On August 22nd, Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani, a leading Taliban figure currently in charge of security for Kabul said that “all Afghans” should feel safe under their Islamic Emirate, and that a “general amnesty” has been granted across the nation’s 34 provinces.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Haqqani, whose associates are also taking a leading role in establishing security in the capital, said the Taliban is working to restore order and safety to a nation that has seen more than four decades of war.
“If we can defeat superpowers, surely we can provide safety to the Afghan people,” Haqqani said.
Afghans, however, appear skeptical that a leader of the so-called “Haqqani Network” will bring security to Afghanistan after 40 years of war and violence, including the Afghan-Soviet war.
The Haqqani Network is known as the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban.
Haqqani is still labelled a “global terrorist” by the United States, with a $5m bounty for him issued by the US Treasury Department in February 2011, and he remains on a United Nations terrorist list.
Haqqani’s statement also comes as thousands of people continue to try to get into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, where Taliban, intelligence forces and US soldiers are actively trying to keep crowds desperately trying to flee the country from entering the premises.
Yet, Haqqani insisted that people should not be afraid of the Taliban.
“Our hostility was with the occupation. There was a superpower that came from the outside to divide us. They forced a war unto us. We have no hostility with anyone, we are all Afghans,” he said.
Haqqani’s reference to a “forced” war, harkens back to a similar term often employed by the government of former President Ashraf Ghani.
That government repeatedly referred to the Afghan conflict as an “imposed war”.
Both sides blamed different parties for stoking the war, however.
For the Taliban and Haqqani, it was the US and its coalition of 40 nations.
For Ghani and his administration mostly blamed Pakistan for the violence and discord in their nation by facilitating the Taliban and other armed groups – which Islamabad denies.
Now that foreign forces are less than 10 days from a complete withdrawal, Haqqani and the Taliban say they see no enemy on Afghan soil and instead want to work with as many people as possible to bring order to the nation.
Haqqani points to recent meetings with former President Karzai, as well as Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the resistance against the Taliban’s initial rule in the 1990s, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the former minister of borders and tribal affairs as proof that the group is willing to embrace all Afghans.
“Karzai was in conflict with us for 13 years, but in the end, we assured even him of his safety,” Haqqani said in reference to the years Karzai spent as the head of the Western-backed Afghan government, which the Taliban often referred to as a “puppet” or “stooge” administration.
In another sign that the group is signaling a willingness to move on from past enmities, the Taliban authorized Karzai and Abdullah to negotiate with Ahmad Massoud, son of the slain Tajik Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Whether this is truly a different route of leadership or just a front remains to be seen.
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