KABUL/GENEVA: Former Afghan warlords and exiled politicians announced the creation of a High Council of National Resistance against the Taliban on Thursday, calling on the Islamists to form a more inclusive government or risk civil war.

Since the Taliban surged back to power on the heels of a hasty withdrawal of US troops last year, there have been only limited and sporadic attempts to resist their rule.

But on Tuesday 40 political figures met in Ankara by invitation of former Afghan vice-president and warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who found refuge in Turkey after Kabul fell in August.

Participants said their council should pave the way for the “liberation” of Afghanistan, the group said in a statement on Thursday.

“We demand the Taliban end their destruction and set the table for talks to find solutions to the current problems of Afghanistan,” they said.

The Islamists “should learn from the experiences of history that no group can have a stable government through acts of force and pressure”, the council added.

Founding members of the council include former Balkh province governor Atta Mohammad Noor, leader of the Hazara community Mohammad Mohaqiq, and Ahmad Wali Massoud of the National Resistance Front (NRF), the main group currently waging an armed insurgency against the government. Long-time Taliban opponent and warlord Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf is also a signatory.

The council’s aim is “to try to solve the problems of Afghanistan through talks”, a spokesman for Dostum said. “The Taliban should accept that they can’t run the government or rule alone”, otherwise “Afgha­nistan will experience civil war once again”, he said.

At the beginning of the week, the Taliban announced the creation of a commission that would contact politicians in exile.

Taliban officials have said they hope to convene an assembly of citizens, tribal leaders and religious heads to discuss the topic of “national unity”.

However, after making promises for an inclusive government, the Islamists in September formed an executive comprised exclusively of Taliban members, and almost entirely from the ethnic Pashtun group.

The new rulers in Kabul are already facing attacks from the NRF led by Ahmad Massoud — son of late commander Ahmad Shah Massoud — who has stepped up assaults in his former Panjshir valley stronghold.

In its statement, the council said it considers armed resistance to the Taliban “legitimate”.

UN slams closure of rights body

The United Nations on Thursday slammed the Taliban’s closure of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), calling it a “deeply retrograde step”.

Since the Taliban seized power last August the hardline Islamists have closed several bodies that protected the freedoms of Afghans, including the electoral commission and the ministry for women’s affairs.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “dismayed” at the dissolution.

“The AIHRC performed extraordinary work in extremely difficult conditions over many years, shining a spotlight on the human rights of all Afghans, including victims on all sides of the conflict,” she said in a statement.

“It has however, been unable to operate on the ground since August.

“The AIHRC has been a powerful voice for human rights and a trusted partner of UN Human Rights, and its loss will be a deeply retrograde step for all Afghans and Afghan civil society.”

The work of the commission, which included documenting civilian casualties of Afghanistan’s two-decade war, was halted when the Taliban ousted a US-backed government last year and the body’s top officials fled the country.

Bachelet said that during her visit to Kabul in March, she discussed with the de facto authorities the importance of re-establishing an independent human rights mechanism that can receive public complaints and bring concerns to the authorities.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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