Members of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, considered the most lethal insurgent group targeting U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan, attended the peace talks with Afghan officials held in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, according to various news outlets.
“The Afghan peace delegation, which recently returned from what they called a productive discussion with Taliban and Haqqani members in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, told media [in Kabul] on Tuesday they gained significant achievements,” reports TOLOnews.
According to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network’s leader and founder, was a known associate of al-Qaeda founder and 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. He was considered one of Bin Laden’s “closest mentors.”
“The Haqqani Network is primarily based in North Waziristan, Pakistan, and conducts cross-border operations into eastern Afghanistan and [Afghan capital] Kabul,” reports NCTC, adding:
The group is primarily composed of members of the Zadran tribe. The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting U.S., Coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, and typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices], suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles.
The U.S. State Department has designated the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization.
Afghan government peace envoys noted that the meeting marked the first time they come face to face with Taliban members in a formal setting.
“The government’s six-member delegation for the first time had a direct meeting with the Taliban representatives in Pakistan,” Haji Din Mohammad, a member of the High Peace Council (HPC) who was part of the Afghan government delegation, reportedly said during a press conference in Kabul. “We appreciate every effort that takes us close to peace.”
The team representing the Afghan government included Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) political deputy; Haji Din Mohammad, HPC member; Farhadullah, another HPC member; Faizullah Zaki, head of the First Vice President’s Office; Asadullah Sadati, representing the Second Vice President’s Office; Eng. Muhammad Asem, representative to the Chief Executive; and Mohammad Natiqi, representing the Second Deputy Chief Executive.
The Afghan delegation pointed out that representatives from the U.S., China, and Pakistan attended the talks as observers.
Muhammed Asem revealed to reporters that members of the Haqqani Network attended the meeting together with Taliban’s Quetta Shura representatives, reports Khaama Press.
An unnamed Afghan delegation member told TOLOnews that “Mullah Yahya, a member of [the] Haqqani network, Latif Mansoor from Taliban’s Quetta Shura, and Abbas Akhund, representing Taliban’s Qatar group, were the key negotiators.”
“What made this meeting with the Taliban special was that senior leaders of the Taliban and Haqqani network attended the meeting,” Afghan delegation member Natiqi reportedly noted.
“It was important to talk to [the] Haqqani Network because they have actively been engaged in fighting our government too,” added Din Mohammad, another member of the Afghan team.
Karzai, the MoFA official who attended the talks, noted that the Taliban raised issues pertaining to the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces, release of Taliban detainees, and removal of United Nations sanctions on the group.
“There were no pre-conditions for the talks,” he told reporters in Kabul. “Everything and anything could be discussed.”