Exclusive interview: A peek into the Afghan Taliban mind

Published: February 28, 2013

ExpressNews anchor and Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha pictured during the interview. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KABUL: 

Nine years ago he was sentenced to 16 years in jail for kidnapping three United Nations workers in Afghanistan. However, he was pardoned by President Hamid Karzai in 2009 and subsequently released. Today, he lives in a mansion in an upscale neighbourhood of the Afghan capital. Meet Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha, a former leader of the ultraorthodox Taliban militia.

Born in the birthplace of the Taliban movement, Akbar Agha is a cousin of Mullah Muhammad Syed Tayyab Agha, former chief of staff of elusive Taliban supremo Mullah Omar and currently the chief peace negotiator of the militia. In 2004, Akbar Agha formed the breakaway Taliban faction of Jaishul Muslemeen which carried out frequent attacks on Nato supplies.

He believes the US military wants talks with their boots on the Taliban’s neck. “Peace negotiations can begin only if all international troops pull out of Afghanistan,” he told ExpressNews anchor Munizae Jahangir in an exclusive interview. He added that enforcement of the Taliban’s hard-line version of Islamic shariah was “not negotiable”.  Akbar Agha frequently churns out statements for the media on behalf of the Taliban militia.

Recently, Taliban negotiators met with Afghan interlocutors in the Qatari capital of Doha as part of a fledgling peace and reconciliation process sanctioned by President Karzai — with US blessings, needless to say. Officially, the militia denies any contact with emissaries of President Karzai who, they say, is a “US puppet”.

However, the Afghan government spokesperson, Aimal Faizi, has claimed that Taliban representatives are willing to hold talks with the Karzai administration as they travelled to Paris last December on official Afghan passports to take part in a conference organised by a French think-tank.

Agha Akbar rejects the claims. He said the Taliban representatives travelled using the same passports they used before the overthrow of their regime in late 2001. He added that the Taliban were reluctant to use Pakistani passports because it would reinforce the general impression in Afghanistan that the militia was under Pakistan’s tutelage.

Akbar Agha echoed an oft-repeated statement by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid that they would only talk to the United States. “We have never invited Pakistan or Afghanistan for talks. Afghan Taliban are a reality and we do not feel a need to sit across the table with Pakistan. We will hold peace talks with the US. The Afghan people or government can be taken on board at a later stage,” he added.

Influential Pakistan politico-religious leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman travelled to the Qatari capital earlier this month to facilitate talks with the Taliban, albeit the two sides officially denied the Doha rendezvous. Akbar Agha also had a word of advice for Islamabad. “Pakistan should keep itself away from it [peace talks] because the Taliban are blamed for having Pakistan’s patronage.”

He made it clear that the Taliban would only negotiate with the US after it built trust by releasing their prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and giving guarantees that no criminal cases would be pursued against them.

Of late, Pakistan released several mid-ranking Taliban cadres at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council as part of its efforts to facilitate the nascent peace process. However, Akbar Agha claimed that as an Islamic state, it was Pakistan’s obligation to free the Taliban prisoners and that it was an un-Islamic move on Islamabad’s part to arrest those “waging a jihad and hand them over to the United States for money”.

He accused Pakistan of deceiving the Taliban and said that it should release all Taliban prisoners unconditionally, consider Afghanistan as a brotherly country and make sincere efforts to solve its problems.

Akbar Agha also indirectly condoned the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s bloody insurgency. Pakistani Taliban only retaliate against their government in support of their Afghan namesakes, he said, adding that the Afghan Taliban would always support them. While he condoned TTP attacks against Pakistani government, he condemned those targeting innocent civilians.

He said the Afghan Taliban resented that the Pakistani government arrested TTP militants and forced them to agree on certain points at the behest of the Americans. In a quick rejoinder, Akbar Agha, however added that the Afghan Taliban do not blame the people of Pakistan for their government’s policies. (The interview will be aired on ExpressNews tomorrow at 4pm)

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2013.

