The Taliban cannot win an outright victory in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda is a "plague sent down to us from the heavens" according to an interview with a senior Taliban figure conducted by Michael Semple in this week's edition of the New Statesman.
In extracts from the interview published in today's Guardian, the unnamed commander says "To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama [bin Laden]. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country."
Interestingly, this echoes the statement I reported yesterday (see below) in which the Taliban appear to have 'de-invited' Arab fighters from Afghanistan.
Semple, an Irishman who lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 25 years and who now teaches at Harvard, is a highly respected commentator on Afghanistan. In his New Statesman article he says he has known the unnamed Taliban commander for many years and knows just how well he is connected to the most senior level of the Taliban leadership.
All the indications suggest that the Taliban is approaching the forthcoming discussions in Qatar in a positive frame of mind. The sentiments quoted in Semple's article and the recent official Taliban statement on Arabs appear to be confidence-building measures to emphasise that they are willing to negotiate. Let's hope that the US emissaries approach the discussions with the same sense of purpose.