The Taliban railed against an upcoming conference of religious scholars that will be held in Saudi Arabia later this week as “illegitimate” and urged Islamic clerics to boycott the meeting.
The International Conference of Muslim Scholars on Peace and Stability in the Republic of Afghanistan will be held in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina on July 10-11. The conference is hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and follows a similar event held in Indonesia on May 11 that declared the use of suicide bombers to be un-Islamic.
In a statement released on July 7 on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group described the meeting as a US-orchestrated effort to delegitimize the Taliban’s insurgency. The Taliban also described the Afghan government as the “stooge Kabul Administration” that is doing the bidding of the US.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers this process under the title of conferences of the Islamic Scholars as an absolute anti-Islamic US process whereas its idea, logistical support and implementation is directly led by the US itself,” the statement said, using the Taliban’s official name of its erstwhile government. “The US wants through these conferences to find justification for their military occupation, legitimize their stooge Kabul Administration and thus weaken the Jihadic resistance of Afghan Muslim nation being put up against them.”
The Taliban then urged all religious scholars “to reject these conferences which are a scheme of the invaders,” and argued that even if they disagreed with what is said at the meetings, their presence would be used to legitimize the outcome.
“We wish to convey to those scholars who might argue that they are participating in such gatherings to speak the truth and defend the cause of Mujahideen, that even if you will speak the truth in such conferences, the final declaration, propaganda and media are in the hands of the invaders,” the statement continued. “They can distort your assertions and utilize it for their own interests.”
The Taliban appears to have anticipated the OIC’s intent with the Afghanistan conference. The Daily Times obtained a copy of the invitation letter that was sent by the conference organizer. The letter referred to Taliban as one of several terrorist group that has “erroneous interpretations of Islamic views.”
“From this platform, we call on all armed groups to shun terrorism, recognise the Afghan government, sit at the negotiation table and participate in political process,” the letter stated, according to The Daily Times.
Like the conference held in Indonesia in May (which the Taliban also denounced as a propaganda stunt aimed at delegitimizing its jihad), the OIC conference is highly unlikely to move the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.
The Taliban has maintained for well over a decade that the Afghan government is illegitimate and it would not negotiate nor would it share power with the government. Instead, the Taliban has insisted that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the true representative of the Afghan people and that it would only talk to the US – which it says is the real power broker – but only after the US begins withdraw of all of its troops.
US, NATO, and Afghan officials have been optimistic about the prospect for negotiations with the Taliban after a three-day ceasefire during the end of Eid last month. But the Taliban refused to extend the ceasefire or even recognize that it was initiated by the Afghan government, and instead resumed its attacks on Afghan forces. US and Afghan officials have said they are in secret talks with some Taliban leaders, but the Taliban categorically rejected these claims in very public statements that were released in English on Voice of Jihad.
US officials have been deceived by the prospects of negotiations in the recent past. The Taliban deftly used these officials’ desire for peace to extract concessions, such as the opening of a political office in Qatar and secured the release of five dangerous commanders linked to al Qaeda from Guantanamo Bay. The Taliban refused to enter in direct negotiations with the Afghan government and the US when it was arguably at its nadir militarily, during and after the Obama administration’s surge that drove the Taliban from some key areas in southern, eastern, and northern Afghanistan. Today, the Taliban is stronger than it has been since the US deposed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on the US. The Taliban contests and controls more territory today than at any point since the US invasion.