Following US President Joe Biden’s suggestions about a possible delay in the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan under the Doha agreement, the Taliban warned that it will launch its annual spring offensive.
Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and a member of its negotiation team, spoke in an interview with Anadolu Agency about the Taliban’s vision of the current situation and future of the Afghan peace process.
AA: At a news conference in Moscow, you didn’t rule out the possibility of launching the spring offensive if the US does not withdraw its troops. But in this case, Afghans will die. Why should Afghans pay for the US failure to fulfill its obligations?
Mohammad Naeem: Yes, we have said this in Moscow, and we have issued a new statement. If foreign forces do not leave our country, freedom and independence are the demand of our people. All nations are sacrificing for their freedom. We are representing our people. We have been fighting against foreign forces for the last 20 years, and it is the right of the people to defend their freedom, values, and independence. In fact, freedom has a very high price. Sacrificing for it is the most important thing in the history of nations and is considered an honor.
AA: Does the agreement between the US and the Taliban suggest a possible termination before the fulfillment of its terms by the will of one side or by mutual agreement? If so, what are the conditions of the termination? What are the consequences?
MN: There is no specific condition for the cancellation of the agreement made in Doha. But of course, if either side does not abide by its obligations, it means breaking the agreement itself, and such are conditions. Both we and the Americans wanted to end this war. Ending the war was the common goal, so there was no need to start the war again. But now that the other side is not adhering to it or showing such signs, it is their problem. Otherwise, in the beginning, everyone wanted to end the war imposed on our nation, wanted our nation to be at peace and our country to be free.
AA: What would you say to the concerns that the US troops’ withdrawal will weaken the Afghan army and will make it easy prey for the Taliban? Can you guarantee that you won’t resume hostilities after the US troops withdraw?
MN: In fact, there is no need for foreign forces in Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the real and true representative of the Afghan people. The important thing is the peace of the people, the independence and freedom of the country. [Once] the foreign forces leave, then the internal matters would be resolved by the Islamic Emirate and other political parties among them, as is the case in Doha, and we hope that the Afghans will reach a solution at the negotiation table.
The fact is that with the arrival of foreign forces, they have not reduced the war but increased it. Their presence is the cause of the war. If they leave Afghanistan, one of the causes of the war will be eliminated, one side of the war will weaken and eventually, the war will end.
AA: Are you ready to wait for the US troops’ withdrawal until November?
MN: The withdrawal of foreign forces has been finalized in the [Doha] agreement. The United States has signed the agreement. It has been ratified by the United Nations, the neighbors, and regional countries. It [the withdrawal] is outlined in it [the agreement]. Now they [the US] change their position, so if they did not stand by their first words, what can guarantee that they would adhere to their second words, commitment?
AA: What are you going to put on the agenda of the Istanbul meeting? What will be your main demands?
MN: We do not yet have detailed information about the conference in Turkey. This issue is under discussion, and our main demand will be the withdrawal of foreign troops on the set date, as agreed in the [Doha] agreement, so that our country becomes independent. Our main demands will be that the future system in Afghanistan has to be Islamic, based on the principles of Islam, that we should have a strong, stable, and inclusive Afghan system that can respond to the problems of its people and ensure their security.
AA: Which countries or political forces would you like to see at the negotiation table?
MN: The discussions about the foreign forces have been resolved on the table. The last 20 years of war in Afghanistan had two dimensions — an external dimension and an internal dimension. The external dimension was resolved under the Doha agreement. Basically, foreigners will leave Afghanistan. Now we have entered the internal dimension. We are negotiating to solve it. Our arms are open. If anyone comes from the internal dimension, we will talk to them, of course in our internal negotiations. There is no need for foreign forces to intervene.
AA: Do you think Iran should play a more active role in the Afghan settlement?
MN: Our hope is that all our neighbors, the countries of the region and the countries of the world play a positive role in Afghanistan and work with the people of Afghanistan to achieve independence and freedom. It is our request from all countries, our neighbors, the region, and the world to contribute to the stability of Afghanistan, to the establishment of a strong and stable system as much as they can.
AA: Do you think it is necessary to invite the leaders of Pashto tribes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to the meetings on the Afghan settlement?
MN: The problem of Afghanistan, as we have said before, is currently being discussed in intra-Afghan talks. There is a discussion going on in this regard. Our hope is that the problems will be resolved as a result of the intra-Afghan talks. It is not an ethnic or tribal issue for which ethnic or tribal leaders should come to resolve. We hope that the ongoing efforts will bring out a solution.
AA: Is the Taliban ready to compromise on the idea of the Islamic Emirate’s restoration in Afghanistan?
MN: What the future system will look like, what its nature will be, these are the topics at the table. We want to reach a consensus at the table on this. Of course, there is no doubt that the future system will be an Islamic system. Be that as it may, our nation has sacrificed 40 years for this. Up to 99% of the people in Afghanistan are Muslim, and according to all international principles, every society, every country, every nation forms a government in line with its values. In light of this, it will be based on their [people of the country] beliefs and principles, so it is the inalienable right of the Afghan people to have an Islamic system, the nature of which will be decided at the intra-Afghan negotiations.
AA: What is your idea of the Afghan peace settlement? How do you imagine the future government? Who will be the head of the country? What will this position be called? What about parliament and other state institutions?
MN: As I said before, the future of the system is at the top of the negotiation agenda. As a result of the intra-Afghan talks, there will be discussions, understandings, and decisions — what the system will be like, what its nature will be, what form to take, what institutions will be formed, and how their work will be organized. All these issues will be raised at the negotiation table.
AA: What about human rights? Will Afghan women have equal rights with men?
MN: On the issue of human and women’s rights as a whole, the holy religion of Islam, which has given rights to men and women more than any other religion or system, so the future Islamic system that will come in Afghanistan will abide by all those principles and will consider it as a responsibility to grant it to the men, women, elderly, children, and the youth.
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