Friday, September 30, 2011

Tehran Hosted Afghan Government and Taliban Delegations

During the Islamic Awakening Conference in Mid-September

The Washington Post is reporting that a small Taliban delegation headed by Nik Mohammad, a former government official during the Taliban administration and currently one of the influential Talib leaders with links to the group’s ruling Quetta Shura, had attended the Islamic Awakening conference held in Tehran in mid-September. Also attending the conference was an official Afghan delegation headed by former Afghan president and chairman of the country’s peace and reconciliation council Burhanuddin Rabbani. Iranian officials had apparently hoped to facilitate a meeting between the two delegations, but the meeting reportedly did not happen.

Arsala Rahmani, a member of the Afghan delegation who traveled to Tehran with Rabbani, told the Post that he was startled when he saw Nik Mohammad, a former colleague from their years together as Taliban government officials.

“They seldom come to public events, and when they do, they use aliases,” said Rahmani [The Washington Post, 29 September].

Rahmani said he and Mohammad shook hands but exchanged nothing beyond pleasantries.

“It was not in the typical way Afghans use to greet each other,” he said. “It was done in a very cool manner.”

Waheed Mozhdeh, an Afghan political analyst and another member of Rabbani’s delegation, told the Post that the conference brochure listed the Taliban delegation as the representatives of the “American Opposition Front in Afghanistan.”

Aside from Nik Mohammad, the brochure listed Tayeb Agha as the member of the delegation. Tayeb Agha is an aide to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar. He reportedly held talks with US officials this year in Qatar and Germany until his role in the talks was disclosed. None of the members of Rabbani’s delegation said they saw Agha, but they noted that some members of the Taliban contingent hid their faces with scarves.

At one point, the Iranian hosts suggested that Rabbani make time to speak privately to the Taliban representatives on the sidelines of the conference, Mozhdah said. In the end, reportedly no such discussions took place.

“We feared that if we were to do so, it would show our weakness,” said another Afghan delegation member, Qazi Amin Weqad. “We were also scared of getting a negative response, such as, ‘You need to talk to the Quetta Shura.’ ” [The Washington Post, 29 September].

The Islamic Awakening conference in Tehran was organized by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It drew more than 700 scholars and Islamist political figures from around the world. The day after Rabbani returned to Kabul, he was assassinated in his house by a man posing as a Taliban negotiator.

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