Iran: Taliban seek ‘inclusive Islamic govt’ in Afghanistan

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Iran: Taliban seek ‘inclusive Islamic govt’ in AfghanistanTEHRAN (AA): The Taliban on Monday said the agreement reached between the group and the US last year stipulates the “formation of an inclusive Islamic government” in Afghanistan.

The remarks came in a news conference in Iran’s capital Tehran on the last day of the delegation’s week-long visit.

Speaking to reporters, Taliban representatives — including senior member of the negotiating team Suhail Shaheen — said the ongoing intra-Afghan talks are “based on the agreement” reached with the US.

They said an “inclusive establishment” will be formed in Kabul after the intra-Afghan talks culminate, and the present political dispensation will cease to exist.

They said the group considers the Afghan government “a party” to the dispute, and negotiations are currently underway in Doha to reach a settlement, stressing they do not seek to “monopolize power”.

On the new US administration’s plan to review the Taliban-Washington agreement, the Taliban delegation said the US “needs to remain committed” to the pact and “withdraw troops” from the war-ravaged country.

However, they also warned to “continue the war” if the US does not pull out troops in line with the agreement. They said they have “resisted the occupation” for past 20 years and they will be “forced to continue the struggle”.

To a question about a recent spike in violence in Afghanistan and violation of the Taliban-Washington agreement, the Taliban representatives accused the US forces of “launching new attacks” and trying to “capture Taliban areas”.

Attacks ‘wrongly attributed’

The Taliban said their fighters have been “forced to retaliate” in response to attacks by the foreign forces, and said the attacks were “wrongly attributed” to the group.

On the presence of Daesh, also known as ISIS, in the war-torn country, they said the group had a foothold in border provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar but they have been “eliminated”.

They claimed Daesh fighters had been “transferred” to Kabul in US choppers, saying only the US choppers could fly over the region occupied by Daesh.

On the Joe Biden administration’s plan to retain US’ envoy for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the Taliban representatives said Khalilzad “knows the Afghan culture” and has been part of negotiations from the beginning.

They claimed to be in control of 70% of the country, “including the frontier areas”, and said the discussions with officials in neighboring countries, including Iran, include border security.

They also claimed that the group’s policy is to make “no discrimination between ethnicities and languages”. They said there had been “no attack on anyone for speaking other language”.

They said it was the “second official visit” of the group to Tehran and they have been visiting other neighboring countries too for discussions on the peace process.

Taliban’s visit to Tehran

Earlier on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a media briefing the Taliban is “part of Afghanistan’s reality.”

He said the Afghan government “had been informed” by Tehran about the group’s visit, which he said was “within the framework of current talks” between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

On Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with the visiting delegation and stressed the formation of an “inclusive government” in Afghanistan, with the participation of “all ethnic and political groups”.

Zarif also expressed Iran’s readiness in facilitating dialogue between the Afghan government, the Taliban, and other Afghan groups, saying that the people of Afghanistan “have been wronged”.

The delegation from Taliban’s political bureau in Qatar had arrived in Tehran last Tuesday; a visit Iran’s Foreign Ministry said came at the “invitation of Tehran”.

On Wednesday, they held talks with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council, in which Shamkhani accused the US of “creating a deadlock” in intra-Afghan peace talks.

Iran has in recent years backed Taliban’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s future political structure, and repeatedly called for the ouster of US forces from the country.

The visit to Tehran came with little progress in the second phase of intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, even as violence has increased in Afghanistan.

[Photo: Earlier, a Taliban delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai held a press conference after a meeting with Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, in Moscow, Russia on January 29, 2021. Photographer: Sefa Karacan/AA]

By Syed Zafar Mehdi