In contemporary groups, the Taliban was the only group that was not experienced ramification and division. Nevertheless, since several years, it has been tried to bring disparity and disparity among the Taliban, however, they were able to keep their unity. When the death of former the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omer became exposed, serious disputes became created in the ranks of the Taliban for the first time and eventually it paved the ground for a new group of the Taliban to be separated formally under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Rassoul. Besides that, the Taliban have been in struggle against the ISIS in last few months, so rumors about that the Taliban that want to get help from regional countries to fight against ISIS is also heard. therefore, it is said that the representatives of the Taliban met Russian representatives in Tajikistan. Meanwhile, the peace talks with the Taliban are stopped as result of these disputes and recently, rumors about reinitiating the peace talks in the near future are also heard.
Abdullah Jawed, from the CSRS media group interviewed with Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, writer and political Analyst based in Kabul.
Thank you from your time. My first question is that in last few days, it is said that the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will be reinitiated, what is the condition of the Afghan peace process, are there any efforts about the peace talks made behind the doors?
Mutmaeen: First of all, I thank the CSRS that conduct researches and do comprehensive activates, for maintaining the peace, the Afghan government, International Community and the Taliban should be committed at first; but unfortunately, the Afghan government is not committed for the peace; and for the government, peace means surrender of the Taliban to the government. It tries to maintain peace by fighting against the Taliban; in this regard, a new report shows that 24 million US$ is being spent on war in Afghanistan on a daily basis; if the Afghan government had spent the half or half of the half of this money in the peace process, we would have peace now, if Afghan government do this now and they spend money in peace process instead of war, we will have a positive result in term of Peace. Moreover, if the Afghan government gave $1 to every person per day, there are 5-7 persons in every family; we would not have poverty in Afghanistan nowadays, then.
International Community also doesn’t have a special policy for the peace process; the Taliban are committed for peace, but lack of a special policy by Afghan government and trying of the government to separate the Taliban, the Taliban were compiled to keep fighting. It is clear that some groups and regional intelligence interfere in peace process and they don’t let peace to be maintained in Afghanistan, overall for the maintenance of peace, all Afghans should become involved in it, the Taliban and the government should make sacrifices and both sides should accept some demands of each other and International Community should help in and pave the ground for the peace process.
Previously, It was said that disputes between the Taliban are going to be solved, but separating of a group form the Taliban group of Mullah Mohammad Mansoor shows that disputes between the Taliban groups is getting increased; in your opinion, what will be the results of these disputes?
Mutmaeen: For the maintenance of peace, the Taliban’s unity should be protect and they should be prevent from ramification, If the Taliban are separated into groups, peace process will be faced with obstacles, Afghan government and International community are faced with problems which groups of the Taliban should be negotiated, if Afghan government is committed to the peace process, it should not be happy on separating of the Taliban; vice versa, for success of peace process, it is needed that Afghan government should talk with a formal leadership of the Taliban, moreover, the government should take care that the Taliban want their 14 years fights should not come under criticism and they don’t want that other groups should get the privileges of their 14 years fights.
Disunity among the Taliban is not on the level that media show and separation of Mullah Mohammad Rasool doesn’t mean that a big division will be created among the Taliban, majority military part of the Taliban, scholars and family members of Mullah Mohammad Omer are with Mullah Mohammad Mansoor, and Mullah Mohammad Rassoul could be separated due to small issues. In the Afghan society, sometimes it happens that a small personal issue could become turned into a big issue and could create serious disparity, in my opinion, this disparity harms peace process and I wish that both group of the Taliban should join the peace process and they should not create more problems in front of the peace process; otherwise, the experience of 1990s civil wars will be repeated that no sides will get benefits, there were small disputes among Mujahedin, but after a few times they get large and pave the way for war, so if the Taliban don’t resolve their smalls disputes, it is possible that by interfering of regional intelligence, their disputes get larger.
What do you think about claims of the leaders of the splitter group on Akhtar Mohammad Masnoor, to what extent they are right?
Mutmaeen: When disparity happens between two people or two groups, they criticize each other a lot that it is very common in Afghan society, Mullah Mohammad Mansoor and Mullah Mohammad Rasool were very close before, one of them was leader and another was his deputy, moreover both was very close to Mullah Mohammad Omer, in my opinion, it is not right that they should criticize each other, their claims on each other are only claims and they satisfy their fans and followers by their claims on each other.
It is needed that they should not criticize each other and they should not make people worried, if they continue their disputes, they will become under criticize of other people, because they were together 14 years and their enemy was clear, but now they are disunited.