Reader Comments (12)

  • janu german
    Feb 28, 2013 - 8:14AM

    Waste of media space. Why are we giving these buffoons media coverage ?

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  • Something Clever
    Feb 28, 2013 - 8:31AM

    Summed up: Talks are pointless. All sides have clashing non-negotiable demands.

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  • Feb 28, 2013 - 9:53AM

    “He accused Pakistan of deceiving the Taliban and said that it should release all Taliban prisoners unconditionally, consider Afghanistan as a brotherly country and make sincere efforts to solve its problems.”

    Ominous! The Taliban have not forgotten what Pakistan did to them.. Will they take revenge and/or go their separate ways after 2014? A Terrorist never forgets nor forgives..

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  • Observer
    Feb 28, 2013 - 10:03AM

    “ US military wants talks with their boots on the Taliban’s neck…..Peace negotiations can begin only if all international troops pull out of Afghanistan,”enforcement of the Taliban’s hard-line version of Islamic shariah was “not negotiable”( as this is the only reason for what they are waging jihad for last 15 years..10 years fight US n Nato and 5 years notherern allience…….. y n0t all the NATO & ISAF countries understand this simple thing??? this man is quite right..

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  • mango man
    Feb 28, 2013 - 10:04AM

    Pakistan is merely facilitating NATO, to make way for troop withdrawal & peaceful transition, on the request of USA, otherwise Pakistan was not willing to be part of any such talks. As for TTP, well they are not part of Afghan Taliban & their only motive is to cause as much damage as possible to Pakistan on the behest of foreign facilitators, so they should be taken out by force if they do not lay down their weapons.

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  • Lalai
    Feb 28, 2013 - 10:08AM

    We have never invited Pakistan or Afghanistan for talks. Afghan Taliban are a reality and we do not feel a need to sit across the table with Pakistan
    Too much for the doctorine of strategic depths. But I am sure our genrals, both in service and retired will never accept their failure simply, because they lack the capacity to learn and grow.

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  • slave
    Feb 28, 2013 - 10:13AM

    strange people calling it pointless or a waste of media space when a famous think tank declares them in control of 80% afghanistan. Its about time liberal pakistani and hindu trolls in this forum accept the reality that the very people whom you thought of as unsophisticated barbarians have stood their ground against your so-called superpower and are now in a position where they’re able to confidently put up their demands in US’s face.

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  • vasan
    Feb 28, 2013 - 11:58AM

    One more proof that all talibans are same afghan or pakistan. They want to take over the country, implement sheria, control women and subjugate them with no education, wear hijabs and live in medieval world. It is upto Pak to choose what they want, Once afghan taliban negotiates their deal with US and US exits, it is going to be tough for pak with TTP running amock with afganistan support. Wonder who has got strategic depth and where.

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  • Feb 28, 2013 - 12:42PM

    The peace negotiators are taking benifits from high officials like united states on the name of islam .The goverment is responsible for this situation.The millitants dont want to talk with the goverment of pakistan.

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  • Aschraful Makhlooq
    Feb 28, 2013 - 1:14PM

    Slap on the Pakistani leadership’s face from Taliban who is fighting against Taliban within Pakistan on US’ officials’ commandments and protecting,preferring and supporting US’ interests.Shame on you Pakistani leadership.At least now stop war against Taliban within Pakistan and talk to them by removing US’ pressure for peace in Pakistan…..

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  • Stranger
    Feb 28, 2013 - 1:29PM

    MArk my words . once US pulls out , its going to utter mayhem and totoal chaos in that region . Afghanistan , West Pak and perhaps ( god forbid ) Kashmir too .

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  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Feb 28, 2013 - 2:46PM

    Apologetics will suffer. the afghan Taliban spokesperson has condoned the attacks on govt and army persononalls. Is it not your war ? Recommend

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