“It is clear to all that war is no longer a solution. War and peace continuing at the same time has been and will be a failed experience. The real solution for peace in Afghanistan is a political one that is possible through a ceasefire and peace talks.”
Afghan Peace Watch (APW) has conducted an exclusive interview with Sediq Seddiqi, the spokesman for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The same interview questions answered by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, are available in English, Pashto, and Dari versions on our website as well.
The full text of the interview is as follows:
Is peace probable in Afghanistan?
Yes, it is one of the fundamental demands of the people. Peace is a priority of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in light of the sacred religion of Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the ultimate national interest of our country. The genuine peace-supporting efforts of the Afghan leadership have, over time, transformed the peace process from an abstract dialogue to a strong national, regional, and international phenomenon. The active and comprehensive regional and international diplomacy of the Afghan government has made peace more practical than ever before. Now is the time for the Taliban to renounce war and violence, accept a ceasefire, and prepare for peace talks at the request of the people, the Afghan government and the international community.
What, in summary, is your plan for Afghan peace?
The beliefs of the sacred religion of Islam, the will of the people, the Constitution, the republic and democracy, and the achievements of the country over the past two decades have led the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s vision and plan for peace. To be clear, in light of these issues, holding peace consultative jirgas – a jirga of 3,000 religious scholars, a jirga of youth and women, a jirga of scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia; establishing a broad and inclusive delegation for negotiations; and forming the Reconciliation Council are practical and peace-loving initiatives that demonstrate not only the plan for peace and dialogue, but also the necessary readiness of the Government of Afghanistan in this regard.
Who threatens the peace process and why? What are their benefits in it?
According to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban are the supporters of those who resort to violence and killing by creating fear and terror. They maintain strategic hideouts and are involved in the criminal economy and narcotics. They keep the warlords unaffected to gain their immoral benefits and create a safe environment for terrorists. Such groups are the main threat to the peace process.
What do you desire for Afghans and Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is the common home of all Afghans. The Government of Afghanistan intends broad and practical programs in the fields of security and stability, as well as economic and trade development. I want the development of political, economic and trade relations with countries in the region and around the world, to fight against poverty, generate employment, balanced development; combat against all forms of corruption and narcotics; and ultimately create a prosperous and peaceful environment for every citizen of the country. This will enable them to live within Afghanistan (as their common home) without any fears or anxiety.
How will Afghanistan look after peace?
The end of the war and the establishment of lasting and comprehensive peace and stability in the country are the fundamental demands of the people and among the priorities of the Government of Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan has a clear vision in terms of the resources, opportunities and strengths of being a rich country. The demand of both the countrymen and the Government of Afghanistan is an end to war and violence. When the war is over, our development programs will be accelerated in light of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and based on national priorities, and thus we will move towards a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan.
Do you support the presence of foreign military or civilians in Afghanistan after peace?
The strategic vision of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in relation to international partners is quite clear. The Government of Afghanistan, as an independent country, expects to further develop its friendly relations with the countries in the region and around the globe based on mutual respect and strategic interests. We believe that in the twenty-first century, political isolation and living within the framework of the Middle-Ages do not seem rational.
If international forces withdraw, how likely is it that civil war will initiate?
Afghanistan as an independent and united country benefits from a system (republican system) based on the Constitution, as well as the will of the people. However, given the political, regional and international tensions surrounding the country, it should be noted that the presence of a criminal economy in the region, the provision of safe-havens for terrorists, and the proxy warfare that some terrorist groups and their allies take advantage of, are not only major threats to Afghanistan. It also poses a threat to countries in the region and around the world. Therefore, given the current situation and the approaches to end regional and global security threats, the international community demands that by the end of the war, the current situation should be generally under national and international supervision. The heartbreaking memories of the Civil War remain in the hearts of the people and we will by no means allow this to happen again. Afghanistan currently has a very strong social and governmental capacity and the threats of terrorist groups will never lead to a civil war in the country.
What is your biggest hope for peace in Afghanistan?
The end of war and violence is one of the biggest demands of the countrymen and the state. The people of Afghanistan are tired of war. They want an end to the war and a speeded-up peace process. The Government of Afghanistan has taken fundamental steps towards peace and we hope that the Taliban will also renounce violence, accept a ceasefire and agree to peace talks. We expect that the Taliban will stop fighting and listen to the voice of peace of the countrymen, the country and the international community.
What is your biggest fear about peace in Afghanistan?
The biggest concern of the people about the future is the continuation of war and violence. Peace comes after every war and the people and the government of Afghanistan want a dignified and honored peace. We hope that terrorists will stop killing, believe in peace and stability, and take practical steps in this regard.
Do you think that the peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghans will bring peace in the country? Will this agreement lead to an end to decades of war in the country?
The people and the government of Afghanistan want an end to violence and war in the country and the establishment of lasting peace. War is a vicious and hateful phenomenon and it is the Taliban who provide a breeding ground for the movements and activities of other groups by carrying out their inhumane and intimidating acts. We expect that the Taliban will cut ties with other terrorist groups and end the war. We are pleased with the peace agreement and see it as a historic opportunity and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan stands ready to take all necessary steps towards peace.
Do you think that the Partial Ceasefire mechanism will pave the way for a lasting ceasefire and lasting peace?
The widespread reduction in the level of violence, the undeclared ceasefire and the subsequent commence of negotiations will lead to a lasting ceasefire and lasting peace in the country. Regarding peace, we would say the most important issue is the peace-loving intentions of the parties involved. When there is a real will for peace, the continuation of violence does not make any sense. So if the Taliban have a real will for peace, they must listen to the demands of the countrymen and the international community, accept the ceasefire, and be prepared towards peace negotiations.
Has any party violated the Qatar Agreement? (If so, please specify)
Yes! After the signing of the peace agreement (between the Taliban and the United States), the most important and fundamental issue was a reduction in the level of violence in the country but in contrast, the Taliban carried out thousands of security operations. Besides the Afghan army, they have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children, and even shed the blood of Imams in holy places (mosques). Last week, the Taliban reportedly carried out the most violent incidents in 19 years. These anti-security moves by the Taliban show that the group has seriously violated its agreement with the United States.
Why has the number of attacks blamed on ISIS increased since the US-Taliban agreement?
The Afghan government has destroyed the hideouts of the ISIS group and a big defeat of the ISIS group has been achieved by the security and defense forces of the country.
Who is ISIS?
ISIS is a terrorist group that has tried to hide in Afghanistan and has been severely defeated by our security and defense forces.
When is a permanent ceasefire possible?It would be possible only if the Taliban remain committed to peace and start face-to-face negotiations with the Afghan government. It is clear to all that war is no longer the solution. The experience of war and peace at one time has been and will be a failed experience. The real solution for peace in Afghanistan is a political solution, which is possible through a ceasefire and peace talks. So, if the Taliban are determined to make peace, they must adhere to a ceasefire as a fundamental rule and participate in the peace talks.