Kabul, Afghanistan – The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, promising to bring peace to a country wracked by decades of conflict and US occupation.
As the group celebrates its first anniversary in power, concerns have been raised about the security situation in the country with ISIL (ISIS) carrying out several deadly attacks. Last week, a senior Taliban scholar affiliated with ISIL was killed.
Days before the assassination, a US drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, raising Western concerns about the militant group finding a safe haven in Afghanistan.
US-led foreign forces were pulled out of the country after the Taliban agreed not to allow armed groups to use Afghan soil to target Western interests.
In an exclusive interview, senior Taliban leader Anas Haqqani told Al Jazeera how he sees the group’s successes and failures since seizing power on August 15, 2021.
Al Jazeera: Your government has been in charge for a year, what have you achieved and where have you failed?
Anas Haqqani: During the past one year, we have achieved great and numerous developments, chief among them freedom and independence as we have freed our country from foreign occupation, injustice and oppression. This is what any people or country under occupation wants. It is a matter of pride for us, a blessing.
You’ve been out there and you can see for yourself what a big change our country is making when it comes to security. For the first time in 40 years, the central government has taken control of the entire country; There are many more in the inch to inch list, but it is important to mention that the compulsory duties … which were imposed on the people no longer exist. There are no specialized militant groups, (or so-called power islands) operating in the country anymore. The Central Government, without any fee or foreign aid, is able to pay the salaries of Government employees in all State institutions. These are some examples.
Al Jazeera: Let’s talk about last year. Why did you take over Kabul rather than negotiate with the then western government? Some say this is a violation of the Doha agreement signed in 2020.
Haqqani: We have respected and honored the Doha Agreement since its inception. In the 14 months since the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, there has been no such violation of the agreement. A living proof of such a fact is the host and sponsor, the State of Qatar.
In contrast, more than 1,000 violations were committed by US forces and the former Kabul government. [led by President Ashraf Ghani]. For example, when [US President Joe] Biden came to power, where he expanded [withdrawal] Term agreed [in the Doha Agreement] An additional four months without negotiating with us. The US has also delayed removing the names [terror] Blacklisted till date and [the] Release of Afghan prisoners [was] Also delayed. The list of violations is long. Despite our frustration, we chose not to resort to violence.
However, the sudden vacuum in Kabul caused us to come in, let alone their request. [former President Hamid] Karzai and [former Chief Executive Abdullah] Abdullah should come and take over the affairs for us.
Al Jazeera: You have promised many things. You promised peace, you promised rights to Afghans, you promised inclusive government, you promised women’s rights. How many of those promises have you kept?
Haqqani: The foreign occupation that has been controlling Afghanistan for the past 20 years has failed for a long time due to their advanced technology, huge capabilities and resources. They failed to restore security and order and our people are now enjoying.
We have only been in power for a year and the world should not expect us to achieve all our goals overnight. It’s next to impossible, especially that [the international community] They have not fulfilled their promises including recognition of our government and foreign aid. Though delayed by them, by God’s grace we made great progress on many fronts.
Now, you can see girls entering universities and schools till class 12 [majority of provinces still not allow education for high school girls]. Needless to say, there are still many measures to be taken in all our ministries and other state institutions. Don’t expect us to achieve what others have failed to do in the last 20 years in the challenges we face.
Al Jazeera: Do Taliban leaders under international sanctions need to be in government? Is this not a hindrance to the government? Why aren’t other Afghans (non-Taliban) brought into the government?
Haqqani: Till date the whole world has not come to a uniform definition of ‘terrorism’. It is a common practice for people in power to label anyone who stands in their way as ‘terrorist’, ‘enemy’, ‘enemy’, ‘criminal’ etc. Blacklisted. He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Blacklisting and sanctions are political weapons.
Our highest goal was to free our country from the shackles of occupation, to regain our freedom and independence, and we achieved it. We do not want to interfere in the affairs of other countries or peoples. We and the entire Afghan people hold our leaders in high esteem. Our leaders are regarded as heroes as leaders of freedom and independence. We expect those issues to be resolved in time.
Al Jazeera: More than 2.6 million Afghans are refugees and about 3 million are internally displaced. The country is facing the second largest food crisis in the world. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved in a year? And what are you doing to address the humanitarian crisis?
Haqqani: As I said earlier, today’s Afghanistan is completely different [what] That was 20 years ago. For example, the former government could not do anything to Mazar-e-Sharif; They were under pressure from others [occupation/US]. We started doing something in the right direction. Minerals and natural resources are now being extracted using local and foreign companies. By the grace of God, through these projects, we are now able to pay salaries for the functioning of our ministries and other institutions.
Another source of revenue comes from customs. All this revenue used to fall into the wrong hands. All state revenue is now deposited in the central government treasury, the central bank and the finance ministry. These were the most prominent examples of the progress we have made.
Having said that, we aspire to maintain good and friendly relations with all countries and the entire international community. It is our duty to lead a dignified and comfortable life for our people. We are here to serve our people. I believe we have been able to achieve a lot for our people. However, we aspire to achieve more despite the challenges we face due to non-recognition of our rule by the international community.
Al Jazeera: One of the promises you made to the international community was that Afghan soil would not be used by outside armed groups and that there would be zero tolerance for any terrorist organizations. In the past few weeks, we have seen many murders taking place. The leader of Pakistan Taliban has been killed. Al-Qaeda leader killed in Kabul What is our government doing and how is it going to keep its promises?
Haqqani: We have been complying with all the obligations since the signing of the Doha Agreement. We dare to give a single example or a single instance where our territories have been used for the security of other countries. We are ready to refute any allegation in this regard. We are true Muslims, first of all, we are obliged to honor our word. The Islamic Emirate has made this statement [the Taliban government], was very clear in explaining his position: ‘We are committed to the Doha Agreement’. Meanwhile, the agreement clearly sets out the responsibilities on our shoulders as well as on the shoulders of America. If any violation has been committed, it is the US itself that has entered our territory without our permission, without even informing us. This was a clear violation on the part of the US.
These are false claims, malicious propaganda aimed at tarnishing the image of the Taliban in the eyes of the global public. We deny and deny these false claims and I repeat, we have not breached any of our obligations under the Doha Agreement. We wish to see other parties honoring them and complying with their obligations.