Mullah Sangeen Zadran, the senior Haqqani Network leader who is also the Taliban’s shadow governor for Paktika province, granted an interview with Al Samoud, the Taliban’s official magazine. The interview was published in the December 2011-January 2012 edition, and has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The interviewer asks Sangeen about the status of the fight in Paktika (Sangeen says things are going great and that the Taliban control many of the districts). At one point Sangeen is asked about the relationship between the Haqqani Network and the Taliban and the claims that the Haqqanis are a separate entity from the Taliban. Here is a portion of his response:
These claims are false and were devised by the enemies of Afghanistan, and their local agents, and they have no basis in truth.
Rather, it is a rumor war that the broadcast stations of the enemy and its media centers are waging.
I assure you with all confidence that all the mujahideen of the Emirate are united under the leadership of the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar, may Allah the Almighty preserve him, and he is the one who guides this battle in all the land, and his honest leadership is taking the jihadi movement towards the anticipated victory, Allah the Almighty willing.
Our enemies are in fear and panic from the existence of cohesion and unity in the ranks of the mujahideen of the Emirate, because they failed to destroy the power of the mujahideen and create divisions in their rank through the past ten years. In order to hide their failure and shame in this matter, they spread such rumors and they claim that the mujahideen are not under one leadership and that they are led by separate leaderships instead of just one leadership.
The truth of the matter is that such claims are false rumors from the enemy in its war against jihad and the mujahideen. The mujahideen, with grace from Allah the Almighty, are all one rank and one hand against the enemy, and they fight their enemy under the leadership of the Islamic Emirate.
Sangeen has been designated by the US as a global terrorist for his ties to al Qaeda and links to terrorist attacks. In September 2009, Sangeen granted an interview with As Sahab, al Qaeda’s media arm, in which he stated: “Al Qaeda and the 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 Osama [bin Laden] has pledged allegiance to Amir Al-Mumineen [the Leader of the Faithful, Mullah Muhammad Omar] 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.”
In past interviews, Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj, the top two leaders of the Haqqani Network, have said the same thing about their place in the Taliban and their relationship with al Qaeda.
The US wants the Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda as a condition for a peace settlement in Afghanistan. But the Haqqani faction’s place in the Taliban and their affinity with al Qaeda will prove to be a major obstacle. The Haqqanis and other Taliban commanders have been in bed with al Qaeda for years, and it is more than naive to believe that the Taliban will dump al Qaeda now, especially when the US and NATO have signaled that the vast majority of their forces are leaving Afghanistan by 2014, peace agreement or no peace agreement.
And as an aside, even if the US were able to broker a peace agreement with the Taliban, what makes the US believe the Taliban will abide by it? Just across the border, the Pakistani government has negotiated numerous peace agreements with the Taliban in the tribal areas and in Swat, only to have the Taliban break the agreements repeatedly over the years. Why do US officials believe that the Taliban just on the other side of the Durand Line – an artificial boundary that the Taliban do not recognize – will honor a peace deal?
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