirate.”
For more information on prior claims of negotiations and the purported Taliban / al Qaeda split, see:
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.