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Taliban's military training during negotiations betrays own rhetoric on peace

10 Sep 2019 Salaam Times

KABUL -- The Taliban's propaganda showing the military training of their new recruits is the latest sign that the militants have no intention of making peace despite taking part in negotiations.

The Taliban recently released images of "commandos" on their website, claiming them to be an unparalleled force in the region.

Such images come as the Taliban were set to meet with US President Donald Trump and Afghan leaders at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. The meeting was cancelled over the militants' continued attacks.

Members of the Taliban learn how to use heavy weapons at an undisclosed camp in Afghanistan in this photo posted September 10. [File]

Members of the Taliban perform tactical weapons training at a camp in Afghanistan in this photo posted on August 20. [File]

"The Taliban speak about peace negotiations and putting an end to the war, but they simultaneously strengthen and equip their fighters," said Mohammad Asif Sediqi, deputy speaker of the Meshrano Jirga.

"The leaders of the group [the Taliban] have contradictions in their speeches and actions, and this shows that both their leadership and fighters do not have the intention of bringing peace to the country," he said.

"Training new fighters whom they call commandos implies that the Taliban want the war and bloodshed to continue," said Sediqi.

"This act by the Taliban shows the group is not honest in peace negotiations or about its own words," he added.

"The Taliban's violent background and a recent surge in their attacks that killed many civilians have increased doubts about their intentions for peace," said Younus Fakor, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

"But the release of their new fighters' images showing that they are fully prepared to fight has proved to all Afghans that the Taliban's leaders lie," he said. "They don't want peace, but rather they have plans to continue fighting with their newly trained forces."

Foreign backers, illegal drugs

The Taliban are funding such "commandos" with money from Iran and Russia as well as from the narcotics trade, say analysts.

"The Taliban are implementing the project of regional countries in Afghanistan," said Sediqi, the deputy speaker. "If the Taliban's regional backers such as the Russians and Iranians did not provide them finances and weapons, they wouldn't be able to wage the war for a month."

"The cultivation and trafficking of narcotics are forbidden in Islam," added Sediqi. "On one hand, the Taliban pledge allegiance to Islam, but on the other hand, they finance their operations by growing and smuggling narcotics."

"Iran and Russia provide financial and military support to the Taliban to halt the ongoing peace talks and take revenge against America [the United States]," Sediqi said.

"In recent years, the Iranians and Russians have perceived their self-interest in financing and equipping the Taliban," said Sikander Asghari, a Kabul-based military analyst.

"They have provided abundant money, weapons and ammunitions to the group [the Taliban] to achieve their goals. The continuation of war in Afghanistan is one of the goals of these countries," he said.

"The Taliban's major [financial] sources, with which they train and equip their fighters, are financed by narcotics and monetary aid from Iran and Russia," said Asghari.

"There is no honesty in the Taliban's speeches and actions," Asghari added. "The Afghan security forces and the Afghan people need preparation to fight the Taliban's commandos and defeat them."

"Income from selling narcotics, financial aid from Iran and Russia, collection of ushr and zakat, and extortion are the Taliban's major financial resources," said Akbar Jan Polad, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

"In addition to providing financial aid to the Taliban, Iranians and Russians train their special fighters or commandos," said Polad.

"The Taliban commanders are not in a position to give their fighters advanced military training," Polad added. "The group's [the Taliban's] Iranian and Russian advisers train the commandos and fighters in [the Taliban's] Red Unit in advanced military tactics."

"The Taliban and their regional backers see a self-interest in perpetuating the Afghan crisis, and for this very reason Iran and Russia support this group and train their new fighters so that the war can be prolonged in Afghanistan," said Sayyed Hamed Anwari, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

"The Taliban leaders have fallen prey to the tricks of Iranians and Russians. They have financed their fighters with money from these countries and equipped them with the most advanced weapons and combat gear so that they can kill even more Afghans and destroy Afghanistan," said Anwari.

'A criminal mafia'

The Taliban's strategy of killing civilians as leverage in negotiations is unlikely to win hearts, say observers.

They are trying to pressure the US administration and the Afghan government in negotiations, said Aziz Buneri, a Peshawar-based journalist monitoring the peace talks.

The recent attacks in Afghanistan are totally against the basic principles of negotiations, showing that the Taliban "are operating as a criminal mafia", he said. "They are not only showing their inability to run a government, but they are increasing hatred toward them among the country's residents."

Taliban members in Pakistan, including deceased leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor, have been living extravagantly, a recent investigation by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency found.

"The Taliban are cheats and hypocrites. In the name of religion, they earn a huge amount of money from drug trafficking, illicit mining and extortion and live a lavish life," said Muhammad, an elder of the Afghan refugee community in Peshawar who gave only his first name.

"Now, on the one hand, they are secretly running their businesses in Pakistan and other countries, and on the other hand, they are have been living a jet-setting life in Doha, staying in luxury hotels in the rich capitals," said Muhammad, who is from Helmand Province.

"But in Afghanistan, they are involved in committing un-Islamic acts, such as killing the innocent and bombing worship places."

[Zia Ur Rehman from Karachi contributed to this report.]

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