As American officials begin discussing ways to resume talks with Taliban envoys for a political settlement in Afghanistan days after US President Donald Trump called off the negotiation, the outfit’s spokesperson Mohammad Suhail Shaheen says there is no military solution to the issue.
In an exclusive interview to CNN-News18’s Zakka Jacob, Shaheen says India need not be apprehensive about withdrawal of American troops as ‘post-liberation’, Afghanistan would need the neighbouring nation’s help for its reconstruction.
America has called off the peace talks. How hopeful are you that the talks will be revived? What is the possibility of peace returning to Afghanistan?
We think there is no military solution and Americans know that better because they tried the military approach for the last 18 years with no result. So I think the best option is a peaceful solution of that one issue. They have to come to the table in order to sign the peace agreement, if they want a solution of the Afghan issue. Otherwise, they will repeat the bitter experience of achieving no result.
US President Donald Trump while calling off the talks said he's doing so because Taliban killed an American soldier to increase your leverage in the talks? Is that true? How do you respond to Trump's accusation?
If that is the case as he says, why do they launch attacks against us? Were their attacks in order to gain leverage in the talks? They had started the attacks and we were only reacting to it. It was not for (increasing) leverage in the talks. Not at all. It was only after they attacked our places, our people and killed our men and civilians, that we retaliated. That was it. At the same time, there was no ceasefire. The ceasefire was to begin after the signing of the peace agreement, which has not been done. If the agreement is signed today, immediately the ceasefire will begin with the American side.
There was no involvement of the Afghan government, led by Ashraf Ghani, in the Doha peace rounds. Now after the election, do you believe their position has been strengthened?
Why we have not involved the Kabul administration is because we have divided the Afghan issue into two parts. One part is the external, which is talking to the Americans about the withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan and also addressing the legitimate concern that the Afghan soil will not be used against the Americans and their allies and other countries. When that is finished, and the peace agreement is signed, then we turn to the internal part of the Afghan issue and that is talking to all Afghan sides and this includes the Kabul administration — the current one — because we know they are also a party to the conflict. So whether it is the administration, the current administration or any other administration in future, we considered them as a party to the conflict and will we have a negotiation with them alongside other Afghans.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said at the UNGA that only his government can bring the Taliban to the negotiating table? How do you respond? How much influence does Pakistan have over Taliban?
First, we are already in the negotiation, you know that… For the last one year, we had about nine rounds of talks with the American negotiation team. We had completed discussing the peace agreement and it only has to be signed. Had the negotiation not been called off by President Trump, it would have been signed and there would have been ceasefire in Afghanistan (by now). The Americans would be withdrawing from Afghanistan and we would had provided them a safe passage. We have our own national interest in Afghanistan. Based on that, we are conducting our negotiation with Americans and we have to maintain relations with all other countries. There is a nothing that we do or not do for the sake of any particular country.
You recently released some Indian prisoners in exchange for some of your personnel? How did this happen? Can you share with us who all were involved in the negotiations and how did this breakthrough happen?
Yes. Our delegation had some meetings about the prisoners in their last visit. Yes, there was some talks about that. Yes.
There is a fear in India that after withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, you will divert your fighters to India. How do you see this? This is a genuine fear?
First, it is not a genuine fear, it is not a reality. Why we should turn our fighters towards India when we need to reconstruct our country after its liberation. We need to have a relation with other countries to help us in reconstructing and developing our country. We do not have any policy of interference in any other countries, rather, we want to have good relations with every global partner. That’s our policy. Thank you.