World, Middle East

Afghan govt silent on ‘secret’ peace talks with Taliban

Afghan officials supportive of rumoured peace talks but government refuses to comment

Afghan govt silent on ‘secret’ peace talks with Taliban ( Haroon sabawoon - Anadolu Agency )

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

The Afghan government has chosen to stay silent, neither acknowledging nor rejecting reports that it has secretly re-opened talks with the Taliban through the brother of former leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

In an exclusive report, the British daily The Guardian claimed Tuesday that Mullah Omar's brother Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, met with government representatives in September and October.

After Islamabad-assisted talks broke down last year when it was revealed Mullah Omar had been dead for at least two years, the talks have sparked intense discussion in Afghan political circles.

Several Afghan officials, who did not want to be named, told Anadolu Agency that they supported the government's move to make peace through talks with the militant group.

The pro-negotiations stance has been bolstered in the past month after the government in September signed an agreement with another militant group, Hezb-e-Islami, whose leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been hiding for decades.

Tawab Gorzang, spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC) in Afghanistan, refused to comment on the development but told Anadolu Agency the government is busy preparing evidence about alleged foreign support for the militants in the country. Gorzang did not name a specific country, though Afghanistan has long leveled such accusations at Pakistan.

“We have gathered documented proof that suggests the militants are constantly supported by the spy agencies of foreign countries. We will submit this dossier to the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

Reports about the resumption of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban emerged at a time when fighting between the two in various parts of the country is in full swing.

The Taliban briefly overrun northern Kunduz province last month, while hundreds of their fighters are engaged in heavy fighting with the Afghan army just miles away from the provincial capital of southern Helmand and Farah provinces.

Ashiqullah Yaqub, a strategic affairs analyst, said the Taliban are running out of resources following the death of Mullah Omar's successor, Mullah Akhtar Masnour, in a US drone strike in May earlier this year.

“He knew and supervised almost all financial resources of the militancy through his own business ventures and personal contacts. After his sudden death, the Taliban are feeling the financial crunch and their surge in attacks recently seemed a desperate push for the upper hand in these [secret] negotiations,” he said.

On their part, Afghan military officials held media briefings in the restive provinces Farah and Helmand, to highlight their achievements on the war front.

Mohaehuddin Ghori, the commander of the 207-Zafar Corps in the western areas of the country, told journalists in Farah that as many as 136 rebels have been killed and 66 others wounded in the ongoing military operation here.

Abdul Jabar Qaharman, special presidential envoy for security in the south, told journalists in Helmand the Taliban’s bid to overrun the strategically important province had been thwarted.

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