Spokesman tells Pakistani media that they could end the resistance in Panjshir ‘within a day’ but wish to resolve the issue through dialogue
The Taliban have warned of “consequences” if NATO and U.S.-led forces do not leave Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 deadline, stressing that there will be no further extension after Washington already violated its previous May 1 commitment to withdraw all troops.
Any further delay in the exit of foreign troops would be considered an extension of foreign occupation, and the Taliban leadership would determine a response, warned spokesman Suhail Shaheen during an interview broadcast on Geo News on Monday. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden hinted at extending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan if it were warranted to ensure protection for American citizens who have not yet been evacuated.
The all-encompassing interview, conducted by anchor Shahzeb Khanzada, also discussed the harrowing scenes witnessed at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, with Shaheen blaming former president Ashraf Ghani and his administration for the panic. He reiterated that the Taliban only entered Kabul because the previous government had abandoned security posts and offices, which had raised the potential for looting and unrest.
To a question on how the Taliban could guarantee security, especially at the airport swarmed by thousands of panicking Afghans and foreigners, the spokesman claimed that an “intelligence office” was active and monitoring for any threat from groups such as ISIS. “We have restored calm. Every passing day situation is improving,” he claimed.
Describing ISIS as a “foreign phenomenon” without any roots in Afghanistan, he claimed it had gone into hiding following the Taliban’s takeover, and urged them to leave the country. “We have a clear policy that we will not let anyone use Afghan soil against Pakistan or any other country. The coming era is of development and prosperity,” he said.
To a question on whether Pakistan had—as reported by the Voice of America—provided Afghanistan with a list of its “most wanted” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, Shaheen said he was not aware of any such development.
Addressing the National Resistance Front gathering in Panjshir Valley, under the leadership of Ahmed Massoud, Shaheen said Taliban fighters had surrounded them and could end the conflict “in a day” but would rather negotiate for peace. “The Taliban are in a position to win Panjshir in a day but it is our policy to settle all disputes in a peaceful manner. Yet if they prefer war, then its responsibility lies on them,” he said, adding that the Taliban desired an inclusive government, but the NRF comprised people who “wanted more than their share.”
The spokesman also discussed the recent bursts of violence linked to some Afghans displaying the tri-color national flag and being targeted for retaliation by Taliban forces. He said the Afghanistan flag should contain an Islamic inscription, representing the Muslim population, but would be formally decided at an appropriate time. He also said that the Taliban would form a committee to draft a constitution, decide about voting rights and prepare a framework concerning the rights of all segments of society, including the status of women and media freedom.