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‘War is Over’

by Newsweek Pakistan

Screengrab of the Taliban taking control of the Afghanistan Presidential Palace

Declaring victory in Afghanistan, the Taliban announce they want ‘peaceful’ relations with foreign countries and vow to respect ‘sharia-compliant’ women’s rights

A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha early on Monday declared that the war in Afghanistan “was over,” and called for peaceful relations with the international community going forward.

Speaking to Al Jazeera TV, Mohammad Naeem stressed that the Taliban wanted to have peaceful relations with foreign nations, adding that they had already opened channels of communication with several nations that would be further developed. “We ask all countries and entities to sit with us to settle any issues,” he said, noting that the group’s takeover of Afghanistan had not targeted any diplomatic body or headquarters. He also sought to guarantee safety for citizens and diplomatic missions based in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, a little over a week after a ramp-up in their offensive across Afghanistan, the Taliban encircled capital Kabul, bringing to a head the standoff between the elected government and the insurgents. As tensions mounted, Ashraf Ghani tendered his resignation as president and fled the country, claiming in a statement that he wanted to avoid bloodshed and conflict. His decision has been described as “traitorous” by members of his government who still remain in Afghanistan.

The Taliban spokesperson said Ghani’s speedy exit was “unexpected,” adding that “even those close to him did not expect it.”

During his interview, spokesman Naeem addressed concerns that the return of the Taliban would result in a rollback of hard-win rights for women and minorities. He claimed that the group respected women’s and minorities’ rights, as well as the freedom of expression—so long as they were in line with sharia law. He also offered a fig leaf to political figures aligned against the Taliban, claiming they were ready for “dialogue” and would assure them “necessary protection.”

The spokesperson stressed that the Taliban wanted to adopt a policy of non-interference in the affairs of foreign countries so long as they assured it of the same. “We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he said. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others,” he said, adding that the Taliban did not think foreign forces would “repeat their failed experience in Afghanistan once again.”

Panic despite assurances

Even though the Taliban have sought to reassure the public of a “general amnesty,” claiming they would not target any civilians or government employees, reports of panic amongst the population of Kabul persist. As the insurgents encircled Kabul, many rushed to the city’s airport in a bid to secure passage out of the country, as the Taliban already control every land border crossing. Most had no options left, as all commercial flights have been suspended, while many banks have also halted operations “temporarily.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement, said that Washington would only recognize a government led by the Taliban if it upheld basic rights of its people and kept terrorists out of Afghanistan. He warned that international assistance to a Taliban-led government in Kabul would not happen if they did not respect basic rights and did not stop harboring terrorists.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated that the country had “no favorites” in Afghanistan, adding that Islamabad desired a political solution to the conflict in line with the desires of the international community.

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