`Taliban offering intelligence about al Qaeda`

Afghan officials said intel provided by Taliban aided in capture of Patek.

Updated: May 12, 2011, 14:47 PM IST

Washington: Some Taliban leaders are offering intelligence about the al Qaeda to prove that they are serious about peace talks with the Afghan government, senior Afghan officials have said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Afghan officials, who described the outreach, said intelligence provided by Taliban leaders aided in the capture of Umar Patek, the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Patek, an Indonesian, was arrested earlier this year by Pakistan`s intelligence agencies in Abbottabad, the same town where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed last week.

A US official with knowledge of the outreach to the Taliban said some "relatively senior" Taliban leaders have been providing useful information on al Qaeda, but he couldn`t confirm the claim regarding Patek.

"We don`t know if it`s part of a reconciliation deal or a splinter group worried about Special Forces coming after them," the US official said.

Reconciling with the Taliban has been a priority of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Since bin Laden`s death, Afghan and American officials have made public appeals to the Taliban to join peace talks or face an end similar to his.

Afghan officials have complained that the Pakistani intelligence service, with an interest in maintaining Pakistani control over the peace process through its links to the Taliban, has repeatedly interfered in Kabul`s attempts to talk with insurgent leaders.

But suspicion that elements of Pakistan`s military gave Osama shelter in Abbottabad has provided Afghan officials with new leverage.

Senior members of the Afghan government said Mawlawi Mohammed Abdul Kabir, a senior member of the Taliban leadership, has been helping tip off Afghan officials about al Qaeda members.

However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied that Taliban leaders have been providing information on al Qaeda. He said Kabir remains an active member of the insurgency and maintains no contacts with Kabul.

The Taliban has said they would not join any peace talks until all foreign forces leave.

The Taliban, while condemning Osama’s killing, insist that the Afghan insurgency is a homegrown movement fully independent of al Qaeda, and say the death of bin Laden will have no effect on their struggle.