Karachi: The Taliban have disputed the identity of a key interlocutor that US government officials say they have engaged with in countries as far afield as Qatar and Germany earlier this year.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that the Americans might have been duped by an impostor- just as its NATO allies were earlier taken in by a fake Taliban leader.
Mujahid said he was convinced that a man posing as Tayyab Agha, a confidante of reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, had duped the Americans and possibly swindled them.
“Tayyab Agha is as close to us as ever. But he has never met with US officials,” Mujahid told a newspaper in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
“Somebody might have swindled the US officials by impersonating Tayyab Agha,” he added.
In recent months, Washington has disclosed that senior State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials have had secret ‘exploratory conversations’ with Tayyab Agha in Qatar and Germany.
Mujahid also rubbished a claim made by Afghan lawmaker Homa Sultani that she had met Mullah Omar, and that he had mandated her to negotiate with American and Afghan officials on their behalf.
“We were simply surprised by her claim. I don’t know at whose instigation she made that claim,” he said.
The Taliban spokesperson, however, did admit that his group had been in talks with ‘foreign officials’ for the past 18 months.
“But these talks should not be misconstrued as an effort to find a negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue,” Mujahid said. “The agenda of these interactions was mainly the exchange of prisoners.”
He said that the Taliban would not sit across the table with American or Afghan officials as long as US-led NATI troops were in Afghanistan. “Our jihad against ‘occupation’ forces will continue till foreign forces pull out of our land,” he added.