Mujeeb Ahmad, working for NBC News, managed to snag an interview (PDF of blog post here if link doesn’t work) with someone calling himself Commander Mullah Manan, “the second in command to Mullah Abdul Hakeem, the commander of Helmand Province”.
Some interesting messaging is coming out of the interview, which was reportedly done in or around Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province.
On where the bosses of the Afghan Taliban movement are these days, he says they’re not in Quetta anymore:
“This is Western propaganda …. The only true Taliban shura is the one led by Mullah Omar. It has 29 members and is spread around Afghanistan – some of the members are even holding key government posts. Their identities are known only among the shura members …. We are not safe in Quetta (Pakistan) …. These days, the Pakistani security forces are looking for us and it is no longer safe to even cross the border to visit friends. Besides, we control almost 80 percent of Afghanistan, why should we hide in Pakistan?“
Zat right? Don’t know whether that’s true or not, but he seemed secure enough in or around Spin Boldak to have his picture taken without his face covered:
- he’s pretty comfortable about not getting caught,
- he’s not who he says he is, so he’s not worried about getting caught, or
- he’s pretty dumb and will be “Darwinized” by NATO forces soon enough.
The messaging on trying to buy off potential Taliban fighters is short and sweet:
“Some of us will take their money, but none of us will ever give up our fight.”
The biggest thing leaping out at me from the exchange was this bit (emphasis mine):
“Will you guarantee to the Americans that if they leave [Afghanistan] there won’t be another 9/11 attack against them?” I asked.
“Look, we want an Islamic state with Islamic laws,” Manan replied quietly, while his eyes seemed to bore right through me. “If the Americans leave, then we will not concern ourselves with them any longer.”
Manan paused and then asked: “Do you understand what I am telling you?” And then he put it this way. “That means we will never again allow our country to be used in the same way as it was used against America in the past.”
“That sounds like a peace proposal,” I said.
Manan laughed. He was quick to point out that this was the Taliban viewpoint, but since no one recognizes them as an international force, no one is asking them to abide by any international obligations.
I know that any statement coming either officialy or unofficially from the Taliban has to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. That said, has anyone else heard/read/seen anyone claiming to be Taliban saying so clearly, “If you Yanks leave, we won’t let Afghanistan be used as a base against you again”? I’ve seen a lot of “we’ll fight as long as foreigners are in Afghanistan” messaging, but nothing making this kind of linkage this clearly.