Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has met with a senior leader of a powerful Taliban faction who was once jailed and whose group has been listed by the US as a terrorist network.
Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a peace envoy in the ousted government, met with Anas Haqqani as part of preliminary meetings, according to AP.
A spokesman for Karzai said the talks would facilitate eventual negotiations with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban political leader who is widely expected to be the next president of Afghanistan.
The US branded the Haqqani network a terrorist group in 2012. The group has the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment. Although it is officially subsumed under the larger Taliban umbrella organisation, the Haqqanis maintain distinct command and control, and lines of operations.
Siraj Haqqani, the son of the famous anti-Soviet fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani, is the current leader of the network. The group has engineered and carried out attacks against Indian assets, including the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Earlier on Wednesday, photos circulating on social media showed the Taliban having purportedly blown up the statue of a Shia militia leader who had fought against them during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s.
So Taliban have blown up slain #Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari’s statue in Bamiyan. Last time they executed him, blew up the giant statues of Buddha and all historical and archeological sites.
Too much of ‘general amnesty’. pic.twitter.com/iC4hUZFqnG
— Saleem Javed (@mSaleemJaved) August 17, 2021
Abdul Ali Mazari was killed by the Taliban in 1996. He was a champion of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, Shias who were persecuted under the Sunni Taliban’s earlier rule.
The statue stood in the central Bamyan province, where the Taliban infamously blew up two massive 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in 2001, shortly before the US-led invasion that drove them from power.