[Islamabad] The Taliban will soon announce the formation of a government led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, sources tell The Media Line.
Baradar, until recently head of the Taliban’s diplomatic office in Doha, Qatar, returned to Afghanistan after the August 15 fall of Kabul. In February 2010, he was captured in Pakistan by a team of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and CIA officers, and in October 2018, he was released at the request of the United States.
The Taliban and other Afghan political leaders are continuing their discussions on the formation of a government.
Amir Muhammad Khan Muttaqi, a senior Taliban negotiator, confirmed to The Media Line that “an important meeting of the top military and political leadership of the Taliban was held in Kandahar on Friday.
“Members of the Taliban Supreme Consultative Council (Majlis e-Shura), Doha-based political head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the Taliban’s military chief also participated in the meeting,” he added.
“Our doors are open to all those who want to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan,” Muttaqi continued. “We want a government in Afghanistan that can amend the state’s constitution for the implementation of an Islamic system.”
Meanwhile, formerly Doha-based senior Taliban officials Mullah Shahabuddin Delawar, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi met with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Saturday.
A high-level Taliban delegation also met on Friday with former prime minister and Soviet-era jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and discussed forming an “inclusive government.”
“Hekmatyar asserted that he supports the current Islamist organization and that he will stand against the outlaws,” sources said.
And in a surprising move on Saturday evening, Hashmat Ghani, a politician, businessman and younger brother of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, pledged allegiance to the Taliban in Kabul.
Hashmat Ghani met with Taliban commander Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani and promised his full support, sources told The Media Line.
On Sunday, Hashmat Ghani said in a tweet, “While we have to accept the Taliban, it should not be used as a reason for the West to abandon the people of Afghanistan. Half of our population is dependent on daily wages. Freezing their money at the time of need could spell disaster, not just in Afghanistan but for the region.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of Afghan political leaders, including National Assembly Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani and senior members of the former Northern Alliance, visited Pakistan last week.
They met with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, Pakistan’s top spy and the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence.
The delegation held a press conference in Islamabad on Friday and said that “Afghanistan experienced a single party [Taliban] government in 1996, which failed. To avoid such a situation, we are trying to form an inclusive government that will be suitable for the multi-ethnic Afghan society.”
Pakistan is likely to host a regional conference in an effort to prevent continuing civil war in Afghanistan, sources in Islamabad said on Saturday.
China, Russia and Iran would be the main participants at the conference, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry official told The Media Line.
Muhammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan (Hezb-e Wahdat Islami Mardum-e Afghanistan) and a member of parliament, told The Media Line that “to end the war and create national stability in Afghanistan, the future government should not be formed unilaterally but rather based on the will of the people and the participation of all ethnicities and religious groups.”
To this end, “Negotiations with the Taliban and national political figures are an undeniable necessity,” Mohaqiq added.
Even as the Taliban declared victory, ousted Vice President Amrullah Saleh announced last week: “I am standing for my country and the war is not over.”
In a statement on Twitter, Saleh said that “as per the constitution, in the absence of the president,” he is now the caretaker Afghan president. “I am in touch with all the leaders to get their support and consensus,” he added.
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Saleh, now in the Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan, 93 miles north of Kabul, announced the formation of an anti-Taliban front, along with Ahmad Massoud, son of the late anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban guerilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.
The valley is home to more than 100,000 people, including Afghanistan’s largest concentration of ethnic Tajiks, and the new organization is called the Panjshir resistance, also known as the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan.
Ahmad Massoud “declared war” on the Taliban.
His father, an ethnic Tajik known as the “Lion of Panjshir,” was assassinated by a suicide bomber on September 9, 2001. Analysts believe he was killed at the instigation of al-Qaida.
Ahmad Massoud the son said in a video that he has not left Afghanistan and is with his people in Panjshir. The valley is the only major center of resistance to the Taliban.
Sources confirmed that Saleh and Massoud have taken refuge in the Panjshir Valley, established contact with key commanders of the former Northern Alliance and persuaded all of them to join hands against the Taliban.
In an op-ed, Massoud claimed to have prepared fighters for an active struggle and called on the United States to supply arms and ammunition to his militia.
However, Haqqani, the Taliban military commander, on Saturday said in Kabul that “Ahmad Massoud has pledged loyalty to the Taliban via a telephone call.”
Ali Nazari, Massoud’s spokesperson, swiftly rejected the Haqqani claim and told The Media Line from an undisclosed location that “these rumors are a part of baseless propaganda.”
Simone Ledeen, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and a former senior US Treasury representative to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told The Media Line, “It is still early days, so difficult to tell how large and effective the resistance movement from Panjshir will be.
“In terms of overall effectiveness, any resistance movement will need to focus on fundraising and recruitment and will likely request material and financial support from friendly nations,” she said.
“Expect to see a social media presence to counter the Taliban narrative. In the past several days, reports of the Taliban hunting journalists have been circulating,” Ledeen continued. “Many media organizations will no longer be able to operate freely in Afghanistan, and may turn to citizen reporting on social media in the future.
“It will be important to note if any NATO country supports an anti-Taliban resistance effort. I suspect” this will happen, and “if Arab states choose to play a larger and more visible role in combating any terrorist organization” they will also contribute, she said.
“Given the Taliban’s close relationship and overlap with al-Qaida and Iran, it would certainly make sense to see a growing influence and involvement from some of the Gulf nations in the future,” Ledeen said.
Ahmad Wali Massoud, chairman of the Massoud Foundation and a former Afghan ambassador to the United Kingdom, also spoke with The Media Line. He is a younger brother of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud and an uncle of the Ahmad Massoud discussed above.
“We must forget the mistakes of the past and move forward,” Ahmad Wali Massoud said.
“There are obstacles in the way of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he continued. “The Afghanistan issue has not only internal but external features and peace cannot be achieved without a wide range of consensus.
“If the Taliban have changed, they should negotiate with their opponents with an open heart and mind,” he carried on. “If they negotiate in that same spirit, we will tell them that for long-lasting peace and stability in the country, we can go forward,” Massoud added.
“Irrespective of who is behind our unfolding tragedy – Ghani’s proxy regime, [US diplomat Zalmay] Khalilzad and Abdullah’s proxy peace plan or the Taliban’s proxy war − it does not change the fact that Afghanistan is crashing” and that we Afghans need to fix that, Massoud said.