The US has announced the beginning of negotiations with the Taliban, a movement it fought for nine years. A former Mujahideen and now a deputy, Shohzoda Shahed spoke with RT about to what degree the Americans understand the reality in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that the US key condition is that the Taliban parts with Al Qaeda. Whether the USA has any chance to save its face – this is what Shohzoda Shahed, a former Mujahideen, a judge, a member of the armed opposition and now a deputy, will discuss.
The former Mujahideen and the follower of the implacable rebel commander Hekmatyar explains the key mistake the USA made in Afghanistan and why the Taliban are still strong in the country despite the occupation having entered its 10th year.
Islamic lawyer Shohzoda Shahed is a member of the National Reconciliation Council in Afghanistan. He is an unassociated deputy of Parliament, elected for the second time from the Afghan province of Kunar. He is considered the right-hand man of Hekmatyar, today’s most influential rebel commander who denies the authority of Karzai. Hekmatyar literally has a 60-strong faction of his own in parliament.
Shahed studied at the university in Peshawar, Pakistan. He returned to Afghanistan in the early 1990s to work as a judge.
RT: How do you assess today’s situation in Afghanistan?
Shohzoda Shahed: In the name of All-Mighty Allah, the Most Merciful and Beneficent, a war has been on in Afghanistan for 30 years. The situation is extremely complex. A lot of problems have been accumulated. We hoped that the world community would stabilize the situation, but nothing has come of it. They didn’t help us with anything.
RT: What do you think about the foreign presence in Afghanistan?
SS: I don’t want to deny the world community’s role. They are trying to do, at least, something. But their efforts are insufficient. Besides, they don’t understand how complicated the situation in Afghanistan really is. They’ve got involved in the situation and they should somehow settle it.
RT: My question is about the occupational military contingent.
SS: The war is not solving anything. They will be unable to solve anything by force. We know that talks are the only way to come to a solution. The presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is certainly very hard for the Afghans.
RT: How would you describe the Taliban movement of today?
SS: I see two parts of the movement which calls itself the Taliban. There are those who have close links with al-Qaeda. They have a different stance. They are part of the international terrorist network. The other part are the internal Taliban fighters, who exist in the territory of Afghanistan and fight for independence. Al-Qaeda has big plans and huge resources, while our internal Taliban fighters are preoccupied exclusively with their own country.
RT: Both of them are fighting. How can we draw a difference between the two?
SS: The international forces should be able to draw a difference, but they are not doing it. I don’t know why. Our Taliban are fighting only for their country. Why cannot the international forces see this difference? So long as it’s so, they are unlikely to make any progress.
RT: Those who call themselves Taliban fighters attack the police and foreign troops. The police and the foreigners should respond, shouldn’t they?
SS: The Taliban will never come to terms with the current state of things. They will put up resistance to anybody: to foreigners or the internal troops. They are convinced that they will win, sooner or later, and that the victory will be on their side. They won’t accept defeat or occupation.
RT: What are the Taliban trying to achieve?
SS: The Taliban will never recognize the incumbent Afghan government. They fought against the Mujahideens, they were proud of their victories. They used to have their own government, the prime minister, the cabinet and a system of government. The US invasion eliminated all their structures. They were captured, bombed and destroyed. But they have recouped their strength; they have returned to life and want to establish their own government.
RT: Are negotiations between the incumbent government and the Taliban possible, in principle?
SS: Since I am a member of the High Council of the Reconciliation Commission, I think that we can find ways to reconciliation and how to achieve it. I believe that the coalition forces are making a great mistake by saying they are going to leave Afghanistan in 2014. We should be ready for that to happen and we should be ready to agree with the Taliban. But it’s important to understand that the Taliban have been fighting for nine years and are ready to fight to victory. There are many problems. Our neighbors are meddling in our affairs and destabilizing the situation. The Taliban have a feeling of superiority. They are sure that the international corps is going to leave and they will win without fail, irrespective of whether they’ll have to fight for two or six years.
RT: Have you met anybody from the Taliban Shura?
SS: They meet with me.
RT: Is the Taliban today a united movement or not?
SS: I don’t think that they are united. They have various groupings. But if the Amir, a person who will unite everybody, appears and if he enlists support, he will unite all the groups. So long as there’s no such person, the Taliban will remain scattered.
RT: But the Taliban say that Mullah Omar is such a person.
SS: Yes, he’s the first man. Those who’ve risen from the Taliban ranks, like Foreign Minister Vakil Mutavakil and others, are not taking part in military hostilities, they’ve withdrawn from the Jihad but still they consider Mullah Omar to be their leader.
RT: What are the positions of Hekmatyar and his party?
SS: Hekmatyar continues to insist that the coalition forces should leave Afghanistan immediately. After that, talks may become possible. He’s ready to meet and enter into talks after the coalition’s departure. He, personally, sticks to his opinion. The Hizb Islamia party is certainly not as strong as it once used to be, because many of its members have pulled out of active hostilities or have taken the side of the Afghan state.
RT: Hekmatyar and the Taliban used to have great differences. They even had clashes. Has Hekmatyar forbidden the Taliban?
SS: These great differences remain. Hizb Islamia has stated it clearly that all the Mujahideens, all parties and Islamist movements should rally together and jointly build a coalition government. The Taliban say that the only thing they recognize is the Imarat Islami Taliban. They are refusing to recognize anything else.
RT: Did you participate in the Jihad against the USSR?
SS: We certainly trained our Mujahideen units at that time. I was their ideologist. I stayed away from military hostilities, but I financed them. I also conducted organizational work.
RT: There are many former Communists in the Afghan parliament. You used to fight against them? Do you cooperate with them now?
SS: They were elected to parliament at elections. The tribes lawfully elected them to the nation’s parliament. We should observe the law. We don’t have any differences.
RT: So, you are sticking to the position of Ihavn-I Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) who favor broad political negotiations. Are you ready to enter into negotiations with the Wahabbites?
SS: There are no levers for that. The Wahabbites don’t have any political movements in Afghanistan. There are great divergences with the Taliban, but there are issues on which an agreement can be reached. Afghanistan has one problem: there are religious and tribal movements. They may not recognize each other; they may exist simultaneously and conflict with each other. Taking account of the religious and tribal component of society is vitally important for Afghanistan.
RT: What’s the Taliban attitude to the members of the Sufi order (tarica) which has great influence on society?
SS: The Taliban don’t have any problems with the Sufi order any longer. Their relations are absolutely normal.
RT: What’s the most important thing one should understand about the Afghan character?
SS: An Afghan values freedom and independence. He is a true Muslim. An Afghan doesn’t tolerate occupation. The Afghans never attack other countries.
RT: How do you see Russia’s participation in Afghanistan’s affairs?
SS: My opinion differs from the opinion of many politicians in Afghanistan. I think that Russia, if it wants to, can play a vital role in Afghanistan. The Americans have failed. They wanted to preserve their power over our country but when they came to know the character of the Afghan people, they understood that they were unlikely to succeed. The Americans and their allies are losing confidence. Naturally, they are going to reduce their presence here. And then, when this vacuum finally appears, we would like our neighbors, including Russia, to fill it with their constructive participation in the country’s restoration. We recognize Russia as our neighbor in the first place.
Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT