Taliban’s top negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai on Saturday expressed satisfaction over the peace deal signed between the United States and the group in Doha, saying today’s signing of the peace deal was a historic moment for the country.
“Today it was a historic day in the history of Afghanistan,” Stanekzai told TOLOnews’ Sharif Amiri in a live interview in Doha, hours after the peace deal was officially signed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, in the presence of representatives of over 30 countries including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“After 20 years of imposed war on Afghanistan by the American and NATO forces, today a peace deal was signed between Americans and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” said Stanekzai, adding: “Based on the agreement, all US and NATO forces must leave Afghanistan within 14 months of signing the agreement.”
When asked whether the Reduction in Violence (RIV) plan will continue in coming days, Stanekzai said: “Based on the agreement, from tomorrow (01 March), the war between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the US will drop to zero, it means they will not stage attacks on each other, but when it comes to the war between the Taliban and the Kabul administration forces (term used by the Taliban for the Afghan govt), it needs a new agreement which will be discussed in the intra-Afghan talks,” he said.
He rejected the prospect of engaging in a direct negotiation with the Afghan government.
“You know that today there is no government in Afghanistan, you know that the elections weren’t held in a transparent manner, public turnout was quite low, only one million voted out of 36 million,” he said.
Stanekzai said that based on the agreement, Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against any country in the world including the United States.
On the potential intra-Afghan talks, Stanekzai said: “The intra-Afghan talks will start on March 10, once 5,000 of our hostages who are imprisoned in different parts of the country are released.”
When asked if it is possible to release this large number of prisoners in ten days, the Taliban negotiator said: “Based on the agreement, the US has made commitments to us about it, a lot of work has been done on the issue--we have shared the names of these prisoners, work will start on the release of these prisoners starting tomorrow (March 1st). If this process is delayed for one or two days or a week, the intra-Afghan talks will be delayed until they release these prisoners.”
Stanekzai said that it is premature to say that what kind of a political system the Taliban want, but he clarified that the Taliban will accept the kind of political system that the majority of Afghans will find acceptable.
“I think it's better to decide the structure, format and form of the next government in the intra-Afghan talks; we will accept what the majority of Afghans decide about it,” he said.
Stanekzai said that the Taliban will respect the basic rights of Afghan women and children.
“The rights of all Afghans including the women and children will be respected in line with the Islamic values and the Afghan culture,” he said.
“All rights given to women by Islam will be respected, Islam has given the women the right to get education and work, the right to go out and other related rights such as the right to do business and choose a husband,” said Stanekzai.
On the future status of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF), Stanekzai said: “This will be discussed in the intra-Afghan talks, there is a need for some important reforms to be implemented in the structure of the country’s armed forces.”
When asked whether the Taliban were ready to cut ties with other militant groups such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban negotiator said: “You know that Al Qaeda took part in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, they (Al Qaeda) fought against the Russians, they came with the help of the Americans here and other Western countries, but in the agreement, we have committed not to allow anyone to use the Afghan soil against our neighbors and other nations of the world.”
He said that the Taliban is ready to meet Afghans from all political parties and minority groups at the peace table.
Meanwhile, Abdul Salam Hanafi, another senior Taliban member, said that the group has no problem with the media and that it is the duty of media to “criticize us if we have any defects.”
““We are not against the media…media is a complement to society. There should be constructive criticism. We want reforms in media,” said Hanafi.
The agreement states that the US will fully withdraw its forces over the next 14 months, and that the current force of about 13,000 troops will be reduced to 8,600 within 135 days. Non-US NATO and other coalition forces will also be reduced proportionally over that time.