HE the Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahad al-Hajri cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the Taliban office in the presence of Maulvi Jan Mohamed and other members of the political office. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed
By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
International efforts led by Qatar to bring peace to Afghanistan made a major headway with the Taliban announcing a break with “global jihad” and plans to hold talks with the US at their first press conference held after the formal opening of the “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in Doha yesterday.
Not only did they clarify that their military options would be limited to Afghanistan but also they stressed that they would not allow any group to use their soil to harm other nations.
The Afghan Taliban also revealed that they would meet senior US officials “soon” for the first time at their Doha office to begin negotiations for a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis.
Tayyab Agha, the head of the Taliban political office, was, not present at the programme. The media was told that he was “busy” with some other important engagements.
Instead the spokesperson of the Political Office Mohamed Naeem made the statement in front of a packed media house, first in his native Pashto and then in Arabic. In between, the speech was translated into English by another senior member of the office, Sohail Shaheen.
Interestingly, the Taliban statement did not mention the United States by name anywhere and chose to address the international forces in Afghanistan simply as the occupiers.
“It is well known to all that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has been waging jihad and striving to put an end to the occupation and form an independent Islamic system. To reach this goal, it has utilised every lawful means,” Naeem said.
Immediately after, he distanced the group’s objectives from global jihad.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan simultaneously follows both military and political options and aims which are limited to Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate neither wants to pose harms to other countries from its soil nor will allow anyone to pose a threat to the security of countries from the soil of Afghanistan,” he said.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good relations with all countries of the world, including the neighbouring countries on the basis of mutual respect and, while desiring security at the country level, the Islamic Emirate wants security and justice at the world level,” Naeem added.
However, in the same breath, the Taliban also added that they sympathised with the rights of the people to free themselves from “colonial” powers.
In a subtle message to the foreign forces in Afghanistan that their resistance would continue, Naeem said: “Of course, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers its religious and national duty to gain independence from the occupation and, for that purpose, has utilised every legitimate way and will utilise it in future too.”
The Taliban said that there were five main reasons why they deemed necessary to open an office in Qatar.
“First: To reach understanding and initiate talks with countries of the world for the purpose of improving relations with them. Second: To support a political and peaceful solution which includes end of occupation of Afghanistan and establishment of an independent Islamic system and true security, which the nation wants and aspires. Third: To hold meetings with Afghans as time may demand. Fourth: To initiate contact with the United Nations, as well as with international, regional and non-governmental organisations. Fifth: To put political statements at the disposal of media regarding current political developments.”
The Taliban spokesperson thanked HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for agreeing to open the political office and providing them with all facilities.
When asked why did Taliban chose Qatar to open their office, Naeem said that the first reason was that the State of Qatar was an Islamic country and secondly the country was “unbiased” in its policies.
Another senior member of the Taliban office, Sher Mohamed Abbas, revealed that senior US officials would meet them for the first time officially in Doha “soon in a few days” .
On the issue of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, Abbas said the picture would become clearer in a few days.
He stated again for the record that the Taliban did not recognise the present Karzai-led government in Afghanistan and the main purpose of their office was to begin negotiations with the US and other Afghans.
When asked how could the Taliban talk about peace on one hand and continue to make attacks in Afghanistan, Abbas said: “When a war is going on somewhere, there will be killing. Sweets are not distributed in a war..in the battlefield.
“There will be killings, bloodshed and all these things…Afghanistan is being occupied by more than 29 countries militarily. So for the liberation of our country, there will be sacrifices.”