Three Taliban leaders secretly met Afghanistan’s President two weeks ago in an effort to weaken the US-led coalition’s most vicious enemy, a powerful al-Qaeda linked network that straddles the border region with Pakistan.
Held in Kabul, the meeting included a wanted former Taliban governor and an imprisoned militant who were flown to the capital from the Pakistani city of Peshawar, according to a former Afghan official.
The talks were not directly linked to the Afghan government’s efforts to broker peace with the Taliban and find a political resolution to the insurgency. Rather, they were part of an effort to weaken the Haqqani network, the former official said over the weekend.
A western official confirmed that a meeting between President Hamid Karzai and Taliban figures had taken place, but did not know its full details or the names of all the participants.
Led by the ailing Jalaluddin Haqqani and controlled by his son Sirajuddin, the network is thought to be responsible for most attacks against US troops in eastern Afghanistan and has been a key US military target. The network is linked to al-Qaeda and is believed to be sheltering its second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Weakening the network would take the pressure off US forces and bolster Karzai’s efforts to broker some kind of peace with the Taliban in parts of the country.
The Taliban leaders who met Karzai are Maulvi Abdul Kabir, governor of eastern Nangarhar province during Taliban rule and the current head of the Taliban’s Peshawar council; his deputy governor in the Taliban regime, Sedre Azam; and Anwar-ul-Haq Mujahed, credited with helping Osama bin Laden escape the US assault on Tora Bora in 2001, the ex-official said.