• Resistance forces in Panjshir surrounded
• Massoud’s fighters ready for conflict but seek to negotiate with Taliban
• Central bank governor appointed
KABUL: The Taliban have warned there will be “consequences” if the United States and its allies extended their presence in Afghanistan beyond Aug 31, saying that US had already violated its previous May 1 deadline to pull out troops.
If the US and its allies continued to stay beyond the agreed second deadline, it would be considered ‘the extended occupation of foreign forces’ and there would be consequences. It would then depend on the Taliban leadership how they would react, spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Geo News show Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Ke Sath on Monday night.
About chaotic scenes at airport and panic elsewhere in Kabul, the Taliban spokesman held ex-president Ashraf Ghani and his administration responsible for it. He said the Kabul administration should not have abandoned security posts and offices while Ghani had no rationale to flee the country when everyone knew that the Taliban forces instead of entering the city had asked for peaceful transfer of power to prevent bloodshed.
Asked if the ISIS posed a real threat to attack Kabul airport and how the Taliban could guarantee security, the Taliban spokesman said: “We are cautious about ISIS potential to attack the airport, as the Afghan forces abandoned their posts and ISIS prisoners were out. Our intelligence office is active.” However, he said, the former Kabul administration should be asked why they had abandoned jails and security posts that resulted in loot, plundering and a chaotic situation. “We have restored calm. Every passing day situation is improving,” he said.
About jailbreak or release of ISIS terrorists, he said the security forces should have handed over the posts and offices instead of abandoning them. He asserted that ISIS was a “foreign phenomenon, as it does not have roots in Afghanistan.” Those foreign elements had gone into hiding, he said, suggesting them to leave Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
“We have a clear policy that we will not let anyone use Afghan soil against Pakistan or any other country. The coming era is of development and prosperity.”
Regarding media reports that Pakistan had provided a list of most wanted Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists to Haibatullah Akhunzada, Suhail Shaheen said he was unaware of any such list being provided to the Afghan Taliban leadership.
But an intelligence document for the United Nations said militants were going door-to-door hunting former government officials and those who worked with the US and Nato forces.
Two Taliban sources, meanwhile, told AFP the group would not announce the formation of its government or cabinet until the last US soldier had left Afghanistan.
The Taliban spokesman earlier told Sky News that staying beyond the agreed deadline would be “extending occupation”. He said: “If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no... there would be consequences.”
President Joe Biden had announced he wanted to end the US military presence and airlifts by August 31, but with the European Union and Britain saying it would be impossible to get everyone out by then, he is under pressure to extend the deadline.
In the capital, the Taliban have enforced some sense of calm in a city marred by crime and plunder after the previous administration personnel abandoned the security posts and fled, with their armed men patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints.
Visually, they have also been looking to stamp their authority ensuring the tri-coloured national flag is replaced with their white banner.
The Taliban spokesman told Geo News that the national flag should be the one with Islamic inscription representing the Muslim population of the country though it would be decided when the time would come. A committee would also be formed to draft a constitution, decide about voting rights and prepare a framework that would ensure provision of rights to all segments of society, he said, adding that step by step all aspects ranging from women rights to media freedom would be included in the framework.
Outside Kabul, there have been flickers of resistance against the Taliban. Some ex-government troops have gathered in the Panjshir Valley, long known as an anti-Taliban bastion.
The Taliban said their fighters had surrounded resistance forces holed up in the valley, but were looking to negotiate rather than take the fight to them. Taliban fighters “are stationed near Panjshir”, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, adding the group was trying to resolve the issue peacefully. Talking to Geo News, Suhail Shaheen said: “Taliban are in a position to win Panjshir in a day but it is our policy to settle all disputes in a peaceful manner. Yet if they prefer war, then its responsibility lies on them.”
The views followed scattered reports of clashes overnight, with pro-Taliban social media accounts claiming gunmen were massing, and former vice president Amrullah Saleh saying resistance forces were holding strong.
One of the leaders of the movement in Panjshir, named the National Resistance Front (NRF), is the son of famed anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. NRF spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told AFP on the weekend that they were prepared for a “long-term conflict” but they were also seeking to negotiate with the Taliban for an ‘inclusive government’.
With government offices still mostly closed, many Afghans are worried about being paid though the Taliban on Monday appointed Haji Mohammad Idrees as central bank governor to keep the wheels of finance moving.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021