Taliban to keep political channels with Iran; Zabihullah Mujahid tells ILNA
Since the Islamic Republic of Iran is a powerful neighbor of Afghanistan, we should discuss the future of our country with Tehran in order to take positive steps towards strengthening friendship and peace on both sides.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson of Taliban, stresses that this group would keep it's connection with Iran. Below you can read his interview with ILNA.
ILNA: Taliban delegation met with Iranian officials in Tehran last week. How do you evaluate the relations between Tehran and the Taliban?
Mujahid: Since the Islamic Republic of Iran is a powerful neighbor of Afghanistan, we should discuss the future of our country with Tehran in order to take positive steps towards strengthening friendship and peace on both sides.
ILNA: How do you assess the cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the different spheres of Afghanistan on the peace process? How important is the role of Tehran in this process?
Mujahid: We have a single leadership and policy, and therefore we are in contact with many neighboring and non-neighboring countries. Meanwhile, our contact with Iran is the same as that of other countries, and maintaining contact with Iran is very important to us.
ILNA: How do you analyze the continuation of the US presence in Afghanistan?
Mujahid: We can not stay silence against US drone attacks against civilians or looting of Afghan resources. Afghan people will never tolerate occupation, either by the Soviet Union or by the United States.
ILNA: Has the Taliban called for US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a precondition for talks?
Mujahid: The biggest issue that matters to us is the dismissal of US troops. Of course, solutions have been considered, but the Americans have accepted that more talk is needed about how they will leave Afghanistan and that they will be followed up in the upcoming summit.
ILNA: Do you estimate that the United States will be completely out of Afghanistan?
Mujahid: There are many ambiguities regarding the departure of the United States from Afghanistan. Over the years, it has been proven to us that Washington ignores its promises and is constantly changing its positions.
ILNA: What will the Taliban's reaction towards a possible violation of the terms of the talks by the United States?
Mujahid: If the Taliban concludes that Americans are not seeking to achieve peace through negotiation and do not withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, we will, without doubt, dispatch them with military force and during the intensification of jihad from Afghanistan.
ILNA: How do you rate the recent peace talks in Abu Dhabi?
Mujahid: Many issues have been raised in the talks between us and the United States, which I mentioned earlier, but no specific results have been achieved at this time. At the Abu Dhabi summit, we announced that if their military occupation would not end, we would resort to force and expel them from Afghanistan.
ILNA: What is your stance towards ISIS presence in Afghanistan?
Mujahid: Frankly, Afghan people find ISIS beliefs problematic. ISIS does not observe any of Islamic laws and their beliefs do not have any root in Islam and Sharia.
ILNA: The Taliban are participating in negotiations on one side and on the other hand target the positions of the Afghan government. Are these positions contrary to each other?
Mujahid: We have not stopped jihad and are still in war with the Americans, and on the other hand we recognize the government of national unity as a puppet of the United States.
ILNA: Do you have a plan to negotiate with the Afghan National Unity government?
Mujahid: Afghanistan's internal problems remain strong, and we are looking for internal talks to take place after the withdrawal of foreign forces and complete independence of the country.
ILNA: How do you evaluate the role of Pakistan in the peace talks?
Mujahid: Pakistan is in contact with us, like many other regional and international countries such as Russia, China, Uzbekistan and so on.
ILNA: Some analysts believe that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has offered a plan to surrender some provinces to the Taliban in order to merge this group into the government. What is the Taliban status regarding this issue?
Mujahid: We did not start the jihad to get some ministries or political positions. We cannot stop jihad with pretexts and promises and witness the presence of Americans in our soil.
ILNA: How do you assess the role of Shiites in Afghanistan?
Mujahid: Shiites are part of the Afghan nation and we consider them our brothers.
ILNA: If a peace deal is reached, will the Taliban take action against Iran?
Mujahid: We consider Iran as the second home of the Afghan nation and we assure the Iranian people and government that no action will be taken from our side. This policy applies not only to Iran but also to all the neighbors of Afghanistan.
ILNA: What was the reason for recent disagreements in the Taliban?
Mujahid:There were a number of people in the Taliban who were involved with the intelligence service of the western countries and the Citadel. These people were the main reason for the disagreements. One of these people was Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi; He believed that we should support ISIS instead of fighting them.
ILNA: How many troops does the Taliban have?
Mujahid: There is around 1000 jihadist in our service and we control about 75 percent of the Afghanistan soil.
ILNA: What is the Taliban's position on the next Afghan presidential election?
Mujahid: First of all, we believe that the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States must come to an end. The next step is to determine how the structure of the political system will be, which will eventually be voted by the Afghans.
Interview by: Farshad Golzari