London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Taliban spokesman Mullah Qari Yousef Ahmadi talks about the Taliban’s plans in Afghanistan following the expected pullout of US troops from the country next year.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Taliban spokesman pledged that the Taliban will continue to fight against American troops so long as they remain on Afghan soil, while also denying that the Taliban would seek to clamp down on girls’ education following the US withdrawal.
Commenting on Angelina Jolie’s role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, the Taliban spokesman called on the Hollywood star to exert her efforts pressuring Washington to pay reparations to the Afghan people.
Mullah Qari Yousef Ahmadi is one of two official Taliban spokesmen.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Why did the Taliban reject the Loya Jirga-approved security agreement, which permits American troops to remain in Afghanistan?
Mullah Qari Yousef Ahmadi: The occupation will never be over so long as a single foreign soldier remains on Afghan soil. It is this that we reject. We will reject any agreement that extends the occupation, regardless of the shape it takes.
Q: What are the Taliban’s expectations regarding security and stability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces next year?
The presence of occupying forces causes a security vacuum and places the people and their possessions in harm’s way. The Afghan people have a long history of repelling foreign invaders. They will resist to the best of their ability until they force the occupiers to withdraw entirely from Afghan land, and then they will realize the decades-old dream of reinstating the Islamic political system. We expect the return of security and stability only after the occupiers leave.
Q: Regarding the presidential elections next year, does the Taliban support any candidate in particular, such as Sheikh Sayyaf or Abdullah Abdullah, the opposition leader? Why did the Taliban not choose to nominate a candidate of their own?
The elections are merely a ruse to continue the occupation under the pretext of parliamentary, governmental, and constitutional authority. However this authority was installed by imperialists to expand their political influence and economic ambitions while removing Islam from Afghan life. Considering these circumstances, we cannot commit ourselves to any political process, including the upcoming election, and thus we will not nominate any candidate. Those figures you named are merely puppets of the occupation. Soon the Afghan people will judge those who do not repent for their crimes.
Q: If the Taliban were to return to power or share rule in Afghanistan, would you reinstate hudud punishments which stipulate that adulterers be stoned and thieves have their hands severed in accordance with Islamic Sharia Law?
Sharia is an integral part of Islam, and excluding a single aspect of Islam nullifies all of it. The application of hudud would fall under the purview of religious judges who would take into account any mitigating circumstances involved. Vengeance is not the aim of hudud, rather it aims to bring justice in accordance with the mandates of God Almighty and not the whims of mankind. It is not permissible to placate the enemies of Islam by forsaking Sharia Law in exchange for money, as some do. Afghanistan’s age of stability and security coincided with the reign of the Islamic Emirate and Sharia Law, before the Americans intervened. That is why our people will not consent to anything but a judiciary purely based on Sharia. This is the basis of our Jihad. For more than 12 years, we have fought and continue to fight for the principles of Sharia, and now it is asked of us to participate in a government that stands against Sharia and that is allied to and supported by infidels. We do not want any part in this government, and we will resist it until God commands us otherwise.
Q: Given President Hamid Karzai’s insistence that the security agreement should not be signed until after the next presidential election, how do you think the situation will evolve should the Americans threaten to undertake a full withdrawal?
This talk of signing or not signing a security agreement is empty rhetoric. There will not be an agreement with the enemy; not before the elections, and not after. All of this is needless, and America is fleeing Afghanistan after suffering enormous losses on the battlefield at the hands of the Mujahideen. We want nothing less than the expulsion of America’s armies and the armies of her allies from this Muslim country, and we will not allow a single foreign soldier to remain under any pretext. We will continue to strike them until they leave our lands in total submission without any political strings attached, through a security agreement or otherwise. There can be no agreement with the Americans, and we consider any such agreement to be a betrayal of the rights of our people and our Muslim nation.
Q: In light of recent accusations leveled against Taliban sympathizers for burning dozens of schools for girls, does the Taliban have an official stance toward girls’ education?
Education is one of the pillars of our nation-building policy. It is a testament to Afghanistan’s great heritage of liberating humanity from the dangers posed by imperialism. The old colonial empires collapsed due to the peerless perseverance of Jihadists groups, and the coming Afghan renaissance will rebuild the people and nation by focusing on both fundamental religious doctrine and modern science. Women compose half of any society, and Islam assigns them a place in society. The one true religion sets forth the relationship between men and women for the good of society, and guarantees society’s spiritual and material awakening. In this, their roles are distinct from one another, but they are united in their ultimate goal: human happiness, in this world and the hereafter. Thus, our policy will hold the education of women to be of equal importance to the education of men, God willing.
We harbor no hostility towards science and education. On the contrary, we hold ourselves among the staunchest supporters of higher learning. Indeed, the inception of our religion, the one true religion, starts with the command: ‘Read!’ So how could our nation possibly be averse to science? We will reject and resist any curriculum that undermines our religion and raises a morally corrupt generation. That is our stance, and anything that indicates otherwise is an offshoot of the enemy’s disinformation campaign which seeks to divert attention away from their crimes and to distort the image of the Mujahideen, who consider science a sacred duty for all Muslims of both genders. We are a nation of science that builds schools, not a nation of ignorance that burns them.
