Will Cooperate With the US If It Ends its Destructive Afghan Policy, Says Taliban Spokesperson

Will Cooperate With the US If It Ends its Destructive Afghan Policy, Says Taliban Spokesperson

Taliban chief spokesperson Mohd Suhail Shaheen said talks with the United States had concluded satisfactorily before President Donald Trump at the last minute decided to pull the plug on the negotiations.

Zakka Jacob

New Delhi: Even as United States President Donald Trump abruptly called off peace talks with the Taliban, its chief spokesperson said the dialogue had been satisfactory for both parties.

In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, chief spokesperson Mohd Suhail Shaheen said discussions had concluded satisfactorily before Trump's last-minute move, adding that there is no military solution to the Afghanistan situation.

How do you see this announcement by President Trump to cancel the peace process at the last minute? He has blamed the Taliban for this.

The tweets by President Trump were very astonishing for us. It was surprising, because we had already concluded the peace agreement with the US negotiation team and it was initialed by the heads of both teams and then the copy was handed over to their side to keep till the day of the signing ceremony, where we would ink the peace agreement... Our delegation met them and there was no sign of any kind that they were cancelling or cutting off the negotiations, because they were happy. Everything was done. We were only waiting for the signing ceremony to take place.

President Trump has also suggested in his tweets that this is because of the attack which took place last week where an American soldier was killed. He claims that this was done by the Taliban to improve your bargaining position in the talks. How do you respond to that?

They, the Americans and their domestic supporters, had started military operations on our territory in different provinces of Afghanistan like Badakhshan, Kunduz, Farah and Helmand. There were night raids in which they killed whole families and also burnt down shops. So, that of course provoked retaliation. And operations took place while negotiations were underway in Doha. So, because there was no ceasefire, one cannot say “we have the right to attack you but you do not have the right to defend yourself or to attack”. The actual ceasefire will start after the signing of the peace agreement and that had not taken place. How can he say that while they themselves are carrying out attacks against our people?

What happens now, as there is fear that the same old story of the last 18 years in Afghanistan will repeat and there will be more violence and less chance of peace? Do you believe peace talks have collapsed for now and this will lead to greater bloodshed in Afghanistan?

For us, peaceful resolution is the best solution. We believe there is no military solution for the Afghan issue. And they have also said there is no military solution, because the Americans and 54 other countries of the world fought against us for the last 18 years and they didn’t achieve military success. Because we are for the people of Afghanistan, from the people of Afghanistan, of the people of Afghanistan. We are fighting for our independence, but at the same time we want good relations with all countries of the world, and also with the US, if they replace their current destructive policy with a constructive policy, which is cooperation and reconstruction, and help in the construction of Afghanistan. We are ready to work with them, and to replace that character, animosity and hostility with cooperation. But first they should put an end to the occupation of our country.

The current Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani claims to have invited the Taliban to come in peacefully and contest elections which are slated to happen at the end of this month. Why is the Taliban afraid of fighting the elections and will you speak to anybody on the other side? There is a feeling that you will speak only to some of the former mujahideen like the ones who fought against the Soviet forces, and are not open to talking to everybody on the other side.

In our view, election under occupation is not election in the true sense. It is something that’s forced... We want the liberation of our country. We want to enter negotiations with all Afghans, including the Kabul administration, to have talks about the formation of the future government of Afghanistan. A government which is a representative of all the people of Afghanistan, and all people see themselves in that government, and feel no deprivation or being marginalised. And the other thing is, what election are they speaking of? Any election that has been conducted in Afghanistan is full of rigging and fraudulence, and the fate was ultimately decided by foreign figures, like the last time it was decided by John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States. So they can't be called elections.

Is there consensus among the different factions of the Taliban that everybody wants a peace deal with the US, or is there division? What are your options now other than to continue fighting?

First of all, there are no factions among the Islamic community of Afghanistan, which is called the Taliban. This is one party and one entity. All obey the orders and instructions of our leaders. So there is no question of that. What has been agreed upon and decided by the negotiation team of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will be obeyed by all our commanders and the people on the ground.

Do you believe that the United States will come back to the peace talks?

If they want to solve the Afghan question through peaceful means, through talks, they are welcome. This was our position 20 years ago, and it's our position now, today, that we want to resolve the Afghan issue through peaceful means and through talks…We talked for one year about that, we spent days and nights on every paragraph, every sentence of the peace agreement, we talked about the annexure of the agreement. How can they backtrack while being a superpower? It’s not good for their reputation and their image. So they should come and we are standing by what we have agreed upon, what we have said and about implementation. Of course, we start after the signing of the agreement. No one can say that we have violated the agreement. How can they say that when we have not signed the agreement, when the implementation of the agreement has not started? When the implementation starts, then it will be seen whether we have violated it, or whether they have violated it.

How will you balance the other regional powers, whether it is China, or India, or Pakistan in this evolving situation?

We have a clear framework of our policy, and our policy is based on our national interest, our Islamic and national interest, because the people of Afghanistan are more than 99 per cent Muslim people… We are going to have good relations with them in the light of our interests. So that is our independent policy. But above that, of course there is Iran. There are hundreds of our refugees in Pakistan, hundreds of our refugees...Being from neighbouring countries, our trade through the sea passes by Iran. Because of that our contacts are more than with any other country. But at the same time we want to have good relations with all the countries of the world and of the region.

Next Story