'Hardline' Taliban fronting 'smooth speaking envoys' ahead of Afghan peace talks: Report

Washington, June 26 (ANI): When the Taliban opened their political office in Qatar last week, it was the first time in many years that the world got to see members of the insurgents' inner circle - urbane and educated.

The members of the group conducted interviews in English, Arabic, French and German with easy fluency, passed out and received phone numbers and talked about peace.

However, in Afghanistan, there was the same old Taliban - fighters who waged suicide attacks killing numbers of civilians, and on Tuesday the militants carried out a deadly strike at the heart of the heavily secured government district in Kabul.

According to the New York Times, for officials watching the talks, these contradicting pictures of Taliban are signifying that they are taking advantage of two different tracks - organizing the fighting element even while setting up a new international diplomatic foothold in Doha.

These contradictions are complicating efforts to understand the true goals of the insurgents.

The identities and backgrounds of the Taliban delegation's key members can be given on the basis of interviews with four disparate officials and on public appearances by the group in Qatar.

The eastern Taliban military commander said every single member of the delegation has been picked by the leadership council after a long series of lengthy discussions and sometimes tense talks.

Among the delegation are six former diplomats, five ex-ministers or deputy ministers, and four preachers - one of them is admired for his oratory by the Qatari defense minister.

In an interview, with Al Jazeera, Sohail Shaheen, a former second secretary in the Taliban's embassy in Islamabad, who has been given a senior post in the group, made clear, that any talking in Doha would be conducted while fighting continued in Afghanistan.

He said the Taliban simultaneously follows political and military options. Because there is no cease-fire now, they are attacking us, and we are attacking them."

The group's other spokesman, Mohammad Naim Wardak, is also fluent in English, and speaks Arabic and German.

Of the nine known delegates, at least three are on the United Nations blacklist that authorizes the seizing of assets - and prevents international travel. However, it appears that special arrangements were made to allow them to come to Doha.

Mualavi Shahzada Shahid, the spokesman for the Afghan government's High Peace Council, said Qatar and other countries are providing extensive monetary aid to support the Taliban office, allocating a total of 100 million dollars for it.

Whatever the state of harmony within the Taliban, there are still obvious contradictions between their statements and actions. (ANI)


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