Q: However there have been accusations leveled at the Taliban, especially from the women of Afghan society as well as sitting female members of parliament, that the country will take a step backwards if the Taliban gains office. How would you reassure these women that they will have a secure future in a Taliban-led Afghanistan
The greatest challenge we face is forging a unified Afghan people. That is the fundamental condition upon which our vision rests. We work towards a brighter future based on Islamic principles that would bring our people together, and it is a vision for which millions have given their lives.
The enemy has tried, and will continue to try, to break our country and demolish our future and present by sowing the seeds of discord and rekindling internal strife. We must walk the path that directly opposes the enemy’s wishes, and do what our religion demands of us by adhering to God’s plan and avoiding factionalism. That is the weapon with which we will overpower our enemy, preserve our country, and create a brighter future for our great nation.
Q: Do the Taliban’s children go to government schools to receive a civilian education, or do they go to Quranic schools to study Sharia?
In the liberated provinces we provide many basic services, including education. We are fundamentally interested in Islamic materials, as they are the basis of our strength in Jihad. This Islamic education has been widely accepted by the Afghan people, even in provinces that are not totally under our control. For these people, nothing can take Islam’s place in their hearts, and so they eagerly support our religious mission. This does not mean we neglect civilian education: we provide as much as we are able given our difficult circumstances. As for our children, they are part of the Afghan people, and they suffer and sacrifice just as much. If the people felt as though the Mujahideen and their children were detached from the reality of daily life in Afghanistan, they would shake off their rule immediately.
Q: Amanullah Aman, the spokesman for the Department of Education, says that nearly 550 schools in 11 regions have closed their doors because of a lack of security. Do you care to comment?
The real number is probably much higher, and the reason is that the liberation of very large provinces caused the occupation forces to flee, and the government’s forces could not stand on their own two feet without their masters. The occupation gave government forces powerful weapons, but despite this they failed to confront the Mujahideen. The government will withdraw from the remaining liberated areas and close their military, administrative, and educational installations. The Mujahideen will benefit from this and we will continue to teach our children the current curriculum.
Administrative corruption has also had a hand in government school closures, even in provinces we have not liberated. It is widely known that the current regime in Kabul is the most corrupt in the world, and now that governmental officials realize the end is near, they are looting anything they can get their hands on and sending the money to safe havens abroad. Many services have felt the effects, especially schools.
Q: Do you support American actress Angelina Jolie in her capacity as a Goodwill Ambassador from the UN, specifically with regard to her efforts to promote educational institutions for girls in Afghanistan and her recent financial contribution to a new school on the outskirts of Kabul?
We do not intend to surrender our children to our enemy in order to educate them. All forms of education will be subject to the Islamic Emirate, from the curriculum and teachers, to the schools and equipment. The enemy is misconstruing what they call ‘women’s issues,’ or ‘girls’ education,’ or ‘human rights,’ but they will not fool anyone in Afghanistan. We have spilt enough blood to understand that these are merely excerpts from the Western Dictionary of Hypocrisy. As such, we doubt the Americans have any good intentions towards our people or any Muslim people. The best Angelina Jolie can do is to turn her good intentions to convincing her government to pay reparations to the Afghan people until they are able to educate their children, care for their sick, and rebuild the towns and villages the American army and their allies destroyed.
Q: Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz famously said: ‘He who serves God in ignorance corrupts more than he rectifies.’ Does this sentiment apply to the actions of Al-Qaeda, and has the relationship between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban been irreparably damaged at this point?
Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, there were a few hundred Arab Mujahideen living as guests here, fighting and sacrificing for the sake of the nation. At the time, it was unfeasible for them to return to their homelands because of the oppression and persecution awaiting them there. But recently, the vast majority have returned to their homelands, especially after the events of the Arab Spring. We hold ourselves to Caliph Umar’s standards, and thus education is of the utmost importance to us, as was mentioned previously. We are deeply interested in establishing the healthiest relationship between all the peoples of the world, especially among the peoples of Islamic nations. We have a lot of work to do to improve the welfare for the Afghan people and Muslim peoples generally.
Q: What are your comments regarding Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second man in the Taliban to be placed under house arrest in Pakistan despite his official release?
We hope to see all of our imprisoned leaders and Mujahideen freed soon so that we may achieve decisive victory against our enemies. We call upon all neighboring countries, including Pakistan, to be aware of the importance of a future relationship with Afghanistan in order to preserve our shared interests and ensure stability and security in the region. The American era in Afghanistan is fading. America will withdraw, not just from Afghanistan, but from the region at large. Those who bet on America inevitably lose. The people of Afghanistan will be strong, vibrant, and effective now and forever. They are a fundamental component of the future of this region. Their fate is tied to the fates of all their neighbors, and it falls to the governments of the region to consider this fact even after the demise of Imperialism.
Q: Is the Quetta Shura the de facto government of the Islamic Emirate, as some reports claim?
Quetta is a Pakistani city, and the enemy wants to attribute the victories and achievements of the Afghan people to others, and so every now and then they spread such rumors. The truth is that the ‘Quetta Shura’ is a hollow front that follows the administrative structure of the Islamic Emirate.
This interview was originally conducted in Arabic.