Quantcast
Connect with us

‘Tired of War’: Taliban seek image makeover as Afghan peace talks gain momentum

Published

on

As moves toward peace pick up in Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying to show they have changed since the brutal days of the 1990s when they banned music and girls’ education and carried out public executions in Kabul’s football stadium.

“If peace comes and the Taliban return, then our return will not be in the same harsh way as it was in 1996,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told Reuters, referring to the year they took over in Kabul before their ouster by U.S.-led troops in 2001.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We want to assure Afghan nationals that there will be no threat to anyone from our side.”

The comments come as moves toward peace negotiations have intensified, following a series of meetings between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives over the past three months.

Expectations of a decisive shift have been heightened by reports that more than 5,000 U.S. troops may be withdrawn from Afghanistan, in an abrupt about-turn from the previous U.S. strategy of stepping up military pressure on the insurgents.

“Our opposition is with the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Once they are out and a peace deal is reached, then a nationwide amnesty will be announced,” said Mujahid.

ADVERTISEMENT

“No one, police, army, government employees or anyone, will face revenge behavior from our side.”

Reports of the withdrawal are unconfirmed but they have triggered alarm among many Afghans with bitter memories of the Taliban’s ultra-hardline regime.

“I don’t think their mindset has changed but they have realized that without respecting human rights, they cannot be accepted by the international community,” said Bilal Sediqi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

ADVERTISEMENT

With Afghanistan likely to remain dependent on foreign aid for years, the Taliban know they cannot return to the past when fighters swept into Kabul after the chaos of the 1990s civil war.

But they insist that as well as the withdrawal of foreign forces, there will be a return to their strict version of Islamic rule and many Afghans doubt their claims to have softened, even while yearning for an end to the war.

In June, Taliban leaders were angry at their fighters swapping selfies with soldiers and government officials and eating ice cream with civilians during a three-day ceasefire. Soon afterwards, they launched complex attacks on strategic provinces to try to oust Afghan forces and used civilians as human shields.

ADVERTISEMENT

“TIRED OF WAR”
“I know there is no place for me if the Taliban return in their old style,” said Abdul, a 12-year police veteran currently working in the western province of Farah.

“…I will stand by the government side whatever it decides. But still I have not lost my hope in the future. The Taliban are not the old ones. We see changes among them. They are also tired of war.”

The Taliban, a predominantly ethnic Pashtun movement, strongest in the south and east of the country, now control large stretches of the countryside, where they levy taxes, run courts and control education.

ADVERTISEMENT

For many conservative rural Afghans, Taliban rule provides welcome stability and the merciless punishments and rigid controls on women’s rights fit well with traditional practices in many areas.

In the Aqtash district of northern Kunduz province, a hotbed of Taliban insurgents, some women said they are allowed to walk freely and do not have to cover their faces in all-enveloping burqas.

Mujahid said the Taliban were not against women’s education or employment but wanted to maintain cultural and religious codes.

“We are not against women working in government organizations or against their outdoor activities, but we will be against the alien culture clothes worn by women, brought to our country,” Mujahid said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Omaid Maisam, the deputy spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive officer Abdullah Abdullah, said the government protects human rights and the Taliban must accept the national constitution to shed their hardline image.

“We have seen some signs of changes among them, but they have to show it in their actions that they have really changed,” he said.

Many believe the return on the Taliban would threaten the gains the country has made since 2001. Much work remains to be done to convince women in work or education and skeptical groups of ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras from northern and central Afghanistan.

“I think that these statements that the Taliban have changed are only excuses that are being used by the Taliban to gain acceptance,” said Malina Hamidi, a teacher at a school in the Chamtal district of Balkh province.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I am 100 percent confident that once they come back to power, they will be the same Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the nineties.”

Additional reporting by Abdul Matin Sahak in MAZAR-I SHARIF; Writing by Rupam Jain in Kabul; Editing by Nick Macfie


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

MSNBC’s Morning Joe rains hell on Democrats for arguing over ‘academic politics’ instead of Trump’s ‘threat to democracy’

Published

on

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough blasted Democratic presidential candidates for basically ignoring the constitutional and national security threat coming from the White House.

The "Morning Joe" host said Wednesday night's debate focused too much on "academic politics," which he said is a luxury this current political moment can't afford.

"It seems to me that the battles that we see in these debates remind me of the smallness of academic politics," Scarborough said. "The smallness, the difference, the minutia between, 'Did I help you get that passed, did you get that passed, you owe me this, I thank President Obama, but I don't thank you' -- come on, man."

Continue Reading

Facebook

Italy court to rule on iconic Da Vinci loan to Louvre

Published

on

An Italian court is to rule Wednesday on whether Leonardo da Vinci's iconic Vitruvian Man drawing can be loaned to France's Louvre, bringing to a head a bitter cultural row.

The Venice court last week suspended the loan of the world famous artwork, due to appear later this month in an exhibition at the Paris museum to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

It did so after an Italian heritage group, Italia Nostra (Our Italy), filed a complaint saying the drawing was too fragile to travel.

The Vitruvian Man is kept in a climate-controlled vault in the Accademia Gallery in Venice and is rarely displayed to the public.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

Austrian man held in Dutch cellar family ‘waiting for end of time’ case

Published

on

Dutch police were holding an Austrian man after the discovery of a father and his adult children who were believed to have stayed hidden in a remote farmhouse for years, officials said Wednesday.

The mystery surrounding the case in the village of Ruinerwold in the northern province of Drenthe also deepened with reports that one of the children had been active on social media this year.

Police said they discovered a father and five children aged between 18 and 25 on Monday and arrested a 58-year-old man -- not the father -- for failing to cooperate. They initially spoke of six children but later revised the number down.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image