New day!

by Dafydd on 3/25/2010 · 3 comments

Perhaps Hillary Clinton had missed Novruz in Uzbekistan, or something. Either way she proclaimed a ‘New Day’ in US Pakistan relations.

At the same time the UN was busy meeting Hekmatyar people in Kabul.

While these people were busy at this, the Taliban were giving an interview too. The (ahem) gentleman, using the pseudonym ‘Abdullah’ doing the talking had some interesting claims, amongst which were:-

“I assure you, 300%, neither Moulvi Abdul Kabir nor Syed Tayyab Agha has been arrested. It was false reporting. Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mir Muhammad were arrested at least a month before Mullah Baradar, but their arrest was shown after Mullah Baradar’s. I have not been in direct contact with Mullah Mustasim Jan Agha so I cannot claim with surety about his status, but I was told by his friends that he was not arrested,” Abdullah says.

Which is kind of interesting. It wouldn’t be the first time Pakistan had made false claims. But on balance I think I would still believe these guys arrested without some kind of proof to the contrary.

On the subject of Baradar operating as a go between in talks:-

“There is not a shred of truth in this statement. Neither the Punjabis nor al-Qaeda could know about the Taliban’s internal affairs. It is all gossip or their speculation – like the speculation that there were talks in Dubai between Mullah Baradar and Abdul Qayyum [Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother]. People speculate like this because Karzai and Baradar come from the same tribe [Popalzai Durrani], but it is all speculation.”

Which is kind of interesting. He seems to be putting some sort of distance between the Quetta Shura on the one hand and the TTP and al Qaeda on the other.

“While he [Tayyab Mullah Omar’s secretary] was in Iran he made a significant change to his appearance. ….. He is completely unidentifiable.”

“Now you are telling me that Mullah Omar’s secretary was in Iran. Did he live there in hiding or was he given shelter by the Iranian government?”

“He was given refuge by the Iranian government in 2002, he lived there for about a year. Even in the past years he has visited Iran occasionally.”

Which kind of puts the Quetta Taliban closer to Iran. This would tie in with some other recent reporting.

To cap it all:-

You need to understand that Pakistan arrested Mullah Baradar under compulsion and we have a compulsion as well, that no matter how Pakistan jacks up its actions against us we cannot sanction attacks on Pakistan, or for that matter against any Muslim country …  These Punjabis and al-Qaeda are obsessed with targeting the Pakistani security forces and their contribution to fighting against NATO is limited ….   “There is a weird situation in North Waziristan [tribal area in Pakistan]. If you spend just 20 days there you will talk the way they talk and you will start declaring certain Muslims as heretic and issue decrees of murder and assassination. This is not the Islamic way.

To what extent this guy (who does not even identify himself) speaks for others is clearly questionable, but I hear it as repositioning the Taliban as

-Closer to state actors (Pakistani military – he is dismissive of Zadari’s government) and Iran.

-More distant from al Qaeda

-More Pashtun, his remarks on Punjabis seem pretty disparaging.

I find the comments on North Waziristan interesting. These Wazir guys are Pashtun and call themselves Talibs. The interviewee claims to regard them as a gang of crazies. Not an unreasonable view, but also not one I have heard expressed from the mouths of Talban spokesmen with any regularity. It is unlikely to make this guy welcome should he be seeking refuge in that area any time soon.

I am left wondering if different strands (including the Hekmatyars meeting with the UN) of the insurgency really are ready to consider some sort of talks while NATO draws down scenario.

I don’t think this would represent any sort of victory for NATO/US/the West whoever. I think the Taliban could and would spin it as some sort of victory for them. Looking at the way things have gone in Marjah, it might be the best we can hope for.

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– author of 23 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

I am a UK citizen & resident with a long standing interest in Central Asia. This probably has something to do with student days, a late night TV show called 'The Silk Road' and a TV with no remote control. I currently work in software and live with my wife & three children.

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WsL March 25, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Wow, thanks for pointing this interview out. This is fascinating.

reader March 26, 2010 at 8:26 am

Excellent post and analysis! Daffyd, in your opinion do these possible fault lines make the Taliban more or less resilient?

Dafydd March 26, 2010 at 8:40 am

Thank you, I would guess more resilient, but of reduced reach. The possibility of Mullah Omar again becoming president of Afghanistan looks an even longer shot now.

This reflects a deliberate tactical response from the Taliban. Under the wieght of drone attacks targetted at leaders, they have diffused and allowed greater independence to field commanders. Now we see a higher level diffusion, the Pakistani Taliban, Quetta Shura, al Qaeda seemingly drifting apart.

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