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NYT Afghanistan reporter slams paper for allowing Taliban to write op-ed

People attend a rally in Afghan capital Kabul on Nov. 12, 2018. Hundreds of protestors staged a peaceful rally in Kabul and gathered in front of Presidential Palace on Monday calling upon the president to take immediate action against attacking militants in Jaghori and Malestan districts of the eastern Ghazni province. (/Rahmat Alizadah/Xinhua/Sipa USA)
February 21, 2020

The New York Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan criticized the paper’s editorial branch for publishing an opinion-editorial article Thursday written by Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani and claiming the group’s commitment to peace.

Mujib Mashal, the lead New York Times reporter in Afghanistan, drew distance between the paper’s news operations and its editorial branch in a Thursday tweet.

“Siraj is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself,” Mashal wrote. “He’s behind some of most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost.”

In his editorial, “What we, the Taliban want,” Haqqani claimed the Taliban was committed to a tentative peace process in the country and denied claims the Taliban would favor a return to harboring radical Islamic extremism.

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Haqqani wrote that the Taliban favored a chance to build a government with all Afghan stakeholders and that the Taliban favored  an “Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity.”

Haqqani also noted “concerns about the potential of Afghanistan being used by disruptive groups to threaten regional and world security.”

The Taliban’s deputy leader claimed the Taliban was weary of decades of fighting and that the group favors a return to stability. Haqqani’s claims towards peaceful resolution appear subject to doubt, as the pre 9/11 Taliban government had been regarded as a safe-haven for extremism, with the likes of Osama Bin-Laden’s Al-Qaeda terror group.

As with Mashal’s comments, some criticism for the New York Times op-ed came as a result of the paper not disclosing Haqqani’s true involvement in Taliban violence over the years.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the leader of the Taliban’s Haqqani network, for which his father was the namesake, the Washington Post reported. The Haqqani network is credited with particularly brutal tactics, including bombings and accusations of kidnappings.

Other U.S. political figures raised criticism for the op-ed. Florida Republican Rep. Michael Waltz described the op-ed as “blatant propaganda from a designated global terrorist.”

Washington Examiner commentator Becket Adams compared the article to a “leaflet flyover,” again evoking comparisons between the article and a means of spreading propaganda.