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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

‘IMA Talib’ a key figure in Doha talks with US

Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 28, 2013
First Published: 00:05 IST(28/6/2013) | Last Updated: 01:47 IST(28/6/2013)

When the US officially starts talking to the Taliban in Doha, there will be a Talib who learnt the nuances of war combat in the Indian Military Academy (IMA).

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, is one of the dozen odd Taliban, who were present at the Taliban office in Doha at the time of its opening on June 18.

“Stanakzai had joined the Afghan army in the 70s and underwent training at the IMA in Dehradun as part of the Indo-Afghan defence cooperation programme. But in the 80s, he left the Afghan army and joined jehad against the Soviets,” said an intelligence source.

A Pushtun from the Logar province, he joined Nabi Mohammadi’s Harakat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami and became acquainted with Mullah Omar. Stanakzai served as the deputy minister-first of foreign affairs and later of public health during the Taliban regime.

According to analyst Kate Clark, Stanakzai was considered presentable enough and was assigned to entertain foreign visitors and give interviews in English when Omar ruled from Kandahar.

Leading the Taliban negotiators in Doha is Mohammad Tayyeb Agha, who is being termed as head of office. The rest include Qari Din Muhammad Hanif, Haji Muhammad Zahid Ahmadzai, Mawlawi Nik Mohammad, Mullah Naeem and Shahabuddin Dilawar. Most of them were staffed at Taliban embassies in three countries that recognised the regime – Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE.

“The US wants an honorable exit from Afghanistan. Besides men, the US also has brought very sophisticated equipment there and it will be a disaster if it fell into wrong hands of bad elements. Pakistan is the only way the US can take its men and machinery out of landlocked Afghanistan. So, the desperation on part of the US is obvious,” says an intelligence source.

Sources add that by agreeing to talk to Taliban, the US has given the group and its Pakistani handlers a victory platform.

Lower level Taliban ranks consist of Afghan refugees trained and nurtured by the ISI.

Taliban is already claiming victory as the movement claims to have ‘brought the US on its knees’ by forcing it for talks.


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