In an exclusive interview with Tasnim, the official spokesperson of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, expressed his views on the latest developments in Afghanistan, the planned presidential election, the country’s Constitution, and a complete withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.
Shaheen is scheduled to hold a seventh round of talks with the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Qatar.
Asked about the subjects discussed in the talks between the Taliban and the US envoy, the Taliban’s stances on the ceasefire timing, and the time of US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Shaheen said, “Six rounds of talks have been so far held with the American team. Two main subjects have been discussed, firstly ending the occupation, and secondly not allowing anyone to use the Afghan soil against another country. But a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan has not been set.”
On the possibility of reaching an agreement on the timing of US pullout from Afghanistan in the next round of talks with Khalilzad, the Taliban spokesman said, “We hope that during the next, namely the seventh, round of negotiations with the US, the timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan would be announced, so that we could start off the internal aspect of issues, which is dialogue among Afghans.”
Asked whether the Taliban and the US have discussed the formation of an interim government, Shaheen said, “No. The formation of an interim government has not been discussed. It’s up to the Afghans to discuss, consult about, and decide on the future Islamic government.”
On the Afghan Constitution, the Taliban spokesperson said, “We want Constitution, but one that would reflect our people’s Islamic and national values, and be drawn up by the Afghan clerics and scholars in an atmosphere of freedom. The current Constitution lacks these qualities and has been drafted under the shadow of B-52 planes. Accordingly, we are opposed to it.”
Asked about the Taliban’s view on US support for the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist, Shaheen underscored, “We will by no means allow a repetition of the anarchy of the 1990s. After the announcement of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, we will start addressing the internal Afghan issues. We will consult with all the influential figures, politicians, and clerics of Afghanistan about the formation of the future Islamic government in order to form an inclusive Islamic government. We also believe that the US is behind the strengthening of Daesh in Afghanistan and have told them (Americans) this issue. But the US does not admit to it formally and make up its own reasons. However, the realities on the ground are contrary to what the US claims.”
As regards the plans after the US exit from Afghanistan, he said the Taliban will be trying to ensure national unity and maintain warm relations with the neighboring and the world countries on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
Asked about the Taliban’s “explicit view” on holding elections in Afghanistan, Shaheen said, “We believe that an election under occupation is not an election in real terms, but would legitimize the continuation of occupation. We want to form an Islamic government -after consultations with all Afghan influential figures, leaders and politicians- that would involve all Afghans and reflect the aspirations of the martyrs, orphans and people of Afghanistan.”
Commenting on the concerns that part of the Taliban members may disapprove of a possible ceasefire, join the other groups and continue the war, Shaheen said, “This is not true. Our members fully obey their leadership and trust it. For instance, it was proved during the last year’s three-day ceasefire that not a single bullet was fired across Afghanistan after an order, yet our negotiating team is mostly comprised of military people who have been trained and become seasoned in trenches.”