The supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada, on Wednesday said that his government desires to have "good relations" with the United States, and reiterated that Afghanistan will not allow anyone to "use its territory against its neighbours".
The Taliban chief's latest statement is thought to be softer than his remarks at last week’s address to a scholars’ conference wherein he stated that the world should not interfere in Afghanistan's affairs as the country under the Taliban does not accept anyone's orders.
“You (the Americans) have dropped the mother of all bombs (in Afghanistan) and [even] if you use the atomic bomb against us we will not deviate from Islam or Sharia,” Akhundzada had said at the ulema moot.
Today, the Taliban supreme commander publicly mentioned the United States for the first time, expressing the intention of the Islamic emirate to have good relations with Washington.
“Within the framework of mutual interaction and commitment, we want good diplomatic, economic and political relations with the world, including the United States, and we consider this in the interest of all sides,” Akhundzada said in his Eidul Azha message.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued the message in several languages, including Urdu.
The Taliban leader allayed concerns of neighbours about the use of Afghan soil against them.
“We assure our neighbours, the region and the world that we will not allow anyone to use our territory to threaten the security of other countries. We also want other countries not to interfere in our internal affairs,” Akhundzada said.
Pakistan has long been saying that its armed opponents are using Afghan soil to launch attacks on border posts.
The Taliban government has been playing the role of a mediator in peace talks between Pakistani security officials and the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Several rounds of talks have been held with little progress. However, both sides are holding an indefinite ceasefire.
In his message, the Taliban chief mainly focused on Afghanistan’s internal affairs but did not mention the opening of girls’ educational institutions above sixth grade. The global community has been urging the Taliban to reopen the schools as they had initially promised to allow girls to attend high schools before withdrawing the decision in March this year.
Akhundzada said the Taliban government “pays attention to education, with special emphasis on religious as well as modern studies for children", adding that "the Islamic emirate understands its importance and will work hard for its further enhancement."
The Taliban leader also addressed the growing concerns in and outside of Afghanistan about curbs on freedom of expression in the country.
“The Islamic emirate is committed to freedom of expression in the light of Islamic principles and Sharia as well as the country's national interests. Journalists [mindful of] the above and the principles of journalism can continue their work,” he said.
He urged Taliban officials to honour commitments with Afghan leaders and those who worked with the previous government.
“As Afghans return from abroad to their homeland, I instruct the liaison commission to fulfil all the promises made to them and ensure their safety and security,” Akhundzada said.
He insisted that Afghanistan "is the common home of all Afghans, [and] we must all take part in the reconstruction of the country. We must consider this as our national duty."
He underlined that Afghanistan did not want enmity with anyone, saying "our arms are open to our countrymen and our friendship and enmity are based on the principles of Islam,” the Taliban leader added.