‘Taliban hardliners turn to IS over peace deal’

KABUL: The National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, said in a recent interview with Fox News that many hardline Taliban fighters will not join a peace process. NSA Mohib claimed that the Taliban is already merging with Al-Qaida, and in the event of a peace deal some members of the Taliban might join Daesh.

“We had intelligence that showed they (Taliban commanders) are going to join (Daesh). That threat may increase over a period of time,” said Mohib, “For the time being, (Daesh) is not a strategic threat to us. We have been able to get rid of them in places they have taken hold. But if the peace process goes wrong and doesn’t really integrate all of the Taliban, the hardliners may join (Daesh), which is when it will become a strategic threat to us and our international partners.”

And although much attention is paid to Daesh, Mohib’s focus is elsewhere: “There is a blurred line between Al Qaeda and the Taliban now. They have been inter-marrying, they work together, their ideologies have merged. There is very little difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda today.”

A diversity of insurgent groups, grievances and agendas must be addressed, on a ground level—and with Afghans—for any sort of peace to hold, Mohib contends.

Mohib provided greater detail about these assertions in an interview late on Tuesday in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, after his address to the United Nations. He spoke of reports of Taliban communication during the last rounds of peace talks in Doha indicating that the Taliban interpreted the peace deal—which appeared close on the horizon–as a victory. Mohib said Trump was right to scuttle the deal, referring to the US president’s last-minute decision to call off a meeting with the Taliban after the insurgent group claimed responsibility for a blast that killed 12 people in Kabul, including an American soldier.

“President Trump made the right call because the Taliban are not ready to make peace with anybody, they are ready to take Afghanistan over and return their regime—they have been preparing their victory speeches.“ He cited reports of the Taliban’s internal communication during the peace talks when a deal seemed imminent: commanders were not talking to their troops about peace, they were giving instructions on how their troops should behave in the event of victory: “Not to harm civilians, and to pardon the Afghan officials.”

Although the national security advisor maintains that the US-Taliban peace deal wasn’t workable, he is not against more peace talks. In his Fox News interview, Mohib said: “Now we are in a very good place to begin real peace negotiations. It was not all a waste. I think there are parts we can salvage.” But consistently in recent interviews, Mohib reiterates that Afghans must be involved if the peace will work at all.

If the West is naïve about the Taliban, Mohib suggests, the gains over the last twenty years in Afghanistan will be compromised.

“We have re-created our country out of the rubble in the last 20 years. There was literally nothing there. The man-made infrastructure was destroyed. We had no telephones left; there was no electricity, no hospitals, no schools. It became a ghost town,” he added. “Now Kabul looks like any other capital. People are connected, culturally sophisticated, tech-savvy. That is the biggest progress in the world, and we have the U.S. to thank for that.”

He references the recent election, and the success of the Afghan forces in preventing any mass-casualty attacks on voting day, as an indicator of current Afghan capability. He also references the successful elections as an expression of the Afghan will for progress.  

“In the past, the international community were the ones behind the elections. They paid for it, they held it, they encouraged Afghans to come out and vote and held the security. Now, it is the Afghan people who wanted the elections,” he said. “It is the Afghan people who paid for the elections, secured the elections. The big shift is that Afghans believe in democracy, and it is no longer a process driven by our partners. It is an Afghan process for Afghans, by Afghans.”

The Kabul Times

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