By Bill Roggio
In a recent statement that addressed comments by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Taliban reiterated that it considers itself the sole representative of the Afghan people. This is at odds with the opinion of some analysts who advise the US government on policy with respect to a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.
The Taliban statement, which is dated June 23 and published at Voice of Jihad, addressed Stoltenberg’s comments that “the way to achieve that [peace] is not to leave Afghanistan. The way to achieve that is to stay in Afghanistan”.
During the Taliban’s response – which reiterated that all foreign forces must leave before negotiations can begin, a consistent Taliban position for more than a decade – the group said it views itself as the only representative of the Afghan people.
“Taliban is not some group but is another name of the Afghan nation,” it said while addressing the issue of whether the group can be defeated militarily.
While this may be seen by some to be a trivial issue, it is important as some who advise the US government on negotiations insist that the Taliban is not seeking to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name of the Taliban’s government) and is willing to enter negotiations with the Afghan government. For instance:
Whatever so-called Taliban figures may be saying in private – keep in mind the Taliban has consistently stated its representatives are not talking to US, NATO, and Afghan officials, and the US has been duped by Taliban impostors claiming to represent the group in the past – the Taliban has been very clear that it views itself as the only legitimate representative of the Afghan people. It has said so in the past.
The Taliban has also very publicly stated that it will not share power with an Afghan government that it views as an illegitimate puppet of the West. Note the Taliban said it won’t share power and “the Emirate” is “the true representative of our people” back in Jan. 2016 [emphasis added]:
The Islamic Emirate has not readily embraced this death and destruction for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power. On the contrary they epitomize the nation’s hopes and aspirations for a just and peaceful government that will strive to build our beloved nation on the basis of Islamic law, social justice and national interests.
The people of Afghanistan readily sacrifice their sons to achieve this objective. And the Emirate – as the true representative of our people – will not end its peaceful and armed endeavors until we have achieved this hope of Afghanistan.
The US, NATO, and the Afghan government continue to be optimistic about the prospects for negotiations and peace with the Taliban and unilaterally extended their ceasefire, even as the Taliban relaunched its offensive after a three day pause. The Taliban continues to deny that it is in talks with Afghan government, and insists that all foreign troops must leave the country before any talks can begin. Additionally, the group refuses to denounce al Qaeda or any other foreign jihadist group that operate alongside it.
The US government cannot get Afghanistan right if it continues to fail to understand the Taliban and its goal, which is the reestablishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.
The topic was first published in the FDD's Long War Journal. on 26 June 2018
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The article does not reflect the official opinion of the AISS.