The Taliban promises not to allow the territory of Afghanistan to be used for staging terrorist attacks against other countries, Bilal Karimi (40), one of two official Taliban spokesmen, tells Postimees in an interview.
Taliban spokesman: We will not allow acts of terrorism from Afghanistan
Karimi joined the Taliban when he was just 17 and officially works at the Ministry of Information and Culture as the deputy of the organization’s chief spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid.
What in your mind is the biggest problem in Afghanistan today?
Our greatest problem was the [U.S.] invasion, and now that it is over after 20 years, we have begun to build up the country and repair the damage done to us. The main thing we want from the international community is for Taliban assets to be unfrozen and international recognition [of the Taliban government] that would give us freedom to operate. Donors and international organizations should continue supporting the people of Afghanistan as their efforts have had a considerable effect [on life in Afghanistan] over the last 20 years.
The world has set several conditions for sanctions to be lifted, such as the involvement of different political forces [so-called inclusive government] and giving women more rights. Do you intend to comply to qualify for aid and escape the sanctions?
The Islamic Emirate (which is what the Taliban calls its government – J. P.) has promised to ensure the rights of all Afghans, both men and women. Rights pursuant to Sharia law and Islamic teachings. The current cabinet of the Islamic Emirate is fully inclusive, we have people from all over Afghanistan. As concerns women, our supreme leader [Hibatullah Akhundzada] has issued an edict on women’s rights that gives them the right to choose their partners, among many others.
(The December announcement did not concern women’s rights in general but dealt specifically with the right to marry and the rights of widows. The edict provides that a woman “is not property nor can she be forced to marry against her will.” Married women need to be entitled to an inheritance and part of the family’s assets – J. P.)
Many of our sisters work in state agencies, such as healthcare institutions, passport office and other places where we see the need for female labor. Girls’ education is currently our biggest problem. It (teaching girls in schools – J. P.) has begun in many provinces and we are providing girls with an education. Not all schools are up and running yet due to technical reasons but we will solve these problems quickly. These are internal affairs of Afghanistan. We do not meddle in the affairs of other countries; they should not meddle in ours.
The economy has virtually ground to a halt. What do you intend to do to restore the economy enough to be able to pay salaries?
A war just ended in Afghanistan and finding our feet again will take a little time. The Islamic Emirate is holding talks with countries all over the world, especially our neighbors, concerning outstanding projects. I can give the example of TAPI (an unfinished gas pipeline stretching over 1,800 kilometers to move natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India – J. P.) as a major project that will create a lot of jobs for Afghans and plays a crucial role in the region’s economy. Other important projects include the CASA-1000 (moving hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan – J. P.) and the Mes Aynak (one of the largest copper deposits in the world the previous authority rented to a Chinese state company for $3 billion – J. P.).
Also railroad projects from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to ports in Iraq. The aid of the international community is crucial for those projects to be finished. Specific countries take an interest and have promised to support each project. China has promised its support for the copper mine, while Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have pledged support for the railroad power projects.
What are the Taliban’s plans for the humanitarian crisis? (According to UNICEF, over 24 million of Afghanistan’s 37 million people require immediate humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.)
The humanitarian crisis is temporary and will not become permanent. The Islamic Emirate has already taken important steps. For example, we have taken countermeasures against dollar smuggling to reinforce the exchange rate of the afghani. (The local currency’s value against the U.S. dollar fell virtually every day Postimees journalists were in Afghanistan – J. P.) We are in talks with major nongovernmental organizations to end this crisis as quickly as possible as winter has set in and might cause local residents a lot of problems.
Your leader, Mullah Akhundzada has publicly said that Allah will make sure people have enough to eat. That the Taliban promised to rid the land of the Americans but has not promised to feed the people. Is that really the Taliban’s official position toward people who are hungry and have no income: to pray more?
The Islamic Emirate has been forced to wage war to establish Islamic order in Afghanistan. The current system is based on Sharia law, which is the basis for solving all matters.
Sharia law prescribes two ways of making a living. One can work and earn an income that way. Secondly, there is the ideology that everything comes from God and that He will provide. Because we are an Islamic community, we must ask God not just for food but also all other things. At the same time, the Islamic Emirate and its residents will work and try to find ways to secure food.
How much of a threat is the Islamic State to Taliban’s authority in Afghanistan? The whole world witnessed 180 people killed in an IS terrorist attack at the Kabul Airport in late August. We saw with our own eyes remains of people being cleaned up next to a blown-up minivan when we visited Kabul.
Daesh (how Islamic State is known in the Arab world – J. P.) does not have the capacity to fight the Islamic Emirate. They are weak and we do not perceive them as a serious threat to us or the country. They will soon be liquidated. They will not be given the chance to use Afghanistan to attack any other country. As you know, there were a lot of groups during the [American] invasion that were trained to sow uncertainty in society and nurtured under the umbrella of the Islamic government (referring to the previous authority in Afghanistan – J. P.).
All were found and destroyed when the Islamic Emirate arrived. Their back is broken and they no longer pose a serious threat. Yes, there are [IED] explosions, while the threat they pose is minimal. I am convinced it will also be dealt with.
Are you willing to assure the public that the Taliban will not allow the Islamic State or anyone else to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks like happened in 2001?
The Islamic Emirate has never broken its promises. We signed a landmark agreement in Doha that clearly states that the territory of Afghanistan will not be used against anyone. We keep our promises.
How would you explain the Taliban’s success in forcing the Americans to leave and the previous authority to escape in such a short time?
The Islamic Emirate defeated USA and NATO simply because we had the support of the people. The Islamic Emirate has always been portrayed as the bad guys, while we were only fighting for independence and to put an end to the invasion. USA invaded Afghanistan without proper cause and contrary to international law. They could not produce any document to prove the Islamic Emirate had operated against someone. Unfortunately, the West does not understand the Islamic Emirate’s policy. We differ from all other Islamic groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh and have no ties to them.
Is the Taliban today any different from the Taliban that ruled 20-25 years ago and if so, then how?
Our convictions, politics and thinking have not changed. The only change is that we have gained a lot of experience. We have matured in terms of ties to the rest of the world and diplomacy. These changes happen naturally as one becomes more experienced.
You adopted a very hard line toward women when the Taliban was last in power. Today, we can see women walking the streets with their faces uncovered and allowed to hold certain jobs. Whence this change in attitudes and is the Taliban planning on giving women other rights moving forward?
I cannot agree with your claim as the previous regime was not given enough time to create the conditions necessary for women to work. The Islamic Emirate is trying to find a better, safer system for women, just as it was during the previous regime’s time.
Security of women is understood in the sense of Islamic law, such as separate classes in educational institutions and separate offices in ministries.
We need financial assistance to construct separate buildings for them. We currently have 133 such higher education institutions in ten provinces – in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif – and are working toward reopening the rest of our schools and universities.