Three Taliban leaders secretly met with Afghanistans President two weeks ago in an effort to weaken the US-led coalitions most vicious enemy,a powerful al-Qaeda linked network that straddles the border region with Pakistan.
Held in Kabul,the meeting included a wanted former Taliban governor and an imprisoned militant who were flown to the capital from Peshawar,according to a former Afghan official.
The talks were not directly linked to the Afghan governments efforts to broker a peace with the Taliban and find a political resolution to the insurgency. Rather,they were part of an effort to weaken the Haqqani network,the former official said over the weekend. A Western official,who spoke anonymously,confirmed that a meeting between President Hamid Karzai and Taliban figures had taken place,but did not know its details or the names of all the participants.
Led by the ailing Jalaluddin Haqqani and controlled by his son,Sirajuddin,the network is thought to be responsible for most attacks against US troops in eastern Afghanistan and has been a key US military target. The network is linked to al-Qaeda and is believed to be sheltering its second-in-command,Ayman al-Zawahri.
Weakening the network would take the pressure off US forces and bolster Karzais efforts to broker some kind of peace with the Taliban in portions of the country.
The Taliban leaders who met with Karzai are: Maulvi Abdul Kabir,the governor of eastern Nangarhar province during Taliban rule and the current head of the Talibans Peshawar council; his deputy governor in the Taliban regime,Sedre Azam; and Anwar-ul-Haq Mujahed,a militant leader from eastern Afghanistan credited with helping Osama bin Laden escape the US assault on Tora Bora in 2001,the former official said.
They spent two nights in Kabul. Kabir is on the US most wanted list. The men were brought by helicopter from Peshawar and driven into Kabul. Mujahed has been in Pakistani custody since June last year when he was picked up in a raid in Peshawar,where one of several Afghan Taliban shuras,or councils,is located.
They spent two nights at a heavily fortified hotel in the Afghan capital before returning to Peshawar by helicopter,where Mujahed was placed again in custody. The US earlier this month acknowledged facilitating some Taliban trips to Kabul but provided no specifics.