Image of Haqqani Network military commander Mullah Sangeen Zadran. Obtained by The Long War Journal from a Taliban propaganda tape.
A few tidbits from someone claiming to be “Mullah Sangeen, a key commander of Afghan Taliban” (and the shadow governor of Paktika province) in this article in Pakistani media outlet The News:
What Afghan Taliban bases in Pakistan?
Mullah Sangeen, a key commander of Afghan Taliban, claimed there was no truth in the US charges as Taliban were holding 80 per cent of territory in Afghanistan.In his video message which the Taliban commander claimed was recorded in one of his camps in Paktika province, he said the Haqqani Network was active and based in Afghanistan …. “The US knows that we are here in Afghanistan and are fighting against them.”
The US pressing Pakistan is just another American scheme
By pressing the Pakistan government to launch military operation in North Waziristan, the US was in fact trying to weaken the country. He said the US was making all-out efforts to pit Pakistan’s armed forces and people against each other …. Mulla Sangeen said the Haqqani Network had inflicted heavy loses on the US and its allies in Afghanistan. “This is the reason the US is putting pressure on Pakistan to launch military operation in North Waziristan. At a time when Pakistan is supporting the US in its war against terror and US drones are flying over North Waziristan round the clock, no sane person would like to live in Waziristan,”
Talks? What talks? No way!
Regarding reports of US-Taliban talks, Mulla Sangeen termed this baseless, saying they don’t want talks with the occupying forces when they had ruined their country, filled jails with innocent Afghans and made thousands of Afghan children orphans and women widows.
If the name Mullah Sangeen sounds familiar, we last heard from Mullah Sangeen Zadran in September, and he appears to have been promoted from “Director of Military Affairs of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan for Paktika province” to shadow governor. His most interesting tidbit regarding the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda:
All praise is for Allah, Al-Qaeda and Taliban all are Muslims and we are united by the brotherhood of Islam. We do not see any difference between Taliban and Al- Qaeda, for we all belong to the religion of Islam. Sheikh Usama has pledged allegiance to Amir Al-Mumineen (Mulla Muhammad Umar) and has reassured his leadership again and again. There is no difference between us, for we are united by Islam and the Sharia governs us.
So, we see the Haqqanis saying they’re part of al Qaeda, and we have the Quetta Shura Taliban bosses taking positions that al Qaeda doesn’t like so much (like how the Taliban want to, in the words of a statement attributed to Mullah Omar, “maintain good and positive relations with all neighbors based on mutual respect and open a new chapter of good neighborliness of mutual cooperation and economic development”). Still, we still don’t see high-ranking Taliban vowing to break off relations with al Qaeda, even if some observers say it might give the Taliban an easier way back into eventual power.
Speaking to Jane’s Intelligence Review’s Jeremy Binnie and Joanna Wright, and Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee Monitoring Team Co-ordinator Richard Barrett, the Taliban is playing a delicate balancing act.
It would be difficult for the Quetta Shura to rid itself of Al Qaeda because of its close ties to the Haqqani Network. He described the Haqqanis as “terribly powerful in their area” and, unlike the Quetta Shura, capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in Kabul and other cities in the east. A split with Al Qaeda could harm the Quetta Shura’s relations with the Haqqanis, and consequently damage the Taliban’s claim to be a unified force and undermine international support for the insurgency.
And what could that mean for al Qaeda? More from Jane’s Binnie & Wright:
The close relationship between Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network means that even if the Quetta Shura convincingly shed its foreign allies, Al-Qaeda would probably still be able to re-establish a presence in eastern Afghanistan through the Haqqanis and other eastern factions.
Bottom line: Let’s not hold our breath expecting any public denunciations of al Qaeda attributed to official Taliban spokespersons or bosses anytime soon.
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