KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul on Saturday for talks on establishing a new “inclusive” government in Afghanistan, a senior official said.
Other senior Taliban leaders seen in the capital in recent days include Khalil Haqqani — one of America’s most wanted terrorists with a $5 million bounty on his head for links to al-Qaeda.
Pro-Taliban social media feeds showed Haqqani meeting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — a former bitter rival during the brutal civil war of the early 1990s, but still influential in Afghan politics.
A senior Taliban official told AFP that Baradar would meet “jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up.”
Baradar arrived in Afghanistan last Tuesday from Qatar, choosing to touch down in the country’s second-biggest city Kandahar — the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace.
Within hours of his return, the group claimed its rule would be “different” this time.
The Taliban have said they want this iteration of their government to be “inclusive,” but have given few details of who it would include.
Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Baradar was in custody until pressure from the United States saw him freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar.
He was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, where he oversaw the signing of the agreement that led to the agreement for US forces to withdraw and end their 20-year campaign.
The Taliban scotched any hopes of a negotiated peace deal with the Afghan government by overrunning the country in under two weeks — a lightning offensive that ended with them taking Kabul unopposed last Sunday.
On Friday, Khalil Haqqani — the uncle of Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who the US has a $10 million bounty out for — was seen leading prayers at a mosque in Kabul.
Meet Khalil Haqqani a “most wanted” Terrorist by US, with $5 million reward on his head.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 20, 2021
Another key leader of the so-called Haqqani network — Anas Haqqani — was also in the capital and had met former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who led the overall peace process for the previous administration.
According to reports Friday, the Taliban put Khalil Haqqani in charge of security in Kabul.
“The fact we have Khalil Haqqani in charge of Kabul security is dismaying,” an unnamed British intelligence official told Voice of America. “The Haqqani and al-Qaeda have a long history together, you could argue they are intertwined, and it is highly unlikely they will cut ties.”
In a fresh defense of the decision to pullout US troops, President Joe Biden falsely said Friday that al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan, a claim contradicted shortly after by the Pentagon.
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