Taliban Denial of Talks

Daily Outlook op-ed published July 26

A latest Taliban video released by the Al-emara studio has been uploaded online. The 45 minutes video features attacks, RPG firings, blasts and interviews of Taliban commanders in Kunar province. It focuses on the talks about talks with Taliban, strongly denying the media reports that some Taliban officials had direct talks with the US. The overall message and theme of the video is mainly rebuttal of reports on Taliban talks, saying its war propaganda by the US. The video also asks media not to report on these false claims. It also features Taliban songs praising their Al-Badar operations started in spring this year.

The video starts with a statement saying the reports of talks with Taliban are a war tactic and propaganda. It further says the US on one hand talks about negotiations with Taliban, while on other hand there are discussions of long-term military presence in Afghanistan. It asks, how could talks be possible in such a condition? The video message requests international media not to report about the false propaganda spread by the CIA through its favorite American outlets.

It’s not the first time Taliban propaganda cell, al-emara or their so-called spokesmen have made such claims. However, it’s new that al-emara has particularly focused their video release on the talks with US, with interviews of Taliban commanders about this. The video is apparently in Kunar, and commanders interviewed are fighters from there. Al-emara does not mention Taliban or particular militant groups in their statements or messages. They use the word “Mujahideen” for themselves. Therefore, it is not clear whether the commanders are from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Haqqani Network, or Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
The reports about direct talks between the US and Taliban in Munich made headlines in local media in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In recent weeks, Taliban propaganda sources have been denying those reports. The name mentioned in these reports is of Sayed Tayeb Agha, Mullah Omar’s personal secretary. It was reported that he has been meeting American officials in Munich and Doha with the approval of Mullah Omar. It could be possible that the Taliban leadership involved in talks have kept it secret from their field commanders, or simply do not want to admit before they reach to a conclusion.

The reports of talks have already created an atmosphere of distrust among the ranks of mid-level Taliban leadership. In recent months, we have witnessed scores of Taliban fighters laying down their arms and joining the peace process in different parts of the country. One reason for Taliban propaganda cells to deny the direct talks could be to end the distrust spread among their commanders by calling the talks a CIA-propaganda.

Recently in a trip to Quetta, brother of a Taliban commander in Zabul, my home province, told me there is a “martyr” from every Noorzai and Kakar tribe of the province, “how could Amir-ul-Momineen end all our efforts in a deal”, he responded to my question about the direct talks of Tayed Agha with the US officials. “If he [Mullah Omar] had to do this, he should have handed over Osama to America in 2001″, he told angrily.

Even if the Taliban leadership of the Quetta Shura approve of talks, there will be many elements among their own commanders to oppose such a move. However, if the leadership council comes to an understanding, such elements won’t be influential to keep the entire insurgency strong.

The denials such as the latest al-emara video could also be propaganda by Al-Qaeda to disrupt the process of talks, before it makes an initial success. Most Jihadi online propaganda forums and websites are run by Al-Qaeda elements, and al-emara is part of that. It’s obvious that Al-Qaeda will fiercely resist the US and Afghan Government attempts to separate Taliban from them. Those Taliban who have been named in media reports to have talked directly with the US will be a high target of Al-Qaeda. They might have already launched the strategy to fail such attempts, and create hurdles in talks with Taliban by all means, including disinformation propaganda.

However, if the reports of direct talks are to be believed, the process is very slow. It has been almost a year now, since the first these meetings were reportedly held. If after several meetings and direct talks, there is no sign of a progress, I am skeptical of any such hope in future. Contrary to what should have happened, we witness a rise in suicide attacks, and assassinations of Afghan officials claimed by Taliban. If there is any possibility of success on talks, the process should not have been a unilateral appeasement of the insurgents through moves like the names of more than a dozen former Taliban being delisted from the UN sanctions list, but in response, Taliban increasing suicide attacks and terror campaign.

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Filed under Insurgency, Taliban, Taliban Propagation

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