As a Taliban delegation visits Islamabad to meet with senior Pakistani officials, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Idris Zaman, said on Saturday that the group’s aim cannot be peace negotiations, or, if so, such an aim would come to nothing.
Instead, said Zaman, addressing a press conference in Kabul, the Taliban delegation met with US officials to discuss the release of American hostages held by the militant group.
“We do not consider any trip which is made without the consultation or presence of the Afghan government as essential. The Taliban’s visit to Pakistan cannot relate to the peace process,” he said. “We don’t want the Afghan peace process to move forward without the consensus of regional countries.”
He stressed that any talks about peace should be conducted under the leadership and ownership of Afghans, and a ceasefire should follow.
But on Thursday a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sibghatullah Ahmadi, made a comment that the Foreign Affairs ministry “continues to support the peace process and efforts to facilitate the peace talks.”
The Palace spokesperson Sediq Seddiqi countered this, saying that it is a breach of international norms for Pakistan to host the Taliban, a terrorist organization, and he said that Ahmadi was not speaking as a representative of the Afghan government, to which Ahmadi responded with new tweets, affirming his position and claiming that he speaks for the entire ministry.
Zaman, during Saturday’s press conference, provided the latest word on this, saying that the remarks of Ahmadi are the MoFA spokesman’s personal comments.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the implementor of (Afghanistan’s) foreign policy… Any comments which go against government policy must be the personal view of an individual, and not the stance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Zaman explained.
But the deputy minister hinted at some tacit support by the Afghan government for the Taliban delegation, mentioning that the Afghan government has provided some help to the Taliban for the sake of talks between the group and the US:
“The Afghan government can take back the passports anytime that it wants, and meanwhile the United Nations and the sanctions committee can prevent their trips,” he said.
“We allowed for this (the passports) to facilitate the US-Taliban talks, which were in progress.”
The original US-Taliban talks lasted almost a year and were conducted over nine sessions during which both sides finalized an agreement “in principle.” But the negotiations were called off last month by President Trump after a deadly attack by the Taliban in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.