A letter signed in the name of a high-ranking Taliban member is calling for peace in Afghanistan. The letter, denounced as a fake by a Taliban spokesman, was purportedly signed by shadow chief justice Mawlawi Abdul Hokom and addressed to Taliban leader Habtullah Akhundzada.
The Afghanistan Ministry of Defense (MOD) provided a copy of the letter to VOA and said it was initially sent from northeastern Baghlan province.
In the letter, Hokom said all Afghans, including those living in Taliban or Afghan government-controlled areas, are tired of war and want peace.
“Since the Islamic Emirate leaders have a responsibility toward legitimate demands of the Afghanistan people, it is essential that despite Operation Khandaq against the occupiers, the leadership should consider the public peace demand and provide a convincing response to the Afghan people after consulting with all the leaders,” the letter said.
The Afghan Taliban announced their 2018 spring offensive — called the "Al Khandaq (trench) Jihadi operations" — on April 25. Despite the call for peace, Hokom once again called the Afghan government a “puppet” and its peace offer “unreal.” He also called the U.S.-led International forces “occupiers.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA that the document "is a fake letter created by the enemy's intelligence. They had also posted copies of this fake document on social media few months ago and this letter has nothing to do with the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban). "
The Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC), the body established by the government to negotiate with the Taliban, said there is still a possibility of peace talks with the group despite its public rejection of an offer made by President Ashraf Ghani in February.
“According to the reports we obtained from different sources, including media reports, Taliban, or the armed opposition leaders, have started discussing how to engage in discussions with the Afghan government,” Sayed Ehsan Taheri, HPC spokesperson, told VOA.
“I am confident that many groups within the Taliban ranks are interested and seek peace in Afghanistan, and are trying to join the negotiation table. They have realized that they can't win in the battlefield,” Mohammad Radmanish, MOD spokesperson, told VOA.
In his letter, Hokom also asked all Taliban fighters not to resort to summary executions, and to pay more attention to civilians, elders, and children during the battle.
“No in-charge person or Mujahid [Muslim fighter] has the right to kill anyone without a trial order,” the letter read.
The letter came months after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in the capital city of Kabul that killed close to 100 people Jan. 27.
Afghan officials also blamed the group for a Sunday bombing in a mosque that was being used as a voter registration center in eastern Khost province. Seventeen people were killed, and 33 were injured.
Jakarta is set to host a trilateral conference on May 11, where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia would try to find a solution for more than 16 years of war in Afghanistan.
“Fortunately, the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia delegations are announced, and religious councils of all three countries will participate in the conference to discuss peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Taheri said.
The Afghan Taliban, however, has urged scholars to boycott the conference.