Boris Johnson’s envoy met with the Taliban in Afghanistan today as part of an effort to prevent the country from becoming ‘an incubator for terrorism.’
Sir Simon Gass, the Prime Minister’s High Representative for Afghan Transition, met with terror chiefs in Kabul – the first summit since British forces evacuated in August.
Mr Johnson has faced down fury from Tory backbenchers over the decision to sit down with the Taliban, who have executed dissidents, tortured prisoners and forced women into hiding since seizing power from the US-backed government.
Sir Simon met with fearsome Islamist tyrants, including the de-facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, known as ‘Baradar the Butcher’, deputy prime minister Abdul-Salam Hanafi and foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Sir Simon Gass, the Prime Minister’s High Representative for Afghan Transition, met with terror chiefs in Kabul – the first summit since British forces evacuated in August (pictured: shaking hands with the Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Tuesday)
The meeting with the Taliban is the first since British troops evacuated at the end of August amid chaos at the airport that saw more than 190 people in an ISIS suicide bombing (pictured: people on the runway amid the chaos at the end of August)
Taliban fighters armed to the teeth patrol through downtown Kabul as a child sits on a bicycle on Sunday
An ISIS fighter with an AK-47 backed by a comrade in a machine gun-rigged truck stands guard in Kabul on October 3
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (‘Baradar the Butcher’, co-founder of the Taliban who fought the Soviets and the US
Abdul Ghani Baradar
While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the Taliban’s overall leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar is head of its political office and one of the most recognisable faces of the chiefs who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.
His name Baradar means ‘brother’, a title which was conferred by Taliban founder Mullah Omar himself as a mark of affection.
The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.
Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, Baradar was raised in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement. He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s until they were driven out in 1989.
Afterwards, Afghanistan was gripped by a bloody civil war between rival warlords and Baradar set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar.
The two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement, an ideology which embraced hardline orthodoxy and strived for the creation of an Islamic Emirate.
Fuelled by zealotry, hatred of greedy warlords and with financial backing from Pakistan’s secret services, the Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have in recent months.
Baradar had a number of different roles during the Taliban’s five-year reign and was the deputy defence minister when the US invaded in 2001.
He went into hiding but remained active in the Taliban’s leadership in exile.
In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) arrested him.
But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace.
He was joined in Kabul by the Charge d’Affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan in Doha Dr Martin Longden.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Sir Simon and Dr Longden discussed how the UK could help Afghanistan to address the humanitarian crisis, the importance of preventing the country from becoming an incubator for terrorism, and the need for continued safe passage for those who want to leave the country.
‘They also raised the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls.
‘The Government continues to do all it can to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave and is committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.’
A statement on Twitter which appeared to be from a Taliban foreign affairs spokesman said: ‘The meeting focused on detailed discussions about reviving diplomatic relations between both countries, assurance of security by IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) for all citizens entering legally, and humanitarian assistance by UK for the Afghans.’
Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the UK delegation had said Mr Johnson was ‘seeking to build relations with IEA while taking into account prevailing circumstances’ while the Afghan side said the UK ‘must take positive steps regarding relations and cooperation, and begin a new chapter of constructive relations’.
He said: ‘We expect others to also not work towards weakening our government.’
It comes after Tory MPs last week raised concerns in Parliament that Britain should be wary of placing any trust in the Taliban.
Tory MP Tom Tugenhadt, a former Army officer who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, said the terrorists were fronting ‘a slick PR operation masking a vicious death cult.’
He said it was ‘absolutely clear’ that Taliban fighters were already rounding up and killing Afghans who worked with the West in cities including Kabul, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.
Mr Tugendhat said it was also evident that girls were being ‘denied education’ by the fanatics and women were being sent home from their jobs.
Fellow Tory Nus Ghani, who is working to get persecuted female MPs out of Afghanistan, said it was clear women would suffer under Taliban rule.
‘I do not believe the Taliban have changed,’ she added.
The Taliban has been in control in Afghanistan since the fall of the western-backed government in August.
Sir Simon sits down with foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in images posted by the Taliban official’s Twitter account
Sir Simon was joined at the meeting by the Charge d’Affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan in Doha Dr Martin Longden
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat (pictured) last week said the Taliban was fronting ‘a slick PR operation masking a vicious death cult’
It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK military withdrawal from Afghanistan showed the connection of global events, providing opportunities for China and Islamist terrorists.
Mr Wallace told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester: ‘It is all interconnected and Afghanistan matters.
‘Who popped up immediately as the US and Nato were leaving, but China, offering to invest in Afghanistan?
‘That was about securing land routes to ports such as Karachi and also into Pakistan.
‘It is all connected. The ripples from Afghanistan will be felt by al-Shabaab in Somalia, and of course al-Shabaab pose a threat to British interests in Kenya and to our friends in Kenya.
‘The ripples of another superpower being portrayed as defeated by Islamic terrorism will be felt across the world.’