Disrupted dialogue: Purported Taliban negotiator ‘goes missing’

Published: August 8, 2011

Mullah Omar’s former spokesperson Tayyab Agha can no longer be traced. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: It may have been just talk after all.

A purported Taliban official mediating with the Americans can no longer be traced, frustrating the US attempts to hold another round of talks as they seek a negotiated settlement to the decade-old conflict in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates had confirmed late June that the US was holding ‘outreach’ talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was the first time the US had acknowledged such contact.  A day prior to that statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had also disclosed that the US had been in contact with the Taliban.

While Gates and Karzai confirmed talks with the Taliban, they did not disclose the name of the Taliban leader involved in the reported talks.

The media, however, reported that US officials met Tayyab Agha, a close confidant of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Agha, an ethnic Pashtun from Kandahar, also served as Mullah Omar’s spokesperson and the first secretary in the Taliban-led Afghan embassy in Pakistan during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

An Afghan leader familiar with the negotiation process said that the US has made frantic efforts to contact Agha for further talks but there has been no success so far.  “Agha has not yet been traced and is believed to have gone either to Qatar or the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

Agha’s mandate

They’ve held talks with him earlier but the Americans and Afghans are still unsure if Agha had a mandate from the top Taliban leadership to enter into negotiations, an Islamabad-based Afghan diplomat, requesting not to be named, told The Express Tribune.

The issue of Agha’s mandate came under discussion at the Afghan Presidency when US officials shared information with President Hamid Karzai, the diplomat said.

An Afghan leader familiar with the negotiations said that Agha was annoyed at the disclosure of the secret talks to the media by Karzai and Gates.

Agha, and those behind the negotiations, did not want the matter to appear in the media unless there was some progress.

The Taliban have always denied any talks but Western and Afghan leaders insist that channels of communication with the Taliban have always stayed open.

A leader of another Afghan opposition party confirmed to The Express Tribune that indirect contacts between the Taliban and the US had always been intact.

Meanwhile, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador in Pakistan and once a close aide of Mullah Omar, doubts any talks were held between the US and Agha.

“I do not have any exact information if the talks have been held but I can say that statements by Afghan and US leaders in the media make the process appear doubtful,” Zaeef told The Express Tribune last week from Kabul via phone.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • R S JOHAR
    Aug 8, 2011 - 12:03PM

    The only super-power of the world, who entered into talks with the most dreaded terror- organisation of the world has been dumped un-ceremoniously. What a shame!!

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  • Vicram Singh
    Aug 8, 2011 - 12:04PM

    Duh !! He is being held by I.S.I / Pakistan Military – after all the intention is to ensure America’s failure in Afghanistan. Very bad move.

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  • Asad
    Aug 8, 2011 - 12:11PM

    Haha how much money the USA loose this time to this guy? They(USA) will never understand what they have gotten themselves into.

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  • Anonymous
    Aug 8, 2011 - 1:15PM

    Goes missing or the “COMPANY” has abducted him?

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  • Proud-Paki
    Aug 8, 2011 - 1:20PM

    @Vicram… you Indians never let any opportunity to beat up in Pakistan. Your whole neurological infrastructure seems to be wired around the idea that it is always the fault of Pakistan or its agencies whenever anything goes wrong. May be it is time to decontaminate your brain through some therapy.

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  • Larki Desi
    Aug 8, 2011 - 1:58PM

    What a silly story. Nobody believes nither the USA nor the Taliban. Its all a childish joke .

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  • Aug 8, 2011 - 6:38PM

    Afghans can fight for years.but americans are tired.hmmm.super power.poor super power.USA doesn’t deserve to be called super power.

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  • DE Teodoru
    Aug 9, 2011 - 4:39AM

    There are two forms of defeat: when the enemy is over-running you and when over-running the enemy is no longer worth the cost (or thew cost is unaffordable). Vietnam was a case where defeat was worth the benefit: a permanent break between Moscow and Beijing. In the case of Afghanistan, American hubris and military incompetence has made of the US a model rogue state and one where the elected officials are totally incompetent and cognitively deficient Pentagon commanders.

    Our commanders want the war to continue for totally parasitic reasons: they don’t want their records blemished with the fruits of their incompetence and so long as there is war-fighting there is no defeat. Of course, most Americans are not paying the price– not directly. So they have been “disconnected” thinking that “it ain’t my kid going to war” now that we have an all volunteer army. Americans go by the myth that our “professional” military is all volunteer and so, “let them do what we pay them to do” whatever the ultimate price. But in fact, few of our “soldiers” are career military. Many factors force them into that choice, not all of them sane or legitimate. Often, bad choices can be seen through the bad behaviors they engender.

    But the fact is that our commanders pampered to assume that whatever the military wants, the military gets, and that incompetence can be hidden under secrecy and excused as “fog of war” no longer works as, finally, we no longer fight as a nation “pff budget” as we did under our Bush-it president GW. The bills come due when we can least afford them. So now the issue is whether killing the Taliban is worth the cost. This the Taliban realized and it is decided to raise our costs in blood and treasure through self-sacrifice in the form of suicide combat. Our commanders lack the grey matter to realize what tit-for-tat does to the COIN Warfare to which they have been paying lip service. And as “our” Afghans shrink in number and the Taliban’s increase, our costs go up and the returns on these investments are, like Wall Street, in the negative.

    History will have to judge our civilian and military leaders when it bores its way through Pentagon secrecy and mendacity. Until then it behooves us to recall that no nation can survive unless its citizens are patriotic enough to consider the nation’s soldiers as “OUR” kids and will not allow to be recklessly done with them what they would not allow to be done with their biological kids.

    We are defeated because of OUR incompetence which the incompetent SURGEon Petraeus sought to cover-up with more expense for a bigger Afghan body-count and. as in Vietnam, to hell as to what these Afghans were doing when exterminated. We must get out to both decrease our costs and our liabilities. We look so ugly to the rest of the world, led by a totally indecisive president, a chocolate Bush, that we had better bring home our warriors to use for national defense rather than waste on worthless offense that does nothing but kill people– ours and others– while destroying the nations we are trying to save. The process is exsanguinating an anemic America and we must think that a trail of blood is not what we want to leave to our children.

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