- Wall Street Journal -
The Taliban have "no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan," the group said in a statement emailed to news organizations.
The statement did not specify what such a guarantee would look like. A Taliban spokesman was not available for comment.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the main purpose of the war here is to prevent al Qaeda from reacquiring a safe haven from which its member can launch attacks against the West. U.S. and Afghan officials have been looking for ways to exploit the differences between al Qaeda, a mostly Arab organization that is focused on fighting a global holy war, and the Taliban, an Afghan group that largely restricts its activities to Afghanistan though it has links to the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan.
U.S. officials are skeptical that the Taliban can be taken at their word. "This is the same group that refused to give up (Osama) Bin Laden, even though they could have saved their country from war," said a U.S. official. "They wouldn't break with terrorists then, so why would we take them seriously now?"
In the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, Taliban leader Mullah Omar repeatedly pledged his support for Mr. bin Laden. But in recent times the movement has fallen silent on the question of al Qaeda, with most of its communiqués repeatedly emphasizing the group's willingness to engage with the international community. In an October message, for instance, they attempted to reach out to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a mutual security organization comprising Russia, China and some Central Asian states.
Such moves caused a flurry of dissent from al Qaeda-linked militants, who posted sharply critical statements on a number of Islamic-extremist Web sites. Al Qaeda has declared a global jihad and rejects any collaboration with what it views as enemy governments.
Nonetheless, U.S. officials said that there is not enough evidence that these tensions exist at the leadership levels of al Qaeda and the Taliban. "If the Taliban really want to break with al Qaeda, they should say so openly and denounce terrorism," said the U.S. official. "Otherwise there is no reason we should trust them on anything."