Warmonger Afghan president must go, say Taliban

Says don’t want to monopolise power: Insists only new negotiated govt to bring peace: Kabul trashes Taliban claim of controlling 90% of Afghan border

By: News Desk      Published: 01:13 PM, 23 Jul, 2021
Warmonger Afghan president must go, say Taliban
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen

The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolise power, but they insist there won’t be peace in Afghanistan until there is a new negotiated government in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani is removed.

In an interview with an American news agency, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in a country on the precipice.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last US and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan.

This week, the top US military officer, General Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Shaheen said the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone. “I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolise power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen.

“So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”

But he was also uncompromising on the continued rule of Ghani, calling him a warmonger and accusing him of using a speech on the Islamic holy day of Eidul Azha to promise an offensive against the Taliban.

See Also: US launches airstrikes on Taliban to support Afghan forces

Shaheen dismissed Ghani’s right to govern, resurrecting allegations of widespread fraud that surrounded Ghani’s 2019 election win. After that vote, both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves president. After a compromise deal, Abdullah is now No. 2 in the government and heads the reconciliation council.

Last weekend, Abdullah headed a high-level delegation to the Qatari capital Doha for talks with Taliban leaders. It ended with promises of more talks, as well as greater attention to the protection of civilians and infrastructure.

Before any ceasefire, there must be an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans,” Abdullah said. Then “there will be no war.”

Shaheen said under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf.

He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls.

Shaheen said some Taliban commanders had ignored the leadership’s orders against repressive and drastic behaviour and that several have been put before a Taliban military tribunal and punished, though he did not provide specifics. He contended the video was fake, a splicing of separate footage.

Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals.

Afghan govt speaks

The Taliban's claim to hold 90 percent of Afghanistan's borders is an "absolute lie", the defence ministry said Friday, insisting government forces were in control of the country's frontiers.

"It is baseless propaganda," deputy spokesman of the Ministry of Defence Fawad Aman told AFP, a day after the insurgents made the claim, which was not possible to independently verify.

The Taliban's claim on Thursday came after the group captured key border crossings with Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan in recent weeks in a staggering offensive launched as US-led foreign forces began their final troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

On Friday, Aman insisted government forces were in control of the country's borders and all "main cities and highways".

See Also: Afghan govt claims 100 civilians ‘massacred’ in Spin Boldak

And even as large-scale fighting decreased during this week's Eid al-Adha holiday, the interior ministry accused the Taliban of killing about 100 civilians in the town of Spin Boldak along the border with Pakistan since seizing the crossing last week.

"Afghan security forces will soon take revenge on these wild terrorists," interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanekzai said on Twitter.

"The Taliban whenever they get control (of territory), the first thing they do is destroy public facilities or public infrastructure, harass people and forcefully displace families," Aman told AFP. "It happened in Spin Boldak too."

With the withdrawal of American-led foreign forces all but complete, the resurgent Taliban now controls about half of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts.

Earlier this week, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley said the Taliban appear to have "strategic momentum" on the battlefield.

With the militants putting pressure on around half of the country's provincial capitals, Afghan troops are in the process of "consolidating their forces" to protect those major urban centres, Milley added.

With inputs from AFP.