Empty bullet casings are seen on the ground after an operation on the outskirts of Kabul June 22, 2012. Thirteen people were killed before a long siege was ended at Spozhmai hotel outside the Afghan capital, during which Taliban gunmen took scores of hostages, another bold attack that showed a potent insurgency remains after more than a decade of war.
The Taliban leadership knows it cannot win the war in Afghanistan and is prepared to accept peace with the Afghan government, but only if the militant group plays a prominent role in the countryâ€™s future, according to an interview with an alleged senior Taliban commander conducted by a former high-ranking diplomat.
The full interview, to be published in Thursdayâ€™s edition of theBritish current affairs magazine New Statesmen, was conducted byMichael Semple, the former UN envoy to Afghanistan during Taliban rule and current fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. Semple is considered an authority in Pashtun politics and reportedly still has contacts within the Talibanâ€™s senior ranks.
The Taliban commander, whose name is not revealed during the interview, is said to be a senior leader who spent time at Guantanamo Bay and is described in a preview of the article as â€œone of the most senior surviving Taliban commanders and confidant of the movementâ€™s leadership.â€
In the preview published on the New Statesmenâ€™s website, the Taliban commander says it would take â€œsome kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this warâ€ and calls al Qaeda a â€œplagueâ€ on Afghanistan.
Other revelations from the interview, according to the Taliban commander:
Talibanâ€™s Icy Relationship With al Qaeda â€œOur people consider al Qaeda to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens. Some even concluded that al Qaeda are actually the spies of America. Originally, the Taliban were naive and ignorant of politics and welcomed al Qaeda into their homes. But al-Qaeda abused our hospitality.â€
Relief at Bin Ladenâ€™s Death â€œTo tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country.â€
Taliban Control of Kabul Wonâ€™t Come Anytime Soon â€œThe Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect. Any Taliban leaderexpecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth — that they cannot prevail over the power they confront.â€
Controversial Taliban Policies Evolving? Maybe Later â€œIn their time, the Taliban gained notoriety over three points: their treatment of women, their harsh enforcement of petty rules on things like beards and prayers, and their international relations. The priority now should be restoration of security. But on the other issues I anticipate that they would soften their tough policies.â€
Pakistan Remains a Taboo Subject â€œThe one thing I dare not talk about is the relationship with Pakistan.â€
Reports of the interview come days after a videotape surfaced showing apurported Taliban execution in a village just an hourâ€™s drive from Kabul. On the video, a young woman squats on a patch of ground before a militant approaches her, firing several shots at point blank range, while a crowd of a hundred or so alleged militants cheers â€œLong Live the Mujahideenâ€ in the background. The Taliban often refer to themselves as Mujahideen, or freedom fighters, trying to expel foreign invaders from the country.
The video met with international condemnation. U.S. officials denounced the crime as a cold-blooded murder, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered his security forces to apprehend those behind it.
On Wednesday in Kabul, dozens of protesters, mostly women, took to the streets to demand justice. Many held placards calling on the international community to do more to safeguard womenâ€™s rights in the country, while others chanting â€œdeath to the perpetrators.â€
â€œEvery day these violences and these killings are getting more and moreâ€ said Zujra Alamyar, a womenâ€™s rights activist. â€œWe want the government to take serious action and stop them.â€