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Taliban deny talks (again)

March 14, 2015

Summary: More talks about talks and denials of talks about talks…

The Taliban seem to be in full denial mode:

Taliban flagThe media has been publishing false reports periodically over the past week asserting the heating up of negotiations and even fabrications about visits by the delegations of Islamic Emirate.

We reject all such claims. There is no such process taking place and neither can such matters shape up behind closed doors or be kept hidden.

If there was anything taking place in this regard, the Islamic Emirate would have informed the media and its countrymen through its official channels.

But there have been and are still continued hints that they might yet be looking at the possibility of talks in relation to Afghanistan:

ISLAMABAD: Mystery shrouds the much-anticipated talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as the insurgents have once again dismissed all media reports of dialogue as part of ‘war propaganda’ against the group.

The Taliban have never officially indicated their willingness to join the intra-Afghan dialogue ever since the issue cropped up in the news in Afghanistan over the past few weeks.

Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah was the first one to officially confirm last month that talks would begin soon. However, Taliban insurgents are adamant in denying all such claims, casting further doubts on the peace process.

The Taliban have been quick in issuing a denial whenever the Afghan and foreign media talk about the process. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued yet another denial late Thursday amid indications that some of the Qatar-based Taliban negotiators had visited Pakistan for consultations. Mujahid insisted none of their leaders from the political office have been to any country.

Also this, which developes the plausible idea that China might be involved in some aspect of the deal brokering:

(Reuters) – China has held rounds of talks with the Taliban and asked the Islamist militants to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, the head of Afghanistan’s power sharing government said on Friday.

The Chinese have held “one, two or three” rounds of talks with the Taliban in the past few months, Abdullah Abdullah said at a conference organised by an Indian media group.

“They asked the Taliban to have talks directly with the Afghan government, that’s a good message,” Abdullah said, adding that he did not know what the outcome would be of China’s efforts. China’s foreign minister last month said during a visit to Islamabad that Beijing was willing to help mediate talks to end the Afghan war, but Chinese officials have not provided many details.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said this week that reports its diplomats in Islamabad met last month with Taliban representatives “do not accord with reality”.

Abdullah, speaking at the India Today Conclave 2015 in New Delhi, did not say where the meetings took place.

He said Afghanistan had begun to improve relations with China under the previous president, Hamid Karzai, with the idea that Beijing could use its influence over Pakistan to help broker peace talks.

China has close ties with Afghanistan’s neighbour Pakistan, which is widely believed to harbour the Taliban’s top leaders and exert considerable control over the group.

In February, a Pakistani army delegation brought word to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani that Taliban leaders had signalled they were willing to open talks, according to senior Pakistani and Afghan officials.

Since then, senior representatives of the militant group have visited Islamabad where they were told to end a rift between two leaders that could undermine a peace process, two Taliban sources said.

Abdullah’s backing of the nascent process to negotiate an end to the 13-year insurgency is crucial because many of his supporters represent the vehement anti-Taliban wing that fought against the hardline Islamists when they held power until 2001.

As ever it remains difficult to penetrate the smokescreens of this particularly sensitive issue and much of this recent flurry of rumour seems tp come from one source – Abdullah himself.  The Taliban blame “secret agencies with sinister goals” for spreading baseless rumours.  They will not want to give out any signs of weakness or compromise, particularly as it seems likely that their own ranks are divided as to what should be done – talk or fight.  But, with the international forces gone, a new Afghan government, the apparent inability of the Taliban to take and hold viable slices of land and potentially even ISIS tapping them on the shoulder, 2015 might be a good time to at least develop contacts with the Afghan regime in a more coherent and constructive fashion.


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