Mullah backs talks: Afghanistan Taliban Peace Talks

Published: July 15, 2015

Mullah backs talks: Afghanistan Taliban Peace Talks, A message claimed to be from Taliban leader Mullah Omar has endorsed recent talks between Taliban and Afghan government officials, saying that negotiating with the enemy is not prohibited in Islam.

The message was released on Wednesday to mark the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and comes a week after an official government delegation met with senior members of the Taliban outside the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The meeting was the first time in several years that the two sides have had an official sit-down. It has followed a series of informal meetings since May in China, Qatar and Norway.

The veracity of Mullah Omar’s Eid message, which appeared on an official Taliban website, has not been confirmed. Indeed, Omar’s name has appeared on similar messages in the past, with no proof he actually wrote them.

Bette Dam, the author behind an upcoming biography about the reclusive Taliban leader, said the message was most likely written by people from the political arm of the movement based in Karachi, where many have speculated Pakistani authorities are keeping Omar himself under house arrest.

She added it should not come as a surprise that people speaking for Mullah Omar would support peace talks. The declaration could yet help solidify support for negotiations.

“There is already a lot of enthusiasm among the Taliban for the peace talks, but this will help, especially among the younger fighters,” Dam said.

Omar, who was the Taliban’s head of state from 1996, has not been seen in public since the US-led coalition toppled his government in 2001. As a sign of growing discontent within the Taliban, some commanders have begun to openly doubt whether the mythical leader is still alive.

Some have created their own splinter factions and pledged allegiance to Islamic State (Isis). Though their presence in Afghanistan is still limited, the Taliban found it pertinent last month to issue a warning to Isis not to expand operations into Afghanistan.

Deepening these divisions, certain Taliban factions have in recent weeks publicly questioned the legitimacy of the delegations meeting with government officials.

Last week, senior Taliban representatives met with members of the Afghan High Peace Council in Murree, a resort town outside Islamabad. According to presidential spokesman Zafar Hashemi, the two sides exchanged views in a “brainstorming session” and agreed to meet again after Ramadan.

The meeting drew support from both Washington and Beijing, but was denounced by members of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, who said the Taliban delegation was not authorised to represent the movement.

The purported Mullah Omar message sought to iron out those divisions. “All mujahideen and countrymen should be confident that in this process, I will unwaveringly defend our legal rights and viewpoints everywhere,” read the statement.


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