According to some reports, close friends or close followers of Mullah Mohammad Omar are being fired from the leadership of the Taliban, is this true?
Mutmaeen: I don’t think so because Mullah Mohammad Mansoor was close and believable followers and he was a minister of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and when Americans attacked on Afghanistan, he was governor of Kandahar province, then he was selected as a deputy of Mullah Mohammad Omer, so now he is elected as leader of the Taliban by leadership council of the Taliban, it is possible that some people were opposite of Mullah Mohammad Mansoor and they are still opposite to accept him as their leader, so that is why some officials of leadership council of the Taliban are fired, but it doesn’t mean that they fight against them because they were needed still this time, and they will hire new people, it is also possible that some the Taliban officials resigned themselves, like Sayed Tayeb Agha, he was political representative of the Taliban in Qatar office, like Mullah Abdul Qayom Zakir and so on, when Mullah Mohammad Omer ordered on leadership council of the Taliban, official of leadership council of the Taliban accepted his order, so this is also continued in period of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Monsoor, members of the Taliban are not trusted to be hired in high posts.
How much the disparity among the Taliban will affect the peace process with the Taliban?
Mutmaeen: Disparity among the Taliban makes obstacles toward the peace process, and then it will be very hard for the government and the International Community to negotiate with the Taliban and International Community will be not able to cooperate in peace process. The government is seriously committed on peace and president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani gave priority to war to fight against the Taliban in order to bring peace, so it I think it is very hard and it could be impossible to bring peace by fighting against the Taliban, if it was possible, 150000 international forces and 300000 of their contractors would remove the Taliban from Afghanistan, furthermore, the Taliban also should not thing that the government is able to kill all the Taliban members, so both sides should try their best to negotiate in order to maintain a permanent peace in Afghanistan.
Now the question raises that even with the unknown future and chaotic situation, why our youth joins the ranks of the Taliban (Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour’s and Mullah Mohammad Rasoul’s group) and even ISIS?
Afghans are religious people and they are allergic with foreign forces and love the independence. The history of the world shows that Afghans and Turks never been colonized, hence, a lot of youth join the Taliban without getting any salary. A lot of youth, due to poverty and in order to gain money, join the army, police and even Arbaki (Local Police) and they fight everyone for money and they even join Americans, too. When they join Americans, it means they join everyone.
As you know, a few days ago a bloody war went off between ISIS and Taliban in Zabul province and at the end, five abducted people were also rescued; I want to ask that at what direction is the war between ISIS and Taliban headed? And will the Taliban be able to suppress ISIS in Afghanistan?
Mutmaeen: first; we have to distinguish the group that is active under the name of ISIS in Afghanistan from the group that is active under this name in Iraq and Syria; the ISIS in Afghanistan is the group that has pledged alliance to ISIS, and they have not appointed the ISIS leaders but ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a group created by the people of that region and then the people from other regions and countries have joined them. The emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan is the result of the regional intelligence agencies’ efforts. Second; the Afghan-ISIS are in a big part are Uzbek fighters in Zabul, and the people of Urukzai from the other side of Duran Line in Nangarhar.
Uzbek fighters who had come to Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, after overthrow of the Taliban regime went to Wazirestan and since they were unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of the people living there Pashtuns and Afghans and due to their misconception about Islam in the Middle East they took some emotional steps and killed some tribal leaders and even some scholars; thus they confronted some problems there. When the Pakistan government began its operations in Wazirestan the Uzbek fighters came back to Afghanistan and since Mullah Mohammad Omar was not alive they swore alliance with ISIS and wanted to spread their activities in the northern Afghanistan, but the Taliban did not let them do so and thus the Taliban began their operations in Takhar, Badakhshan, Kunduz and some other Northern provinces and Uzbek fighters along with their families were settled in Zabul and continued their activities there.
