By Almira Wang
The leader of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization voiced support Wednesday for Afghan peace talks after meeting in Jakarta with visiting Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Qatar-based Baradar, the Taliban’s political head, stopped by the headquarters of the 60-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in the Indonesian capital and held talks on Tuesday with its chairman, Abdul Manan Ghani, after meeting with officials from Indonesia’s government.
Abdul told reporters on Wednesday that he told Baradar that the warring factions in Afghanistan should sit at one table and agree to make peace based on the spirit of Islamic brotherhood.
“We conveyed our views that they should prioritize dialogue among the factions in Aghanistan and should not let other countries to meddle and compromise an already fragile situation there,” Abdul said.
Baradar’s visit came as Jakarta is trying to help facilitate negotiations aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan, and more than a year after Indonesia hosted a trilateral summit with Islamic scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the first meeting of its kind between the three nations.
In February last year, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed peace talks with Taliban leaders, who had expressed hopes in recent televised interviews that an agreement would be reached with the United States during a crucial round of negotiations this week in Qatar.
Baradar’s Jakarta visit took place after Desra Percaya, a representative of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, met Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani in Kabul last week.
Rabbani and Desra discussed “Indonesia’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan and praised its support for Afghanistan in different areas,” the Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Retno herself met Baradar in Doha in May.
During his Indonesian visit, Baradar and his entourage also met Vice President Jusuf Kalla and officials from the government-backed Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively.
NU’s Abdul said Afghanistan could learn from Indonesia in how different ethnic groups can maintain largely peaceful coexistence.
“Afghanistan can be a peaceful society, too, especially since it is less diverse than Indonesia and the size is smaller,” Abdul said.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, with about 82 percent of its 260 million people following Islam. It has more than 300 recognized ethnic groups.
On Wednesday, the chief U.S. negotiator for Taliban talks tweeted that he was heading to Doha, Qatar, for what could be the final round of negotiations that could mean the beginning of the end of Washington’s nearly 18 years of involvement in Afghanistan.
“I’m off to Doha, with a stop in Islamabad,” U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad posted on his Twitter page as he left Kabul. “In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on.”
Helping attain peace in Afghanistan
Muhyiddin Junaidi, the head of the MUI’s international relations department, said it supported peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“We would like to help create peace in Aghanistan in accordance with our capacity as an organization and to complement the government’s diplomatic efforts,” Muhyiddin told BenarNews.
Muhyiddin said the MUI also offered scholarships for Afghan students to study in Indonesia’s Islamic boarding schools and universities.
“We shared ideas on how to respond to various social, economic and cultural problems that Muslims face,” Muhyiddin said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on the group’s website that Baradar and his colleagues “highlighted the current situation of Afghanistan, policy and achievements” made by the Taliban.
Indonesian officials have declined to provide details on Baradar’s visit.
Baradar kicked off his Indonesian trip with a meeting with Kalla at his official residence in Central Jakarta on Saturday, which was followed by a joint evening prayer session at a nearby mosque.
Kalla’s office said in a statement posted on its website after the meeting that Indonesia maintained communication with all parties involved in the Afghan peace talks, as well as with the United States.
The statement has since been removed without an explanation.
An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman said that the meeting with Kalla was “informal” in nature but declined to comment further.
Baradar fled to Pakistan after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. He was arrested in 2010 and was released from a Pakistani prison in October last year.
In January, the Taliban appointed Baradar as the leader of its political office in Qatar amid peace negotiations with the United States.