What a difference a few days make.
This week, we saw the Taliban’s official web page post a statement saying “the U.S. needs to guarantee a withdrawal deadline in writing before we’ll consider talking.”
Now, the official Voice of Jihad English-language site has a different, but far more familiar message (Voice of Jihad statement here, screen capture of statement at non-terrorist site here). Here, we see the alleged “member of the Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the Coordinating Chief of the Eastern Provinces” say it simply and clearly:
Peace talks in conditions of the presence of foreign forces are meaningless and futile.
Sure, the latest statement/interview doesn’t say “we’ll never talk”, but it is more in line with the “no leave, no talk” stance seen in previous statements.
So, which statement trumps which? The first statement earlier this week had to be approved by the Taliban to be included on the web page, but it’s not attributed (either with a name or the official and generic “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”). The more recent statement has a name attached to it, with a pretty senior-sounding title hinting membership of the inner circle. As of this post, the first statement is still on the Voice of Jihad page. As long as both are on the site, it’s possible there’s still some tension within the Taliban on how much to give to get to the table.
Going down another road, there was another interesting message in the latest statement: “hey, we were never fighting northern Afghans in the old days, just northern bad guys“:
The Islamic Emirate has never fought on tribal, ethnical and geographical basis …. the Islamic Emirate has presence both in the north, south and other parts of the country with formal organizational set-ups being in place in every province. You pointed to Islamic Emirate’s antagonism during its reign in the north of the country; I would like to explain that the Islamic Emirate has never fought against the people in the north nor it harbors any kind of enmity on the basis of ethnicity and geographical location. Rather it has fought against that elements who were hurling hurdles in the way of noble objectives of the Islamic Emirate like establishment of country-wide peace and formation of an Islamic system in the country. Similarly, the Islamic Emirate has fought against self-same elements in the south that were considered as stumbling blocks in the way of peace and establishment of an Islamic government. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regards all Afghans as being equal with no discrimination.
Why this message to the north?
Could it be to soften the blow to anyone grumbling about, say, blowing up mosques and governors as the Taliban heating things up in northern Afghanistan?
And if there’s grumbling that needs this level of response, is the Taliban’s hold in the north as firm as they’d like it to appear? Maybe it IS time, as some way smarter than me have said, for NATO to pay more attention to the north.
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