London-Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada was officially assigned Emir to the Taliban, Afghanistan last month. Scholars and clerics of the fundamentalist group assigned Akhundzada replacing his predecessor Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike.
Brought into leadership in his 50’s, Akhundzada was fathered by a religious scholar in Kandahar, located southern Afghanistan—Akhundzada’s parentage has him standing out from all other previous Mullahs like Mohammed Omar or Akhtar Mansour.
Taliban’s spokesperson Mullah Zabihullah admitted to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, in an online interview, that investigations concerning the assassination of Mullah Mansour by a drone offensive are ongoing.
He said the Taliban suspects the Americans carried out the attack.
When asked on accusations brought against Iran for leaking information concerning Mullah Mansour, Zabihullah said that lack of evidence restrains launching accusations of a U.S.-Iranian cooperation leading to Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s take down.
The late Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was reportedly killed by a U.S. staged drone attack in Quetta, Pakistan last month. Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan province situated in the southwestern region of the country.
Taliban’s allegedly set target is to free Afghanistan from western occupation and to establish a government which caters to the needs of Muslim citizens, Zabihullah added.
Following is a selected text extract of the interview conducted with the Taliban movement’s spokesperson by Asharq Al-Awsat:
What is Taliban’s stance from the peace process after Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s death?
Taliban deals with those partaking at the negotiations in a part of a greater plan, which is irrelevant to the presence of a single person.
Our standpoint from the negotiations is very clear; and our contribution is defined by the rule of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which speaks in the name of its Muslim people. As a responsible authority, it promises to fall through with its responsibilities and commitments across all military and political arenas. They include freeing Afghanistan from those who occupy it and to establish a Muslim government which is accepted, approved and is being sacrificed for by Muslim citizens of the Emirate. Whatever it takes to achieve that will be done, and the Emirate has hidden strict plans for that.
Did Mullah Mansour’s assassination come in line with a security cooperation struck between the U.S. and Iran, especially after Mullah Mansour had been rumored to have been returning from Iran?
Investigations we lead concerning the subject are ongoing, and the conclusion we have reached so far is that the Americans, other than their deep military presence, have an intense intelligence capacity in the area.
The Emirate, especially Mullah Mansour (may god rest his soul in peace), had no dispute with regional countries, including neighboring countries. Alternatively, Mullah Mansour wished to scout for a unified stance to face occupation. We cannot accuse anyone for cooperating with the U.S. in targeting Mullah Mansour without first providing sufficient evidence.
What’s the nature of the relationship shared between Iran and Taliban?
Truth is crystal clear, the danger of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan lasting is a grave threat posed against the whole region, in which each of China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and all other countries are afflicted by.
The region will burn asunder in the devastating flames of war; we believe that should a mindset spread in the region, which could defeat the U.S. and expose its deeds in Afghanistan, then that is a good step forward. However, until now we have no official arrangement neither with Iran nor anyone else.
Is the movement coordinating with Tehran to fight ISIS in Afghanistan?
In Taliban’s 15-year-old resistance, no coordination was ever established, neither on a military or intelligence level with nearby countries. However, we do agree on cooperation in a mindset which could play a positive role in confronting U.S. occupation and foiling its intelligence designed plans — so long that cooperation does not contradict with our national interests and supreme fundamentals.
What is Taliban’s relationship with Russia?
The Emirate wishes to establish standard relationships with countries in the region. That includes Russia and countries going against U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and the region, in light of current state-of-affairs … However, until now we have no official agreements made.
What is Taliban’s standpoint on ISIS expanding into Afghanistan?
Taliban are spent on fighting in the name of Allah the Almighty as to cleanse the country from U.S. transgression, all done while the movement inhibits any chaos or sedition from taking over the country. Rolling drums loud, Western media overblows ISIS and that is considered a part of a publicity war; we believe that our fighters have thwarted ISIS’ plans– which the enemy’s intelligence had fabricated in the first place; in fact there was not a grave scale plan close to what was promoted or warned by Western media.