Washington, March 24
The Afghan negotiating team has not seen any change in the Taliban’s posture, which does not seem to be much different from when they were in power pre-9/11, Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib has said.
He alleged that the Taliban have evaded, dragged, and even avoided substantive engagement.
“Our negotiating team that has been engaging with the Taliban reports back to us that they don’t see any change in the Taliban from the time they had a regime,” Mohib told the Hudson Institute think-tank here on Tuesday during a conversation with former Pakistan ambassador to US Husain Haqqani.
“We are yet to see the change in Taliban’s posture, in Taliban’s opinions, in Taliban’s policies, that we all hoped would come because there was a lot of buzz around a changed Taliban. We don’t know what a changed Taliban looks like yet because we have not seen that change,” he said.
Haqqani noted that the Taliban have not kept their end of the bargain so far. There has been no reduction in violence from their side in Afghanistan since their agreement with the United States and there are those who think the agreement was a mistake.
Instead, the US should talk more to the government in Kabul, he said.
Mohib said the Taliban have turned out to be underwhelming, both in their willingness to make tough calls and in the seriousness of their engagement. They have demurred, evaded, dragged, and even avoided substantive engagement.
“We saw the most egregious example of this in January this year. The two negotiating teams ended round one and decided to reconvene on January 5 after a break. But while our team made it to Doha at the appointed date to start the talks, the Taliban were nowhere to be seen,” he said.
“For a few days, literally nobody had any idea of their whereabouts. Fifteen members of the Taliban on the UN sanctions list went AWOL. It turns out they were taking tours of Taliban suicide academies in Pakistan and visiting their injured fighters in Karachi. Then they flew to Moscow and Tehran.
“In this way, they used the privilege of UNSC travel exemptions to avoid negotiations and maintain secret rendezvous with their terrorist cohorts across the Durand Line,” he said.
“And when the group returned to Doha 20 days later, they were singing a different tune. Instead of talking about peace, they were talking pre-conditions to negotiations. Something in the air in Quetta and Karachi that, I guess, changes your thinking,” he added.
“All of this of course happened as the Taliban terror outfits were prosecuting an all-out war against the Afghan state and society. Targeted terrorism against activists, journalists, judges, prosecutors and civilians,” Mohib said.
Responding to a question, he said the people in Afghanistan fear the Taliban and don’t want its rule.
“They fear that. They want to see their interests reflected in the government, they want their voices being heard. So the republic provides an opportunity for all groups to come together. The Taliban is not the only group in Afghanistan and it is not the only reality of this country. It is a reality, but a part of it,” he said.
The Afghan national security adviser said US policymakers need to address problems, including reducing the number of troops involved in combat.
“We are not talking about numbers of troops who are stationed here for other purposes, for protection of embassies, any future planning for natural disasters, but those who are engaged in violence and combat. That’s one question to reduce that number so they no longer need combat troops.
“I will also caution not to confuse that with train and assist because we do have trainers and not always in active military as sometimes they are contractors. It is not just Afghanistan, every country has foreign training and assisting capabilities,” Mohib said. PTI