Taliban spokesman denies new emir rejected peace talks [updated]

This post has been updated on May 26 as an official Taliban spokesman denied that an audiotape attributed to Mullah Haibatullah was released by the new emir.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the group has issued an audio message from its newly-appointed emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Reports of the audio appeared in Reuters, AFP, Dawn, and other news outlets. The Reuters report below corrects the record:

The official spokesman for the Afghan Taliban said on Wednesday that an audio tape purporting to be from newly named leader Haibatullah Akhundzada rejecting peace talks was not issued by him and was not from the new insurgent chief.

Two Taliban commanders had provided the audio to reporters late on Wednesday, saying it was an official statement. One of the commanders said he had received the recording directly from Zabihullah Mujahid, the official spokesman who earlier announced Akhundzada’s elevation.

Mujahid later issued an email from his official account denying the movement had issued an audio.

Reached by telephone, Mujahid said the Taliban were launching an investigation to learn who was distributing the recording.

It will be interesting to see where this audio originated from, and who distributed it. But the odds are good we will never know. This incident highlights the difficulties in tracking jihadist groups and their official propaganda in a turbulent time such as a leadership change. The Taliban’s Voice of Jihad website has been down for nearly a week (it has only returned online today, the information in the English language section is a week or more old).

Original posting:

In his first public statement since being named the Taliban’s new emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has rejected peace talks with the Afghan government and the West. Dawn reports:

In an audio message released in Pashto, circulated by Taliban commanders, Haibatullah stated the “Taliban will never bow their heads and will not agree to peace talks.”

Afghan Taliban’s new chief added that “people thought we will lay down our arms after Mullah Mansour’s death, but we will continue fighting ’till the end.”

President Obama justified the controversial May 21 airstrike in Pakistan by saying Mansour was an obstacle to peace negotiations.

“Mansour rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken the lives of countless innocent Afghan men, women and children,” President Obama said on May 23 when confirming Mansour’s death. “The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict – joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability.”

The Taliban has refused to enter into peace talks with the West since the US invasion in 2016. It has consistently said it will only accept the return of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and the withdrawal of all foreign forces. And it has said that it would not reject al Qaeda, despite Western demands.

Haibatullah’s position on negotiations should come as no surprise. Haibatullah appears to be following in the footsteps of his predecessors. He is an old school judge who issued religious edicts between 1996 and 2001, when the Taliban meted out horrific punishments to women who committed minor infractions of the group’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law. As the Taliban’s top judicial figure, he issued fatwas or religious rulings which permitted suicide assault teams to target civilian, government, and military installations.

Haibatullah should not be considered a “moderate” by any stretch.

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

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  • Chuck says:

    So, it’s drone time.

  • Pete Speer says:

    Why should they?

  • Dominic Chan says:

    Definitely they will not agree… Its from the same camp. So take him out and the rest of that Shura Council. No horse and no cart, therefore the other group needs to think it over. This methodology has to be intensive.

  • An audio was circulating claiming to be Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada but I understand Taliban spox has stated its a fake. Pakistan journalists have since retracted this… There was also another earlier claiming to demonstrate Mansour was alive, but I didn’t trust the source. So many games going on over this assassination by US.

  • Frankie says:

    “And it has said that it would not reject al Qaeda, despite Western demands.” – I’ve even seen such a statement by the IEA. Can you please share it?

  • Zafar Iqbal says:

    Not an unexpected response from the new Chief of Taliban – under given circumstances.
    But dialogue is the only solution of all conflicts – a lesson from the history, to which the Taliban also seem to be aware of. Numerous rounds of discussions – held last year – confirm it. Yes Taliban seem to be temporarily delaying the talks, taking the advantage of tight time lines – set by Obama administration for themselves prior to completion of his tenure as US president……
    Gulbadin Hikmatyar is already there – sooner or later Taliban would be there to settle the Afghan issue through talks…… as its the only narrative acceptable to all players including US, Russia, China, Iran, India and Pakistan…….

  • Arjuna says:

    That’s good he’s true black. It justifies his quick death (the savage so-called “judge” and “cleric”) even more. He’s a marked man. I’d give him six months, tops.
    Kill him and his deputies, and out their ISI sponsors, then you’d be looking at more stability.
    Bill, I wonder if you think the same Pakistanis that run the TB are also harboring AQ (e.g. Zawahiri)? Supposedly his guards have married into tribes in Waz and he’s deep underground there, but every time we get someone like Uglymullah No. 19, my heart yearns for the Egyptian..

  • Mudassar Baig says:

    Taliban is not a one man show where the leader is free to make his decisions. The Taliban members have been fighting with a clear goal to rid the country of any foriegn influence and establish Sharia laws. Having endured the war for more than a decade, they have become more hardliners and are unlikely to budge from their position. While Obama may have strict deadlines, they have none – time is on their side.

  • Zafar Iqbal says:

    But even then, we shouldn’t expect talks in near future.

  • ulises says:


  • carl says:

    Why do people say “take him out” when they mean ‘kill him’? Anyway, do not make the mistake that we killed Mansour without the knowledge and approval of the Pak Army/ISI. There is nothing in the world that will convince me that much of what we are officially told about this killing isn’t a lie. We haven’t suddenly grown a pair after 15 years. They handed him to us for their own reasons and those reasons don’t include advancing the interests of the US or the Afghans.

  • Kriss says:

    And the game of shadows, continues.

  • Moose says:

    Silence, snake.

  • Michael E Piston says:

    I can’t imagine why the U.S. would have the slightest interest in molesting Zawahiri, who ineffectual leadership has done more to cripple Al Qaeda than a fleet of drones. Better to negotiate with him instead – he probably feels more threatened by Iran and ISI than by the U.S. Remember how we refused to recognize or negotiate with China until suddenly they became our allies against the Soviet Union in 1972 – and now of course we arm the Vietnamese Communists against the very same Chinese instead of napalming them into oblivion. Now that the thought is finally sink into our brains that Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad would have been better treated as U.S. allies than enemies, perhaps we will some day think the same about Al Qaeda as well.

  • Evan says:

    This man was an enemy combatant, killed inside a failed state where there is no rule of law, let alone “sovereignty.”

    That’s a righteous kill….
    Not an assassination…

  • NHA says:

    Truth is always first casualty in war and conflict. But, Taliban and their adversaries have no option except talks. Afghanistan must understand, the present political order put in place by US backing is not sustainable. Taliban who are mostly Pushtu speaking will have to be given some physical and political space. Th Afghan Government’s claim , backed by India, that accommodating Taliban will provide space to Pakistan is unfounded. The latter has no interest except Afghanistan should not be a sanctuary for hostile forces.

  • Arjuna says:

    Are you being sarcastic, sir? Zawahiri is a murderer of thousands of Americans. He can rot in a SuperMax and work on his forehead bump in complete privacy as far as I’m concerned. No comparison between a sneaky terrorist and a rotten strongman. As soon as we catch him and his Pakistani protectors, we need to expose the rotten infrastructure that allows the TB and AQ to ensconce themselves in snakeville. No rest until Zawahiri is gone, Hamza is gone, Al Adel is gone, Julani is gone, Droukdel and MBM are gone… we have of lots of work to do. No surrendering to terrorists.


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