Asia

Taliban statement on US talks: Annotated extracts

  • 15 March 2012
  • From the section Asia
French soldiers of the battle group Picardie keep watch during an operation in Usbeen village, in Surobi district of Kabul province on March 15, 2012
The Taliban believe that only once foreign troops have left Afghanistan can its future be decided

In a strongly-worded statement the Taliban in Afghanistanhave suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the United States. Dawood Azami of BBC Afghan analyses excerpts from the speech, getting to the real meaning behind their opaque but fiery comments.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "The Islamic Emirate decided on officially inaugurating its diplomatic office in Qatar a short while ago on 8th Zafar-ul-Muzaffar 1433 which corresponds with 3rd January 2012 for the purposes of reaching an understanding with the international community and for addressing some specific issues with the American invaders after arriving at an agreement with the government of Qatar.

"The aim behind the induction of a diplomatic office was so that the Islamic Emirate can establish contact with the international community under complete freedom and away from any danger and to ascertain the invaders in face to face dialogue that we are not going to abandon the struggle for our freedom and will not pardon you until the withdrawal of your last soldier and until you let the Afghans establish an Islamic government for themselves."

DAWOOD AZAMI: Behind the Taliban rhetoric, there is a genuine frustration and a deeply-felt need to "establish contact with the international community" - in their own words. Previously, the world only knew of their position indirectly or through some elements in Pakistan. Before the office nobody knew where they truly were, who represented them and how to get in touch. The office was a big step - it gave them an address.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "Similarly we wanted to quash the excuses put forward by the enemy who relieved themselves by repeatedly saying that the Mujahideen have no address with which contact can be made. Furthermore we wished to clarify to all the parties that in the future, we are prepared for such interaction with everyone as is done between any two sovereign nations in which every side gives consideration to its own established laws. We also wanted to erase the dull picture of Islamic Emirate painted and presented to the world by our enemies who dismissed us as a warring faction which has no political, administrative and social capabilities or that it wished to harm other nations all the while the Islamic Emirate has transparent policies, complete competence and long term plans regarding all these issues."

DAWOOD AZAMI: "The Taliban have been criticised for not having a political programme and peace plan and for only being focused on fighting and destruction. The "dull picture" they refer to is the idea of the group as a bunch of extremist jihadis without a political agenda who want to destroy the world. By entering into talks, the Taliban wanted to show they were more than that - that they had a political exit strategy. This is a message for Western countries - it is to tell them that their agenda is Afghanistan focused and they do not pose a threat to the rest of the world.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "In this connection, the political envoys of the Islamic Emirate agreed upon the inauguration of a diplomatic office, the arrangement about which was already made with the government of Qatar and started holding preliminary talks with the occupying enemy over the exchange of prisoners. The Americans initially agreed upon taking practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and to not oppose our political office but with the passage of time, they turned their backs on their promises and started initiating baseless propaganda portraying the envoys of the Islamic Emirate as having commenced multilateral negotiations for solving the Afghan dilemma."

DAWOOD AZAMI: It was a hard decision for the Taliban to publicly announce that they had started talking to the US. There are still disagreements among the Taliban about the viability of this strategy. They have always insisted that they are talking only to the US and not to the Afghan government and that these talks were were mainly aimed at the release of their prisoners in Guantanamo and other US detention centres. It was important for the group - internally - to maintain this focus.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "At the same time Hamid Karzai, who can not even make a single political decision without the prior consent of the Americans, falsely proclaimed that the Kabul administration and the Americans have jointly started peace talks with Taliban; whereas the Islamic Emirate has not discussed any other issue apart from the two aforementioned (i.e. the induction of an office and the exchange of prisoners) and neither have we accepted any other condition with any other side nor have we conducted any talks with Karzai administration. "

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta (R) talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a visit to Kabul (March 15, 2012)
The Taliban believe President Karzai (seen here with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta) is weak

DAWOOD AZAMI: It is clear that the group hold President Hamid Karzai in contempt. They believe he weak and cannot make big decisions without US approval. Their thinking is that the only people worth talking to are those with power - the US. In their view, there is no point "wasting time" with the Afghans at this stage.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "A memorandum of understanding which was agreed upon earlier was not yet fulfilled when an American representative presented a list of conditions in his latest meeting with the Islamic Emirate which were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points. So it was due to their alternating and ever changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans. We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders."

