UAE Government Denies Discussing Secret Anti-Taliban Strategy With U.S.

By Brandon Sayer

March 25, 2019

News reports alleging that the United States approved the use of mercenaries to execute leaders of the Taliban terrorist group are false, according to the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“I was at Sh[iekh] Mohammad bin Zayed meeting with Secretary Pompeo [and I] can attest that the Al Jazeera English report on the Taliban ‘assassination’ claim is fake news,” tweeted Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash today, “Too many times Al Jazeera is the region’s source of fake news especially following Qatar’s crisis.”

Gargash’s focus on Al Jazeera reflects his country’s tensions with the new outlet’s state sponsor, Qatar. In fact, the news he was responding was first published by Middle East Eye on Friday and then repeated by Al Jazeera and others. It reported that Abu Dhabi’s influential crown prince, Mohammed Bin Zayed, had proposed in a January meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to set up an assassination programme targeting top Taliban leaders.” He reportedly told Pompeo he could hire unspecified “mercenaries” to kill “backward, bearded bad guys” to kill Taliban leaders. The article also reports that “Pompeo was visibly taken aback by the offer, but said nothing.”

The Middle East Eye reported that bin Zayed also warned Pompeo about the dangers of U.S. efforts to negotiate a deal with Taliban that would allow the U.S. to withdraw some of its 14,000 troops from Afghanistan. Bin Zayed reported said this risked returning delivering the country back into the Taliban’s hands.

The U.S. State Department said that such activity would violate U.S. law. It is also unlikely that any “mercenary” group could have the capacity to carry out an operation that has alluded U.S. and NATO forces for close to two decades.

The recent allegations come at a sensitive time for the United States government which is entering into negotiations with the Taliban, a terrorist group with which U.S. forces have been deployed in Afghanistan since 2001. The United Arab Emirates was earlier involved in such negotiations but, recently the Taliban have signaled their preference to use Qatar as an intermediary.

This may be due to the UAE’s agreement to join a new NATO training mission to Afghanistan last year. While the government of Afghanistan welcomed the UAE, it did not accept a similar training mission from Qatar according to an article in Stars and Stripes last year.

The United Arab Emirates has long supported American foreign policy and the NATO mission in Afghanistan since 2001. In 2003, the United Arab Emirates joined the NATO mission and has deployed a host of soldiers from engineers to special forces operatives to assist the war on the Taliban. The United States is currently negotiating with the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan to end its involvement in the conflict prompted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack