Former Hezb-i-Islami tank driver Naquibullah (L), and brothers Eidmajan (9 yrs), former TTP commander Gulzaman (30), and former TTP fighter Nikzaman (22). Since reintegrating they have been jobless outcasts | Julius Cavendish
Very little of the money allocated by donors to offer an alternative livelihood to insurgents willing to put down their weapons is actually reaching Taliban turncoats
About 18 months ago, Haji Ismail, an elderly government official in southeastern Afghanistan, received a letter from an old friend. “Whether this peace process, which our elders are discussing with the government, succeeds or fails,” it read, “I want to come in.” It was signed, with a blue-ink ballpoint pen, by Maulawi Sangeen — one of the Taliban’s most dangerous battlefield captains and a deputy to veteran jihadist Jalaluddin Haqqani himself.
Not only was the erstwhile implacable jihadist seeking peace terms; he was also, if Ismail understood correctly, offering the release of the only U.S. soldier in Taliban captivity as part of the deal. “We have something that belongs to the Americans,” the letter said. “It is safe. And we will talk about this as well.” The letter was written on a Taliban letterhead and was drafted in a faltering Pashto script. It was political dynamite.
The only problem with Ismail’s story is that it was also, according to analysts, an elaborate lie — part of “a long tradition” in Afghanistan of political fakery. “I don’t see how you can reach any conclusion other than it’s a wheeze by Ismail to persuade someone to give him more money,” says Michael Semple, an academic and leading expert on the Taliban. Ismail insists the letter is genuine. “I don’t lie,” he told TIME. “If I’m lying, then punish me, stone me.” But others analysts concur with Semple, arguing that the last thing any senior insurgent trying to defect would do is provide signed evidence of his intentions to a garrulous local official. Continue reading
Delegates’ reaction to Rabbani’s role as High Peace Council head was so ferocious that he was forced to flee
A militant detonated a bomb hidden in his turban as he met the former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani yesterday, killing the man given the task of reconciling with the Taliban and further crippling efforts to bring peace to the county.
Two insurgents feigning an interest in coming in from the cold met Mr Rabbani at his house in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave, close to the site of last week’s 20-hour battle between security forces and Taliban-linked militants.
According to initial reports, one of them detonated the explosives hidden in his turban, as he hugged Mr Rabbani, killing the politician instantly.
Massoum Stanikzai, President Hamid Karzai’s advisor on reconciliation and reintegration – a technocrat seen as the architect of the Afghan government’s overtures for peace – was left “alive but badly wounded” by the blast, according to police.
President Karzai promptly cut short his visit to the UN General Assembly in New York to return home and deal with the fallout – which could, over time, be considerable. Continue reading
It was billed as the national conference that brought together the country’s senior figures in a concerted push for peace. It was never going to be that easy.
When Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former president, was appointed chairman of the peace jirga yesterday, it sparked outrage among the 1,600 delegates and led to an hour-long halt to proceedings. The plan had been to elect a chairman. But shortage of time meant that organisers appointed him to the post.
It was not just that Mr Rabbani is so closely linked with some of the most notorious warlords in the country that he has been referred to as their “godfather”. Continue reading