ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has advised his supporters to “move to the Taliban-controlled areas and mountains in Afghanistan” to escape any pressure on joining talks with the Afghan government, a Taliban leader said on Monday.
The advisory from the insurgent group’s chief came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his call for the Taliban to put down their arms and join the talks which continue to face delays.
“The [group’s] leaders have been asked to pass on the directives to the Taliban,” the insurgent group’s leader said, adding that the Taliban fear a possible action after their leadership rejected what they called ‘futile, misleading negotiations’.
Despite the position adopted by the group’s top echelon, The Express Tribune has learnt that two Taliban leaders – Maulvi Abdul Jalil and Anwar ul Haq Mujahid – are trying to garner support in favour of the dialogue.
Jalil, a former deputy Foreign Minister during the Taliban rule, has represented the Taliban during different negotiations with Afghanistan. He was among the three-member senior team which held talks with the Kabul-sponsored High Peace Council in the Chinese city of Urumqi in early 2015.
He was also part of a Taliban delegation which was due to participate in the second round of direct talks with Kabul in Islamabad in August 2015. The talks, however, were cancelled after it emerged that Taliban supremo Mullah Omar had died in 2013. Mujahid, however, is the son of former Jihadi leader Maulvi Younas Khalis and supports the peace talks.
On Sunday Ghani had renewed the dialogue offer to the Taliban, as well as Gulbudin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami (HeI).
But on Monday, an Afghan official confirmed that the talks were facing delays owing to the Taliban’s refusal to take part in the negotiations.
“According to Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)statement in Kabul, the first round of face-to-face talks between the Afghan government, Taliban, their groups and all other Afghan insurgent groups had to take place in the first week of March,” Afghan Chief Executive’s spokesman Javid Faisal told The Express Tribune.
“But, it won’t be held in the first week as we are already entering the second week of March.”
The QCG comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US had decided in February on inviting Afghan militant groups, including the Taliban and HeI, to join the talks by the first week of March in Pakistan.
“What is clear is that the Afghan government is prepared to hold peace talks with all armed Afghan groups and that the peace process will continue,” he maintained in emailed replies.
Faisal reiterated the QCG’s position, which decided during its third meeting in Islamabad in early February that Kabul will hold talks with reconcilable groups while irreconcilable groups will be dealt with through other available means by QCG member states.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2016.