Negotiations with the Taliban find some momentumFebruary 18, 2012:
By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
U.S. diplomats have noted with interest that a prominent Taliban spokesman, when asked by a Saudi newspaper whether it would host al-Qaeda once more if it regained power, answered that the leaders of al-Qaeda “are no longer interested in Afghanistan.” That appears to some officials to signal acceptance of one key U.S. and Saudi goal in peace talks in Afghanistan.
The comments by Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, one of the Taliban’s top spokesmen, were made last Saturday to Asharq al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper in London.
These slight concessions ... will not do much to reassure non-Taliban Afghans, many of whom fear that in its eagerness to withdraw forces from the country, the United States will sanction the return of a Taliban leadership that is unpopular in most parts of the country.
But the Ahmadi interview is the clearest sign yet that the process of negotiation led by State Department representative Marc Grossman is beginning to gather momentum -- even as the broader U.S. position in the country deteriorates.
Al Qaeda 'operates in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate': Taliban spokesman
By Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal
A Taliban spokesman who identified himself as an "Authorized Correspondent by the Media Committee of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" said that the Taliban will not renounce al Qaeda and that the terror group operates under the command of the "Military Command of the Islamic Emirate."
The Taliban official, Abdullah al Wazir, made the statement yesterday in response to a posting at Shumukh al Islam, a jihadist Internet forum linked to al Qaeda. Wazir was replying to a question from a forum member who thought "that by agreeing to negotiations with the United States, the Afghan Taliban has taken the 'first step' to abandon al Qaeda," said the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the statement.
"They [al Qaeda] are among the first groups and banners that pledged allegiance to the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban], and they operate in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate," Wazir said.
"They are an example of discipline and accuracy in the execution of missions and operations entrusted to them by the Military Command of the Islamic Emirate," Wazir continued, calling al Qaeda "lions in war."
Wazir said he was an "Authorized Correspondent by the Media Committee of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." SITE described Wazir as the "Afghan Taliban's correspondent on jihadist forums."
A US intelligence official who follows the Taliban said that Wazir is a member of the Haqqani Network, the powerful Taliban sub-group that operates in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The Haqqanis are closely tied to al Qaeda; Siraj Haqqani, the network's operational commander, has a seat on al Qaeda's council, and he and five other members of the network have been added to the US's list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for their close ties to al Qaeda.
The Haqqanis routinely conduct join operations with al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan, and provide shelter, support, and training facilities to leaders and operatives in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.