The Taliban Wants You to Believe It Didn’t Just Kill a Bunch of People
Militants deny involvement in January 2017 attacks
by RUCHI KUMAR
There was a time when only three nations in the world recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. And then there was just one — Pakistan.
The other two, namely the governments of United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, severed or limited their ties with the insurgency just before the United States and international forces moved in and brought down the extremist government in Afghanistan.
And since then, the Taliban have continued to wage insurgency with increasing intensity across Afghanistan, sometimes wanting to be a political movement, but mostly launching violent attacks that have claimed a record number of civilian casualties each year.
But the Taliban insisted it had nothing to do with a wave of attacks in early January that, in fact, the group was clearly responsible for.
On Jan. 10, 2017, four major complex attacks and suicide bombings struck Kandahar, Helmand and Jalalabad and the Afghan parliament in Kabul. The latter attack claimed the lives of at least 38 parliament employees, according to latest figures from Afghan officials.
The attack on the governor’s guesthouse in Kandahar resulted in several high-profile and diplomatic casualties. Kandahar governor Humayoon Azizi and United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Afghanistan Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Kaabi were injured, Samim Khpalwak, spokesperson with the office of the governor of Kandahar, told War Is Boring.
Among those killed were five diplomats from the UAE mission in Afghanistan, as well as deputy governor Abdul Ali Shamsi, Khpalwak said.
Sadly, Shamsi’s predecessors were also slain by armed insurgents over the last two years, making him the third deputy governor to die in office. Hashim Karzai, former president Hamid Karzai’s cousin, was also among the casualties and succumbed to his injuries a few days after the attack.
“The governor’s injuries are not too serious and he is recovering at a government medical facility in Kandahar,” Khpalwak shared, adding that the UAE ambassador was also not in critical condition and was moved back to UAE two days after the attack.
‘We did not do it’
Preliminary investigations by the security agencies of government of Afghanistan found that the Taliban was responsible for the attacks in Kandahar.
However, the insurgent group was quick to deny any involvement in the attack, even though it did take credit for attacks in Kabul and Helmand that took place on the same day and killed more than 50 people and injured 200.
“Taliban reject involvement in Kandahar explosion which killed & wounded large number of officials & foreign guests,” an unverified Twitter account widely attributed to the Taliban spokesperson Abdulqahar Balkhi tweeted a day after Afghan national security advisor Hanif Atmar indicated the Taliban was behind the attack.
The militant group went on to accuse the Afghan government of conspiring against it — and attributed the attacks to “local rivalries” in Kandahar province. In a two-part article, Alemarah — the Taliban’s “official” news agency — insisted the government was trying to frame the Taliban in order to “isolate the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] inside the country and at world’s level.”
The Taliban reasoned that if it did want to conduct such an attack, it would have gone after its most-prized target, Gen. Abdul Raziq, the chief of the Kandahar provincial police. Raziq is widely feared in insurgent circles.
Incidentally, Raziq was present at the location of the attack. “I stepped out to offer my prayers when explosion happened — I missed it by minutes,” he said at a press conference in Kandahar City on Jan. 11.
The investigation led by NSA chief Atmar clearly blamed the Taliban, however. “We have no doubts about where the attack was planned and who executed it,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a Ministry of Interior spokesperson. “We have information and evidence that the attack was planned by the Quetta Shura of the Taliban at the Ahmad Madrassa in Chaman in Quetta province.”
“There were three separate government teams — one led by NSA Haneef Atamar, another joint team by National Directorate of Security and MoI and one led by Senior Political Adviser to the president Dawood Gulzar — who have scrutinized the Kandahar attack, along with a delegation from UAE,” informs Tawab Ghorzang, spokesperson to the NSA Hanif Atmar. “While we are yet to release an official report, we have clear evidence of the Taliban involvement and if they think otherwise, can they present evidence to support their claim?” he questions.
Two other Afghan units as well as a team from the UAE are also investigating the January attack, but by press time had yet to release their findings.
The Taliban and the UAE
The likely reason behind the Taliban’s fervent denial is the group’s complicated relationship with the the big Islamic countries including the UAE, which was, at one point, among the Taliban’s only backers.
Even today, the Taliban strives to maintain good relations with the some of the Sunni Arab nations, whom the militants see as their allies.
“The Islamic Emirate had good relations with the United Arab Emirates from the very beginning and still wants good relations with them,” a Taliban spokesperson wrote at Alemarah. In 1997, the UAE was among the three countries that recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government.
Post-9/11, as the U.S. opposition to the Taliban grew stronger and conflict seemed inevitable, the Emirates severed ties with the militant group and gave the Taliban representatives a 24-hour notice to leave the UAE.
“The enemy wants to create a wedge between the Islamic Emirate and United Arab Emirates,” the Taliban spokesperson wrote in the aftermath of the Jan. 10 attack. “We would like to assure the Islamic countries that we are ready to provide security and facilities for your welfare works, aimed at improving the life of the miserable Afghan people and at implementing and reconstructing national projects in the country.”
In fact, according to several reports the Taliban has even considered sending a delegation to mourn the UAE diplomats killed in the attack.
However, even as Taliban reiterates its innocence and alleges that it is being framed, Afghan government officials remain certain of the group’s guilt. “It’s ironic that they have taken credit of all attacks and casualties against the Afghan people in the last 12 years, and are now denying this one,” Ghorzang said. “We have clear evidence of their guilt. What proof do they have to say otherwise?”