We will build ties in the neighbourhood: Taliban

We will build ties in the neighbourhood: Taliban

‘We don’t want any foreign outfit using Afghan soil to target another country’

The Taliban would like to build ties with all neighbouring countries, including India, said its spokesperson Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, and claimed that the group would even enact a law against foreign terror groups conducting operations against any other country, if it comes to power.

“We would like good relations with all countries in the neighbourhood on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interests,” said Mr. Shaheen when asked about ties with India. “We will never want any foreign organisation using Afghan soil to target another country. We will bring a law to stop any such activity,” he added, speaking to analysts during an internet-based seminar organised by Delhi-based think-tank, “Global Counter-Terrorism Council” (GCTC).

On Thursday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted that he and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “exchanged views on the Afghanistan situation.” Their conversation followed another call over the weekend with Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad who had welcomed “Indian engagement in regional and international efforts for a lasting peace in Afghanistan, and discussed “the need for both the Afghan government and the Taliban to accelerate prisoner releases, support a prompt reduction in violence, and start intra-Afghan negotiations,” which are currently at an impasse.

Dependent on Pakistan

Speaking at the GCTC “web seminar”, Amar Sinha, member of the National Security Advisory Board and former Ambassador to Kabul, said there was little point in participating in a dialogue process involving the Taliban, while it remains dependent on Pakistan for support and safe havens, and until it eschews violence.

India has thus far not recognised the Taliban, which has had links with terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, who have targeted Indians in Afghanistan. India was also not invited to a UN-led regional conference on the peace process last week, which included Afghanistan, neighbours China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and U.S. and Russia.

However, speaking at another online interaction organised by the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the 21-member peace delegation appointed by Mr. Ghani, said he hopes that India will be invited to the next regional conference, given its “contribution to Afghanistan’s reconstruction.” “We have discussed having a regional support group that includes India and that is taking shape,” Mr. Stanekzai said, adding that the Afghanistan’s foreign minister Hanif Atmar was coordinating the effort.

During the 45-minute interaction with analysts, Mr. Shaheen said a future Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan would be radically different from the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” that the Taliban ran from 1996-2001. Mr. Shaheen said the Taliban will be “committed to education and working rights for women”, which would be in sharp contrast to the past, and even present of some of the districts that the Taliban controls in Southern Afghanistan.

When asked if the Taliban would include women in its delegation for the intra-Afghan dialogue with democratic leaders in the country, Mr. Shaheen said, “anything is possible.”

However, Mr. Shaheen said there would be no intra-Afghan dialogue, which had been originally slated for March 10, until the Ghani government releases all 5,000 Taliban prisoners that it holds. Mr. Shaheen also rejected a ceasefire offer by Mr. Ghani during the month of Ramzan, which began on Friday, and the Taliban has stepped up attacks on Afghan National Army targets.

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