Although the United Nations never formally recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan as the country's legitimate government, Abdul Hakim Mujahid served as a Taliban representative and point of contact for the UN. He also served as the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan -- which was one of just several countries to recognize the Taliban government. Years ago, Mujahid reconciled with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ahmadullah Takal, Mujahid discusses the possibility of reconciling today's Taliban insurgents through a traditional Afghan Loya Jirga -- a grand assembly of elders.RFE/RL: Do you see the Taliban agreeing to peace talks if they are asked by a Loya Jirga -- a traditional grand assembly -- to do so?Abdul Hakim Mujahid:
The issue is that the problem of Afghanistan is not in the hands of its president, the people or a Loya Jirga. The real problem is that the troops of 40 countries are stationed in Afghanistan and NATO, the U.K., and the U.S. are heading these troops. So [reconciliation talks will not work] as long as the foreign powers -- the United States and Britain in particular -- don't agree with this.
And it has to involve friendly governments who can influence the Afghan government and its armed opponents. They have to help in homework and facilitation of back channel discussions between the two sides. The issue of Afghanistan cannot simply be addressed by calling a Loya Jirga and inviting the opposition to come for talks.Taking Exception To SanctionsRFE/RL: But previously all the Western countries unanimously supported such talks with the Taliban. What makes you say that the required homework has not been done already? Mujahid:
It is very obvious and has been practically proven that no prior groundwork has taken place. The first important thing is to lift the sanctions on the leaders of the armed opposition. They are blacklisted and multimillion-dollar rewards are offered for some leaders of the opposition. They have not been recognized as a legitimate part of the political process. But no such step has been taken place so far.
So it is not logical to invite a person who has a bounty of millions of dollars [on him for his capture and] ask him to give up his sanctuary and attend this Loya Jirga. He might get captured the next day and end up in Guantanamo Bay [prison]. Who will guarantee their safety? Our president has no authority to even release somebody from Bagram [the main U.S. military prison in Afghanistan].
It is not logical to invite a person who has a bounty of millions of dollars [on him for his capture and] ask him to give up his sanctuary and attend this Loya Jirga.
These are all make-believe plans. Nobody would believe such talk unless foreign troops in Afghanistan act honestly, announce clear and transparent plans for addressing the issue, and announce there is clear platform about the presence of foreign troops.RFE/RL: You just mentioned that some countries have influence over the Taliban. Which countries are they and what can they do?Mujahid:
For instance, I can take the name of one country, and that is Saudi Arabia. I think it will be effective if Saudi Arabia is brought into this process and, at the same time, the foreign troops act with honesty.Atmosphere Of MistrustRFE/RL: But in the dialogue which is said to have already taken place in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban indicated they are unwilling to join negotiations unless all the foreign troops leave Afghanistan. What can be done in such a situation? What is the way out? Mujahid:
This main problem is that there is no atmosphere of trust.RFE/RL: So is it your conclusions that this atmosphere of mistrust can only disappear after foreign troops leave Afghanistan?Mujahid:
This atmosphere will only go away when the foreign forces -- the UN, the United States, and the United Kingdom -- get rid of contradictions in their policies. Their policies are now riddled with contradictions. Sometimes they say we [will] not negotiate with the hard-liners fighting against us but have no problems talking to the moderates.
Right now, several moderate leaders are living in a Kabul who are not even hostile to [the government]. But still they are under sanctions. These are the issues which increase mistrust. How can the armed opposition trust the process when several high-ranking people -- [former Taliban officials] -- are still under sanctions? How can you convince those who want to join [the peace process]?RFE/RL: What can those Taliban based in Kabul who are not fighting do in terms of bringing the moderate Taliban and linking them with the government?Mujahid:
If they [foreign troops] were honest, first they should have treated humanely those who left the armed opposition. But they have put them in prison and these [Taliban] leaders went through lots of difficulties. And they are still being discriminated against.
First they should have treated humanely those who left the armed opposition. But they have put them in prison, and these [Taliban] leaders went through lots of difficulties. And they are still being discriminated against.
What Next?RFE/RL: Can you specify which measures you think the Afghan government should take in order to encourage them toward negotiations?Mujahid:
First of all, the government of Afghanistan should come to an agreement with the foreign troops based in Afghanistan in forming a unified strategy. Only then it can make progress in negotiating with the opposition.
As long as there is no coordination between the Afghan government and the international troops, the plans for negotiations won't move forward. In the past the Afghan president presented plans for negotiations. But they were vetoed by the foreign powers.