Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, proposed to set up an assassination programme targeting senior Taliban leaders during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this year, the Middle East Eye (MEE) news website has reported.
Bin Zayed made the offer during Pompeo’s visit to the UAE on January 12 amid disagreements over the progress of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators, MEE reported on Thursday, citing to a source with detailed knowledge of the meeting.
According to the source, bin Zayed told Pompeo that Washington risked allowing Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of the “backward, bearded bad guys” and proposed hiring mercenaries to kill Taliban leaders to weaken the group’s negotiating position.
Pompeo was visibly taken aback by the offer but said nothing, the source reportedly said.
The United Arab Emirates has previously supported U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal with the Taliban and hosted the first round of face-to-face negotiations between the two sides on 20 December last year in Abu Dhabi.
But bin Zayed is understood to have been frustrated that subsequent rounds of talks were moved to Doha, the capital of Qatar, at the Taliban’s insistence.
According to MEE’s source, bin Zayed also warned Pompeo that withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan risked turning back the clock to 2001, prior to the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government in Kabul.
The U.S. hopes that a negotiated deal with the Taliban, which continues to battle Afghan government and international forces, could allow it to start withdrawing some of its 14,000 troops still in the country before the end of 2019.