One of the Taliban’s latest statements (Voice of Jihad English, and PDF at non-terrorist site) comes as a response to outgoing United Nations Uber-envoy for Afghanistan Kai Eide being underwhelmed at Pakistan’s arrest of senior Taliban official Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the subsequent wrench that allegedly threw into back-room talks under way.
This week’s statement on the Taliban’s web page was pretty clear: “Talks? What talks? You can’t prove Baradar was talking to anyone!”
Delegations of the Islamic Emirate have not participated in these meetings. Similarly, the propaganda launched against the esteemed deputy Amir of the Islamic Emirate, Mullah Bradar Akhund, allegedly involving him in these meeting has no basis. No one can produce evidence to indicate his participation. This is an enemy effort to create mistrust among Mujahideen.
There’s an also an intriguing caveat:
If some irresponsible persons presumably participated in the said meeting in the name of the Islamic Emirate, they can’t be considered as representatives of the Islamic Emirate but it might have happened that some opportunists cashed in on the moribund condition of the enemy.
Why would they throw that in there?
It brings to mind an article written by Vadim Brown, who paints an interesting picture of Osama Bin Laden’s alleged oath of loyalty to the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. According to Brown’s research, Bin Laden reportedly had a trusted henchman take the oath for him as a proxy. And why did the proxy think Osama preferred this to doing it in person? This, from a posting to a jihadist online forum in 2007:
I asked myself why (Osama) insisted on having me perform the bay’a to Mullah Omar on his behalf. Why not do it directly? I think he did it this way in order to leave himself plenty of room to maneuver, in the event that he be pressed on whether or not he indeed pledged allegiance to (Omar). If circumstances require him to deny it, he can honestly say that he did not, as he did not swear allegiance personally. And if circumstances require him to confirm the bay’a, he can say he did, ans this will likewise be the truth, as the bay’a was made – if only on his behalf.
So, IF we believe this happened this way, a similar approach would also be a good way for the Taliban to plausibly deny any communications by intermediaries. Is the Taliban talking? Is it not talking? The answer can be “yes” to both.
All that said, in addition to the usual “We fight until you leave” messaging:
This Jihad will continue against the Americans and their Allies until the unconditional withdrawal of their invading forces from Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate has put forward this unambiguous demand before UN and other circles involved in the Afghan issue and will continue to do so …. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan reminds the rulers of the White House to accept the demands of the Islamic Emirate instead of resorting to meaningless efforts and pull their invading forces out of Afghanistan unconditionally.
there’s something some will interpret as a crack, a sliver of an opening to the possibility of talks:
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, while believing in fruitful and result-oriented efforts for the establishment of a true peace in the country, aimed at ending the illegitimate war imposed on Afghanistan….
My bet? The Taliban is brutal and cruel, but I don’t think it’s stupid, even if it is carrying out some type of “plausibly deniable intermediary, wink-wink-nudge-nudge” discussions. The Taliban understands that if Afghans think it’s winning (or if Afghans aren’t convinced ISAF/NATO is winning), time is on the insurgents’ side.
The statement also includes a bit of a “reminder” whose war this is:
In view of the Islamic Emirate, the irresponsible remarks of Kei Eide are part of the massive propaganda campaign launched by the White House recently to ensure success of the Obama military strategy. But practically, the strategy has faced fiasco. Now efforts are underway to portray it as successful only through propaganda drives.
The Taliban also knows ISAF/NATO forces answer to taxpayers who don’t want to see their sons and daughters tied up forever in Afghanistan, even if the problems (including making sure Afghanistan doesn’t become a base for foreign terrorist attacks again) take more than a short time to fix.