DAWOOD AZAMI: It seems that the Taliban are also worried that mixed messages by the US and Afghan officials about the nature and scope of these talks is creating confusion among their rank and file. And the negotiations over release of prisoners is taking longer than they expected. The leadership needed to show the immediate benefits of their new approach to their members, especially to the new generation of Taliban who are apparently more extremist in their approach. As negotiations drag on, they run the risk of appearing weak to their own. By engaging in a process without a tangible benefit, the leadership is also worried about possible internal suspicion among the Taliban themselves and conspiracies with some members suspecting others of using talks for personal advantage.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "To elucidate the standpoint of the Islamic Emirate to our own Muslim people, to the transgressors and to the entire world, the inauguration of political office in Qatar was not but for the sake of reaching an understanding with the outside world and particularly for the exchange of prisoners with the Americans in the initial stages. But it seems that the invading Americans and their stooge regime took advantage of these measures of Islamic Emirate and sought to achieve other malicious objectives and therefore are postponing the core issues and are wasting time.

DAWOOD AZAMI: This is all about trust. It took a long time for the US and the Taliban to agree on launching a political process and opening an office. It will even take longer to build trust. Although it was expected that there will be ups and downs, the Taliban's decision to suspend their political activities is not a good sign for either of them.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "So the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from today onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time."

DAWOOD AZAMI: This statement makes it clear that this is temporary. The Taliban have a different mentality. They cannot understand why the US cannot deliver quickly on negotiations about prisoner exchanges. They don't understand while the US would also talk about other issues that weren't strictly on their agenda at times. In some ways, it shows political naivety and the different pressures they are under.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "Similarly the Afghan issue has two main dimensions; one is internal and the other external. The external dimension is associated with Americans and the internal dimension is connected with the Afghans themselves. Until and unless the external dimension is settled which rests entirely in the hands of the foreigners, discussing the internal dimension is meaningless and is nothing more than a waste of time. Therefore the Islamic Emirate considers talking with the Kabul administration as pointless."

DAWOOD AZAMI: The presence of foreign forces is the external part of the problem. The Taliban believe that once they are out, only then can the Taliban, and all the other factions inside Afghanistan talk about the future of their country.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "At the same time, the Islamic Emirate is fully prepared, has enduring patience and long-term jihadi strategies against the malicious plots of the enemy and enjoys the ceaseless support of its believing nation. The Islamic Emirate correlates the presence of the alien forces in Afghanistan with instability of the entire region and will not tolerate it in the present shape nor temporary and neither in the shape of permanent bases."

"The Islamic Emirate once again calls on the entire world and particularly the regional countries to support and back the Islamic Emirate in expelling of the invaders in order to achieve peace and stability in the whole region."

Afghan riot polcemen stand guard as demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against Koran desecration in Kabul on February 23, 2012
The burning of copies of the Koran sparked widespread protests against foreign troops last month

DAWOOD AZAMI: The killing of 16 civilians in Kandahar by a US soldier is probably irrelevant to this statement. It probably would have happened anyway. The incident is probably just an excuse. What is clear is that frustration has been building up for some time.

TALIBAN STATEMENT: "The Islamic Emirate is fully prepared, has enduring patience and long-term jihadi strategies against the malicious plots of the enemy and enjoys the ceaseless support of its believing nation."

DAWOOD AZAMI: Taliban have no doubt benefited from recent incidents in Afghanistan such as the burning of copies of the Koran and the killing of Afghan civilians by a US soldier in Kandahar's Panjwai district. The expression of anger against foreign troops by ordinary Afghans has emboldened the Taliban who now feel their support has increased. In the meantime, they are preparing for a major spring offensive to put more pressure on the foreign forces and make their exit bloody.

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