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Former Taliban Commander Concedes Election Defeat


(Prague, Czech Republic--October 20, 2004) Former Taliban leader Abdul Salam Rokety has told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the October 9 presidential election marked a defeat for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In an RFE/RL interview in Kandahar Tuesday, Abdul Salamy Rokety said: "the Taliban had declared they would destroy the election process and would not allow the elections to take place. They failed... In my opinion, the election was a defeat for Taliban."

Rokety was military commander of the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan until the Taliban regime was overthrown by U.S. Forces and he was taken prisoner and interned at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Recently released, Rokety now lives in the south-western Zabul province. He supports Hamid Karzai, head of the Afghan Transitional Authority, and voted for Karzai on October 9.

Rokety said in the RFE/RL interview that Taliban supporters are still trying to fight the new government and gain recruits in local communities. But, he said, they could be encouraged to negotiate with the Karzai government "if they (Taliban members) have some assurance that they will not be persecuted."

Rokety's comments were echoed by Lieutenant General David Barno, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who according to wire service reports said yesterday the presidential election marked "a significant defeat" for the Taliban.

The RFE/RL interview, broadcast on Radio Free Afghanistan October 19, is the first in a series of RFE/RL interviews with former officials and supporters of the Taliban. The series will examine a view held by a growing number of observers inside Afghanistan, that the Taliban is a spent force and no longer poses a significant threat to the demilitarizing, democratizing process in the country.

The interviews will be translated into English from the original Dari and Pashto and posted on Radio Free Afghanistan's website, www.azadiradio.org/en/.

Radio Free Afghanistan, the Dari- and Pashto-language service of RFE/RL, broadcasts 12 hours of programming a day, with programs produced in Prague and the service's Kabul Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, satellite and AM and FM signals provided by the International Broadcasting Bureau. Radio Free Afghanistan programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's trilingual website www.azadiradio.org and at www.rferl.org.

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