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Didn’t Know Zawahiri Was in Kabul, US Claim Being Probed: Taliban Spokesman To News18

By: Manoj Gupta

News18.com

Last Updated: August 15, 2022, 19:09 IST

New Delhi, India

Suhail Shaheen meets HE Markus Potzel, German ambassador-designate to Afghanistan, in Doha.  (Twitter File)

Suhail Shaheen meets HE Markus Potzel, German ambassador-designate to Afghanistan, in Doha. (Twitter File)

Shaheen says they are not against girls’ education, but have technical issues. "First, they [the West] evacuate Afghan's women teachers and then they expect us to open schools.” Meanwhile, he calls India’s opening of embassy in Kabul a "positive step"

In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, Taliban spokesperson and face of Taliban Suhail Shaheen said they were not aware of the presence of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, adding that a team was constituted to investigate “America’s claim". Zawahiri was killed by the United States in a precision strike on July 31.

Shaheen, meanwhile, said they are happy that India has opened an embassy in Afghanistan.

Talking about the general perception after they came to power, he said, “The world community is confused. First, they evacuate Afghan’s women teachers and then they expect us to open schools.”

He said the country was progressing on all fronts.

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Edited excerpts:

President Ashraf Ghani and Vice-President Amrullah Saleh have left. This is the first year of the Taliban government. How do you see this first year in power?

It is a time of joy, with a feeling of independence and ownership of the country. For all people of Afghanistan, this has been achieved through a long struggle and sacrifices of men, women and the elderly. It is a great feeling.

The international community has also fulfilled its promises. How do you see their contribution in the past one year?

We were expecting the international community to help the Taliban after independence, but unfortunately sanctions were imposed owing to which the people of Afghanistan suffered. Now, we have independence and we are taking all our decisions. We want good relations with all countries in the interest of their people, their country, our people and our country. This is an opportunity for all to engage with the current government. We are open to good and positive relations with all. We urge all countries to come forward. At the same time, I would like to tell that we have very good, practical relationships with all countries. We want to further strengthen those relationships.

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India started its mission in Kabul in the name of a technical expert team and technical observers in Kabul. How do you see India’s reopening of embassy and the way forward?

It is a positive and the right step. We are committed to a safe environment for diplomatic activities and to a bilateral relationship between their and our people. We want the relationship to grow and strengthen.

Things were going fine and India was also interested in many things and would have done more. But suddenly al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan. Don’t you think this is a betrayal of trust and keeping a global terrorist in Kabul was a disaster?

This is just a claim. Our policy has not changed. We are committed to the Doha agreement. We will not allow any group or anyone to use Afghanistan against any country. This is our commitment and policy. To check their [US] claim, a team has been set up to investigate. Results will be shared with all and we want to tell the world that our commitment to the world has not changed.

Are you clearly denying that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul?

The US has made a claim and our leadership was not aware of it. On the basis of their claims, we have constituted a committee to investigate all their claims. They are investigating…

The world is still worried about the condition of women in Afghanistan. How will you address the problem of women’s education and their participation in the country?

We don’t deny women participation in education or the country. Already 4.5 lakh male and female students are studying in public and private universities, but no one is mentioning that. Many private and public schools in most provinces are open, but no one is talking about it. Women are working in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Education and other sectors. We are a new country. We have taken note of the issue of secondary education of girls, but we are progressing. The policy is not against girls’ education. We also have technical problems. The provinces where the international community wanted schools for girls, they should have built them instead of demanding them. There is also a problem with salary and other issues. We are also encouraging Talibani teachers who were evacuated from Afghanistan to come back. I hope they will understand the ground realities of Afghanistan and consider all sides.

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first published:August 15, 2022, 17:02 IST
last updated:August 15, 2022, 19:09 IST
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