The UK’s Sunday Times threw this one out there this weekend:
The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.
A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.
At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.
“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.
“All the mujaheddin seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution. We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”
It didn’t take long, though, for one of the Taliban info-machine’s official spokespersons to nip THAT in the bud via an interview with a pro-Taliban web page (Ansar jihadi forum post in English here, PDF at Scribd.com here):
(Theunjustmedia:) My question is did this interview with The Sunday Times and The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan senior Islamic scholars took place?
Zabihullah Mujahid: No, no interview has been conducted with the The Sunday Times and The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan senior Islamic scholars, this interview is a lie.
Theunjustmedia: How do you comment on the content of this fake propaganda interview, what objectives could the invaders have in propagating this type of disinformation among the masses.
Zabihullah Mujahid: This is a good question, and I think that the concern citizens of the world should be asking this question from those who are behind this propaganda, what benefits are they trying to seek by lying to world about The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. I think people should contact The Sunday Times and ask them why are they spreading disinformation, also other media outlets should bring to light The Sunday Times deception to its reads.
Note the third-hand nature of the original story: The person whose byline appears on the article got the information from the report of an interview conducted by “a reputable Afghan journalist employed by The Sunday Times with two members of the shura that directs Taliban activity across the whole of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces.” So, we have Omar (allegedly) telling the scholars something, the scholars (allegedly) telling the Afghan journalist something, the Afghan journalist (allegedly) telling the byline guy something, and the byline guy telling us what was said. Most can be forgiven in sensing a game of “Telegraph” here, making the final product more suspect.
Also, as mentioned here in the past, unless it comes from the horse’s mouth, there’s always the potential for deniability.
So, back to waiting for a statement signed by/attributed to Mullah Omar himself.
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