Afghanistan’s Taliban are moving quickly to address governance, security and challenges related to reconciliation with former foes, just days after regaining power in Kabul and announcing the “war is over.”
Delegates from the insurgent group, including leaders of the allied Haqqani Network listed by the United States as a global terrorist network, visited residences of top political figures in the Afghan capital late Wednesday.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, coalition partner of the self-exiled President Ashraf Ghani, were among those who hosted Taliban leaders.
"They exchanged views on the security of citizens in Kabul & across Afghanistan, unity & cooperation for the future of the country,” Abdullah tweeted Thursday about the meeting.
Abdullah wrote on Twitter that Khalil Al-Rahman Haqqani, declared a global terrorist by Washington in 2011, led the Taliban delegation, and noted that Afghan Senate Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar was also in attendance, among others.
In an apparent bid to underscore the importance of an inclusive governance system, Abdullah emphasized that “history shows that in the absence of social justice, providing security & strengthening national unity is impossible.”
There were sporadic reports of Taliban fighters violently cracking down on protesters, with at least three people killed in the eastern city Jalalabad Wednesday.
Abdullah tweeted that “Mr. Haqqani assured the participants that they will work hard to provide the right security for the citizens of Kabul, & asked for the help & support of political leaders & elders of the country to provide security for the people.”
“Taliban's overtures to other political leaders are a good sign illustrating they realize Afghanistan needs all-encompassing governance,” Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan presidential advisor and analyst, told VOA. “Same outreach to women, technocrats and businesspeople is necessary to shore up Afghanistan's economy, investment climate and employment opportunities,” Farhadi said
Rewards for Justice, a U.S. State Department website, says Haqqani has taken orders for Taliban operations from his nephew Sirajuddin Haqqani, and he “has also acted on behalf of al-Qaida and has been linked to al-Qaida terrorist operations.”
Taliban insurgents captured major areas in quick succession on their way to seizing Kabul on Sunday, almost 20 years after U.S.-led forces knocked the group from power.
The Taliban are now under increasing pressure from the United States and larger global community after militarily seizing control of the conflict-torn South Asian nation despite public pledges not to do so.
An exclusive Taliban government, say critics, would be seen a threat to human rights, particularly for Afghan women, and will lead to global isolation of Afghanistan as in the 1990s, when the fundamentalist movement enforced its extreme interpretations of Islamic laws, or Sharia.
The Taliban, however, have pledged to form an 'inclusive Islamic government’ so the country remains part of the international community and keeps receiving much needed reconstruction assistance.
Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reiterated via Twitter the Islamist group is determined to maintain diplomatic and trade relations with all countries.
The Haqqani Network has operated out of bases in Pakistan.
Pakistani officials insist all Taliban leaders moved long ago to insurgent-held Afghan areas. Islamabad, however, acknowledges families of some insurgent leaders and fighters continue to reside among nearly 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan but denies any military links to them.
That is the leverage, says Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, his country used to press the Taliban to engage in negotiations with the United States that culminated in the February 2020 agreement between the two adversaries. The deal paved the way for U.S.-led international forces to withdraw from almost 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of deceased Jalaluddin Haqqani, who founded the network during U.S.-backed Afghan armed resistance against the 1980’s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, is currently heading the group and is a deputy to the reclusive Taliban chief, Mawlavi Hibatullah Akhundzada.
Taliban officials have told VOA that Sirajuddin Haqqani is expected to soon appear in public in Afghanistan but did not say exactly when.
The Taliban’s takeover of the country has triggered chaos and uncertainty, as thousands of Afghans have tried to flee abroad. The U.S. and its allies have struggled to manage the evacuation of their personnel.
On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates confirmed that Ghani and his family were in the country for humanitarian reasons. Ghani and dozens of his aides as well as officials fled Afghanistan as soon as the Taliban reached the gates of Kabul following the stunning collapse of Afghan security forces.
In a video message on Wednesday, Ghani defended his departure from the country, saying Taliban insurgents wanted to execute him, and vowed to return. He also rejected allegations that he took nearly $170 million dollars with him. Ghani’s appearance in UAE led to speculation he may try to challenge the Taliban rule from exile.
U.S. officials Wednesday appeared dismissive of Ghani’s future role in Afghanistan.
“We saw the announcement by the UAE this morning that Ghani had been welcomed by the government. And that is that,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters in Washington.
“He is no longer a figure in Afghanistan.”