TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Taliban Still Says They’re Not Talking

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.

(Crossposted at Threat Matrix)

TALKIN’ TO THE TALIBAN: When is “Talking” Not REALLY Talking?

The buzz continues about talking with the Taliban, and the denials that earlier talks/discussions/whatever happened with UN Uber-envoy Kai Eide in Dubai.

Item: An official statement attributed to the Taliban’s “Leadership Council” says:

The Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate, on the basis of its previous legitimate stance, refutes the  rumors in some media reports, about negotiation between representatives of the Islamic Emirate and, UN Special Envoy, Kei Ide (sic).  The Leadership Council considers this  mere futile and baseless rumors, being a machination against Jihad and Mujahideen who are waging Jihad   against the invaders. The Leadership Council once again emphasizes continuation of Islamic Jihad against all invaders as a mean to frustrate these conspiracies.

Item (Scribd.com):  A Taliban spokesperson, reportedly in contact with one of the “usual suspect” propaganda sites, is even more specific:

We the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the world keeps hearing about meetings taking places between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the invaders and its stooges, be it in Saudi Arabia or Dubai, we the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the world would like to see some evident of these meetings, the names of the individuals who have participated in these meetings, because no member of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has taking part in any of these meetings, be it in Saudi Arabia or Dubai, these type of false statements by the invaders and its stooges are to confuse the people, thus diverting the realities of the invasion …. no member of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan council has met with the UN representative for Afghanistan to discuss the possibility of laying down their arms.

This seems to be the party line anytime talks of any kind have been reported by the mainstream media (MSM).  But does that mean nobody’s talking?

A recent article (PDF) West Point’s Combating Terrorist Centre’s The Sentinel, authored by the Centre’s Vahid Brown (who also contributes to the Jihadica blog), paints an interesting picture of Osama Bin Laden’s oath of loyalty to the Taliban’s Mullah Omar.  It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the main takeaway offering some insight into the “Talkin’ to the Taliban” issue.

Much has been made of Osama’s oath of loyalty to Mullah Omar as evidence that there’s a tight relationship between Al Queda and the Taliban.  On the other hand, some analysts say it’s more like “friends with benefits”.

According to Brown’s piece, when it came time to declare allegiance to Omar as a way to garner better protection while in Afghanistan, what did wily Osama do?

He had what appears to be a reasonably trusted henchman take the oath for him as a proxy.  And why did the proxy think Osama prefered 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.

Did talks with the Taliban take place?  Did talks take place with people other than Taliban leadership?

Yes they did.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Talks? What Talks?

28 Jan 10:  We hear UN Uber-envoy Kai Eide had a chance to speak to “Members of the Taliban’s leadership council” in Dubai.

30 Jan 10:  The official Taliban response?

The Shura leadership of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in accordance with the position of the former fundamentalist rumors and some world media strongly, which was published on the participation of representatives of the Islamic Emirate in the talks with Kai Eide Special Representative of the United Nations.  Shura is the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of these rumors are baseless and unfounded propaganda ….

Want to read the rest?  Original in Arabic here, clunky Google English translation here and both at non-terrorist site here.

Update (1):  Here’s the official English version at Voice of Jihad, with the PDF at a non-terrorist site here:

The Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate, on the basis of its previous legitimate stance, refutes the  rumors in some media reports, about negotiation between representatives of the Islamic Emirate and, UN Special Envoy, Kei Ide (sic).  The Leadership Council considers this  mere futile and baseless rumors, being a machination against Jihad and Mujahideen who are waging Jihad   against the invaders. The Leadership Council once again emphasizes continuation of Islamic Jihad against all invaders as a mean to frustrate these conspiracies.

UN Official Says Some Taliban Should Be Pulled from Sanctions List

Remember this tidbit (and this one) from a former Taliban ambassador to the United Nations about one way to open the doors to talking?

The first important thing is to lift the sanctions on the leaders of the armed opposition. They are blacklisted and multimillion-dollar rewards are offered for some leaders of the opposition. They have not been recognized as a legitimate part of the political process. But no such step has been taken place so far.  So it is not logical to invite a person who has a bounty of millions of dollars [on him for his capture and] ask him to give up his sanctuary and attend this Loya Jirga.

Well, it appears at least one senior U.N. official may be buying it – this, via the New York Times:

The leader of the United Nations mission here called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations’ list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group.

In an interview, Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative, also implored the American military to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons here — another principal grievance of Taliban leaders. Until recently, the Americans were holding those prisoners at a makeshift detention center at Bagram Air Base and refusing to release their names.

Together, Mr. Eide said he hoped that the two steps would eventually open the way to face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders, many of whom are hiding in Pakistan. The two sides have been at an impasse for years over almost every fundamental issue, including the issue of talking itself ….

We hear echos of the former ambassador’s rationale later in the NYT story:

“This would allow the Taliban to appear in public,” said Arsalan Rahmani, a former deputy minister with the Taliban who now lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul. “It would allow the possibility of starting negotiations in a third country.”

You might remember Rahmani as someone else who’s been talking like a “moderate Taliban”.

Who could be pulled from the list?

Mr. Eide said he did not believe that senior Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar should be removed from the list. It was Mullah Omar, after all, who provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which launched the Sept. 11 attacks.

But some second-tier Taliban should be taken from the list, he said. Those leaders are not necessarily associated with terrorist acts but might be able to speak for the movement, he said, and might be willing to reciprocate a good-will gesture.

The Taliban willing to “reciprocate a good-will gesture”?  Here’s an excerpt from the Taliban’s latest editorial on their Voice of Jihad English-language web page (links available here):

The aim is to pave the way for uneducated, ignorant and unaware stooges to remain at the helms of power thanks to multi-faceted support of imperialism. Then the Western powers bind their surrogates by various agreements at the expense of national, cultural and religious values and vital interests of the nation. They take hold of all strategic assets of a country including telecommunication, dams, transportation, mines etc. After that, colonialism tends to plunder the wealth and natural resources with both hands. Similarly, the invading powers distribute national wealth among members of society unfairly and unequally, giving a lion share to their flunkeys and hirelings.

Yeah, this is messaging coming from a group willing to work with the Karzai government and ISAF – NOT!