For Peace In Afghanistan, US Must Withdraw Completely: Taliban Spokesperson Reminds Of May Deadline

For Peace In Afghanistan, US Must Withdraw Completely: Taliban Spokesperson Reminds Of May Deadline
For Afghan Taliban, there is no wiggle room that would allow for even a smaller number of foreign troops presence. This was reiterated by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid in an exclusive interview with TCM. Zabihullah spoke on Taliban plans for post-war Afghanistan, legitimacy of Kabul government, presence of ISIS (Daesh) on Afghan lands, role of stakeholders in the ongoing peace negotiations and other pertinent issues.

The outgoing US president Donald Trump hinted at an accelerated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2020. Apparently, merely 2,500 personnel were to remain. However, the change in the U.S. administration is likely to drag out the opening days of the talks as both sides wait to see whether Biden will stick to the deal brokered by Trump. The Afghan peace process, if stalled, would be catastrophic for not only the Afghan people but the region as well, having direct repurcussions on especially the neighbouring countries like Pakistan.

With stakes too high, Zabihullah said that the Taliban would not let any state to interfere in the peace process. Yet, they would welcome efforts for mediation from all sides. He acknowledged how neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Qatar hosted and facilitated the process.

US Withdrawal is a MUST

For Taliban, ending the war is equivalent with a complete US withdrawal and end of foreign occupation. It is essential to create a space for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and nation building. As Zabihullah said, Afghan people cannot tolerate the presence of any foreign troops. Although, Afghan Taliban do fathom the key concern of US and other countries. Referring to Doha Agreement, the spokesperson reiterated the message that Afghan lands will pose no threat to any other country.

No legitimacy of Kabul administration

Taliban do not recognise the incumbent Kabul government. The twenty year war has aggravated the distrust between Taliban and Kabul, said the spokesperson. The blame game between the two parties is not new with each side attributing the spike in violence to the other.

Kabul providing safe havens to Daesh

There is a minimal presence of Daesh in Afghanistan and that too is the product of ongoing war. Zabihullah denied any Taliban links with the militant outfit. Daesh has no visible existence in Afghanistan and it lives in secret hideouts and intelligence houses: "Kabul's administration has provided safe havens to Daesh," he said. Taliban fought a hard war in two provinces in Afghanistan and defeated Daesh last year. Afterwards, its members fled to Kabul and other big cities under Kabul's control, he claimed.

Pakistani Taliban

Speaking of Pakistani Taliban, the spokesperson said that they and other groups were primarily citizens of Pakistan in conflict with the Pakistani state. The issue could be resolved through negotiations than violence, he hinted.

An Islamic government in Afghanistan representative of all Afghans

The spokesperson casted doubts on the transparency of electoral process in a democracy. Referring to recent US elections marred with much controversy and Trump's pertinent allegations, he maintained that voting system is easily corrupted, fraudulent, and prone to deception. Under this system, voters can be deceived and thus the spirit of election is compromised. This has been happening in many countries and 'we do not want a government built on deceiving people,' he said. Afghan Taliban want Islamic Shura (parliament) supervised by wise capable administrators and Ulema. So, essentially, it will be an Islamic government where an Ulema Shura will be established from representatives of the people. Whether that will be through election or not is too soon to tell, but there will be some kind of representational procedure, said the spokesperson.

Modernising Afghanistan

On technical matters and for improving living standards and economic conditions, modernisation mechanism will be adopted by Afghan Taliban. Similarly, education will be brought at par with modern standards. As far as traditions are concerned, they will be preserved and honoured and so will be the case with Islamic principles

Future Outlook

While Afghan Taliban have maintained that their land would not be used for foreign aggression, they look forward to a complete US withdrawal by May as US administration promised. The spokesperson claimed that about 70% of territory was under direct or indirect control of Afghan Taliban. They also have relations with many countries like Russia and China and would like to build similar relations with Europe. In case the foreign occupation doesn't end, war will continue. While Afghan Taliban want an end to decades old relentless conflict and an administration that represents all Afghans, their struggle for independence would not be compromised.

The writer is a Contributing Editor in Naya Daur Media, a Freelance Researcher, and a Poet. He graduated from LUMS in Economics&Politics in 2015. He can be reached at: