“The question here is if the Taliban want peace, why do they rage on further violence and war? Their pretexts of foreigners’ presence in Afghanistan, through which they justified their Jihad, have also been addressed now. What kind of Jihad is it against Afghan schools, teachers, doctors and Ulema now?” the National Security Council (NSC) Spokesman Javid Faisal made the remarks during an exclusive interview with Afghan Peace Watch (APW).
We invite you to read the full text of the interview here and gain insights into the Afghan peace process!
- What do you think would solve the current deadlock over prisoner release in the Afghan peace process?
The main stumbling block has been created by the Taliban here. The onus is on the Taliban to honor what the group has earlier agreed to. The Afghan government has released nearly 5,000 Taliban inmates even though Afghans haven’t participated in the peace negotiations yet and the government wasn’t part of the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban last February.
The Taliban had promised to set free 1,000 Afghan security personnel in their custody but the group hasn’t completed the process because only 800 have been released so far. In addition, there are 22 commando and several air force personnel who are still being held by the insurgents – there is no information about their health and welfare.
The Taliban should release those captives so that the government also frees the remaining 320 out of the total 400 hard-core Taliban prisoners.
- Are there any international pressures hindering the prisoner release process?
There is no such thing. Because it was the Afghan nation who decided on the prisoner swap through the Consultative Loya Jirga a few weeks ago, the government respects and is implementing their demand. The Afghan president has a clarified stance in this regard. Let me emphasize again that the issue lies with the Taliban, who haven’t delivered on what they pledged.
The international community supports the Afghan government’s peace efforts and we collaboratively proceed with all matters related to peace.
- Amid lag in the prisoner release process, the Taliban have intensified attacks, killing civilians and security forces alike, despite agreeing to a reduction in violence in the peace pact with the US. Do you believe there has been a loophole in the peace deal?
First of all, the peace pact in Doha wasn’t an Afghan peace agreement but something that belonged to issues between the US and the Taliban. There has been nothing discussed about ‘Afghan peace’ there.
Secondly, since then there hasn’t been steady progress made in the peace process as expected and needed. The main aspect of the deal was to put an end to bloodshed and violence but to no avail. The Taliban haven’t reduced violence and to the contrary, they have increased it. This means since the deal, we haven’t seen a positive stimulation and enthusiasm for peace.
The question here is if the Taliban want peace, why do they rage on further violence and war? Their pretexts of foreigners’ presence in Afghanistan, through which they justified their Jihad, have also been addressed now. What kind of Jihad is it against Afghan schools, teachers, doctors and Ulema now?
The Taliban should reduce violence and for that end, the international community, especially the US that signed an agreement with them, should put pressures on the insurgent group.
Moreover, there were a few matters that the Taliban expressed commitment to in the deal: prisoner release, something that hasn’t happened yet, and shredding links with international terrorist groups which also hasn’t been done as the Taliban are still nurturing ties with such extremist groups. These promises haven’t been honored and sincere efforts for peace not undertaken – which could have included reducing violence, as well as boosting people’s trust in the peace process and the Taliban’s intentions regarding peace.
- What do you think about the recent curbs on the Taliban by Pakistan and their subsequent visit to Islamabad?
We are interested in seeing the results of all these actions. Such moves and verbal promises have occurred in the past but not implemented in practice. Therefore, such repeated steps and talks are worthless to us unless we see practical measures and consequences.
There hasn’t been positive progress made in this regard so far and only time will tell what would happen in the future – we are waiting to witness the results of those sanctions and curbs.
- How do you see the neighboring countries’ role in the Afghan peace process? Is any country playing the spoiler’s role?
They can play both positive and negative roles. It’s without a doubt that our neighboring countries’ contribution and part in Afghan peace are more crucial than any other country. But only time will prove whether they are playing their essential roles positively or negatively.
However, we evaluate their role as pale and not too positive as of yet as the main causes of the Afghan war have emanated from outside Afghanistan’s borders and these origins of the war are still intact. Therefore, if achieving peace and ensuring that the Afghan war is not led from within neighboring states are truly the objectives, then terrorist sanctuaries and training centers there should be eliminated. Nevertheless, there haven’t been tangible actions in this regard, meaning their role wasn’t positive so far. We will observe if they change their stance and play a positive role in the future.
- Do the recent shootings in Spin-Boldak and the cross-border shelling into Afghan territory indicate that we are in an unannounced war with Pakistan? What is the stance of NSA in this regard?
We sent a high-level delegation following that incident that tried to address the issues on the local level as well. Besides, we shared this issue diplomatically with the Pakistani government because we want cordial relations – of mutual respect – with our neighbors.
There have been efforts made in this regard both on local and inter-state levels. Such efforts will continue because it’s necessary for us to live in harmony – something that will ensure and secure the interests of both the countries in this region.
- How do you see security forces’ morale on the ground given the fact that the US troops are leaving and the Taliban announce from time to time that they don’t consider the Afghan government as legitimate?
Such kinds of questions and concerns used to be brought up before 2014 as well. There were apprehensions that if foreign forces (totaling up to 15,000 at the time) brought their combative mission to an end in Afghanistan, there would be a decrease in assistance and Afghanistan would collapse.
The Taliban and other terrorist groups, as well as some countries, also expected the same. However, it was the valor, the sacrifices and the strong belief – in what they desired – of the Afghan nation and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) that the Afghan state and administration are still intact.
ANDSF are now very resilient and strong – our air forces, special forces and mortar shelling experts weren’t the same a few years back. Compared to the past, our security forces have strengthened to a great extent and would further improve. Furthermore, the ANDSF and the Afghan nation defend their soil based on a patriotic sense – they believe their drive and campaign are righteous and they think that good will always be victorious over evil. All of their sacrifices to achieve this end have been numerous and grand. Thus, there are no material expectations for enduring all that – their patriotic sense is compelling them to defend their country.
- We have heard that the Americans have cut aid to the Afghan government; is that true?
Our ties with the US are defined and enshrined in two documents: the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Bilateral Security Agreement. Hence, our bilateral engagement and collaboration are in compliance with those agreements. Our bilateral ties are strong but there are still efforts being made to further strengthen them in other aspects because the alliance and partnership between the US and Afghanistan is long-term and continuous.
- How do you evaluate the current security situation in the country? Has it deteriorated or improved since the peace pact?
It was hoped that there would be a positive change in the overall security situation such as reducing violence, halting the ongoing Afghan genocide, and declaring a ceasefire because all of these provide a conducive environment for peace. Most importantly, facilitating peace is only feasible when there exists trust. At least, there should have been improvements brought in literature – a very meager request – meaning that peace literature should have been adopted. But none of those happened as expected.
However, it’s still not that much disappointing considering the Taliban’s track record in the past. Now, it’s important that if we’re heading towards peace, there should be assurances that whatever we do and any step we take, all of them are ultimately going to contribute to achieving lasting peace, as well as putting a halt to war once and for all.