The Taliban?s former Foreign Minister has been released from USA military custody, and is living in the comfort of his home in Qandahar, a spokesman for the Afghan regime formally headed by Hamid Karzai, confirmed today. Abdul Wakil Mutawakil was released 10 days ago, said Khalid Pashtun, spokesman for Governor Mohammed Yusuf Pashtun.
The World Crisis Web reported last week that the USA, aware that they are unlikely to ever bring stability to the country by military means, have been exploring the ways to withdraw from Afghanistan without it being seen as an ignominious retreat at the hands of a poor, badly equipped army of Afghan Muslims.
The release of Mutawakil, rumoured for some time, reported here, is now confirmed. The release further fuels rumours that the USA are pursuing talks with parts of the former Taliban movement, members of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’, in the hope that they can be persuaded into joining the Karzai government.
“We have invited other Taliban also who have been released from custody to come together and join hands, and participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country,” said Governor Pashtun, Urban Affairs Minister in the Karzai government. Pashtun even promised that Mutawakil would be able to participate in nationwide elections, planned for next year, the first since the USA invasion in late 2001.
Karzai?s spokesman, Jawid Luddin, tried to play down the significance of the release, saying that they only decided to release Mutawakil because he was not considered to be directly involved in the resistance movement. However, Mutawakil is believed to still be a high-ranking member of the Taliban, and to retain significant influence in the group.
Karzai is believed to be desperate to shore up his dwindling support in the country. Recent mass escapes of Taliban prisoners from Qandaha, widely thought of as being the result of support for the resistance among local warlords, have illustrated the extent to which Karzai is losing control of the country.
Danny Dayus maintains the World Crisis Web.