Afghan Taliban to open ‘political office’ in UAE

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ISLAMABAD: Officials of the Afghan Taliban have said that the ultraconservative militia plans to open a second ‘political office’ in the United Arab Emirates to “expand their contacts with the world community”.

“Our leadership has long been discussing the plan which could be materialised in the near future,” a Taliban leader told The Express Tribune. He didn’t want to be named in the report.

The first Taliban ‘political office’ was closed down soon after opening in the Qatari capital of Doha in after the then Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, objected to a plaque on the building inscribed with ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, a name the Taliban used for their regime in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Taliban negotiators still use the Qatar office for interaction with the international community.

Taliban sources told The Express Tribune that some of the Qatar-based Taliban have already moved to the UAE and it is almost an ‘unofficial office for us’. However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban didn’t have any “plan either to open an office in Dubai or to close the Qatar office”.

“The Islamic Emirate will make a formal announcement if it plans to open a new office or take any political decision,” Mujahid said in a statement.

A Taliban leader told The Express Tribune that the Taliban leaders have been using the UAE as a meeting point with foreign delegates. “Diplomats of several countries frequently meet Taliban leaders in the UAE. An Islamabad-based Australian diplomat recently met the Taliban leaders in Dubai,” he said, adding that Japanese officials from Pakistan were also frequent visitors.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who wrapped up his first state visit to the UAE on Thursday, reportedly discussed the country’s role in the peace process.

The Afghan Taliban have also launched a move to establish contacts with other countries and after sending a delegation to China, some Taliban leaders have also visited Russia, said a Taliban leader, privy to the visit. Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan had previously met the Taliban leaders in Qatar.

When approached, the Taliban spokesman refused to comment on the Moscow visit.

The Taliban have also sent delegations to some Central Asian countries in a move to establish contacts with the world community, a Taliban leader said. “The Taliban want to nominate representatives in some countries and have formally floated proposals,” he added.

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