In the beginning the Taliban had requested from them not to settle all in one place and must spread every 10 families in each village and area, but they did not accepted this request of the Taliban. Later Mullah Mansoor Dadullah that had personal issues with Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, separated from the Taliban and joined ISIS (the Uzbek fighters) and together they began their activities. It is said that Mullah Mansoor Dadullah accuses some Taliban members in his brother Mullah Dadullah’s killing, although they then negotiated with each other and a delegation of scholars tried to convince them to make peace with each other and as they (Taliban) say among themselves, one province must be given to Mullah Mansoor Dadullah and in return he must rejoin the Taliban. They were close to make peace, but it never happened. The Afghan ISIS did some actions contrary to the Afghan customs and traditions; first they abducted 31 Hazaras including children and women. Hazaras in response to this action of Uzbek fighters had kidnapped some Pashtun women because these Uzbek fighter were settled in the Pashtun areas and they were supported by Mullah Mansoor Dadullah. The issue was close to start a tribal conflict, but then the tribal leaders went to Taliban and requested them to help. First the Taliban warned the Uzbek fighters and after the negative respond of the, the Taliban began their operations against ISIS, and thus the Taliban captured and killed many ISIS fighters and freed abducted people and forced Uzbeks to settle as mentioned before in separate areas. Taliban wants to prevent chaos in the name of ISIS in Afghanistan. Those Uzbek fighters who had come with a good will, due to their ignorance they faced such fate it is regretful; but the Taliban reasons that if they were not prevented they would have caused sedition and the sedition is a major damage therefore the Taliban went to war with them. But I wished that the war would not have happened and the issue would have been solved through talks.
If the situation is so chaotic and uncertain then why do youth join Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor’s group of Taliban, Mullah Rasoul group of Taliban, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah and even ISIS?
Mutmaeen: if it was not because of the faith and if youth were not convinced through faith then they would not have joined the Taliban. Afghans are religious people and they are really sensitive about the presence of the foreigners in their country and are freedom loving people. World’s history shows that Afghans and Turks have never been slaves; that is why that youth are joining the Taliban without any salary. In Afghanistan, due to poverty and unemployment many of youth join the army, police, Arbaki (local police), and even Americans and for money they are ready to fight against anyone; so if one can join Arbakis and Americans then he can join other groups too. My later words does not means that my former words were wrong; yes Afghans are freedom loving people but there are also some slave-minded people among them; some Afghans were spying for British people, Russians came by some Afghans and also the American are here by some Afghans.
Illiteracy and ignorance is also the reason of their joining these groups. Tribal relations and relatives is also another factor that people join these groups. Overall since the Taliban and particularly the greater group of the Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor have a poor educational system and are only focused on war and unlike the Mujahidin during the Jihad against Russia they have failed to reform individuals and train cadres; that is the reason that some Taliban are splitting from the group of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and either join other groups or form new groups.
Recently there was some news that the Taliban have met Russian in Tajikistan and it is said that the Taliban are trying to obtain assistance from countries in the region, in this regard what is your opinion?
Mutmaeen: before this some Taliban had communicated with Russians with the mediation of Pakistan, but it was not the official position of the Taliban and then these communications were not pursued. Generally the Middle East do not have the potential of military or financial aid to the Taliban, but Russia is concerned about the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan and also about the presence of US and its plan about spreading war to the North and thus threaten Russia, Middle East and China. Therefore, it is possible that Russians have talked with the Taliban and they may have promised military assistance and particular anti-aircraft weapons to the Taliban. Overall neither the Taliban have proposed to have relations with each other nor do they expect anything form Russians. Russians are the ones who have contacted the Taliban due to their needs otherwise Russians still do not believe in Taliban.
If Russia wanted to give anti-aircraft weapons to the Taliban it may give it through Iran, Neither Russia will afford to directly assist the Taliban nor will the Taliban maintain long term relations with Russia, because the longer US and Russia compete in Afghanistan the longer will war last in the country and Afghans will be its victims.
Some time ago, during his visit to US the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan cannot kill the Taliban and at the same time bring them to the negotiation table; what do you think what is the current policy of Pakistan about the Afghan Taliban? Will it suppress the Taliban or it will support them?
Mutmaeen: however, Pakistan was very violent against the Taliban and tried to suppress them; for example they arrested a skillful diplomat of the Taliban Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef and handed him over to US, martyred Ustad Yaser, martyred the Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in prison after much suffering, but when the Taliban received weapons and became organized then Pakistan had to get along with them and also the Taliban needed to stay at the borders of Pakistan. When Pakistan argues that it cannot kill the Taliban and at the same time bring them to the negotiation table, it is a logical argument and the Pakistani Prime Minister has said so because the Afghan government puts pressure on Pakistan to suppress the Taliban and also bring them to the negotiation table. Actually the Afghan government does not have a specific peace strategy and thus takes contrary positions in this regard. First the Afghan government must be sincerely committed to peace; second, it must have a specific peace strategy. On the other hand, Pakistan is also not sincerely committed to peace and only cares about its own interests and receives money under the name of the Taliban, and there are also some NGOs that receive money under the name of the Taliban. Both the Taliban and Pakistan have their own obligations/weak points; therefore, Pakistan always keeps the balance between suppressing and supporting them.