Countries, including India, are welcome to engage with the Taliban but consequences would be disastrous if the group is not told clearly to cut ties with terrorist networks and discontinue the recent cycle of violence, Afghan ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay told India Ahead.
Cautioning against giving the Taliban any form of legitimacy, Mamundzay said nation states should consider their partnership with the Afghan people first. “Engaging with the Taliban is something that needs to be done carefully. Taliban are Afghans. Today or tomorrow, we would talk to them even if we fight with them for the next 20-30 years…,” the ambassador said.
He added that if the Taliban is given incentives and the legitimacy of talks without a guarantee that it will respect human rights and give up violence, the consequences would not just be “disastrous” for Afghanistan but the entire region.
“We would have no problem if New Delhi or the UK engages with the Taliban. But clear messages need to be delivered to them that they would have to cut ties with international and regional terrorist organisations. Taliban would have to let go of violence. If there is no guarantee from Taliban, then giving them more incentives will embolden them to commit more atrocities. It would have disastrous consequences not only for Afghanistan, but for the region and the world,” the envoy told India Ahead.
In an exclusive conversation on the latest episode of Strategically Speaking, the former advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, Mamundzay argued that the country is not descending into a civil war. He, however, admitted that the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 when it was toppled by the US invasion, has managed to takeover key crossings and trade posts, diverting revenue streams from the elected civilian government in Kabul.
In the fresh onslaught, Taliban militants have seized dozens of districts in Afghanistan in recent weeks and are now thought to control about a third of the country, dismissed by Afghan officials as propaganda. The fresh offensive that has claimed thousands of lives comes amid the withdrawal of US and NATO troops ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
India had last week evacuated its staff from the consulate in Kandahar following escalation of violence. Earlier, New Delhi closed its Jalalabad and Herat consulates in April 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak. The consulates have since remained shut.
Calling India’s decision to recall staff a “rational” one, the ambassador said the diplomats may not be able to return to Kandahar or Herat in the immediate future. “We are in active conflict when we talk of losing 4,000 Afghan civilians in a period of 10 weeks. And we can’t afford to lose our guest diplomats.”
He, however, agreed that it may not be easy to reopen the consulates any time soon despite the assurances in official statements. “I share the same opinion that it would be difficult to reopen or bring Indian diplomats back in Kandahar or Herat in the near future. The security situation would require some time before it stabilises. But we are very confident that in the months ahead, we would get them to have a sense of normalcy in our major cities where these diplomats would be able to go back and serve,” said the envoy.
Thanking India for its continued developmental assistance in Afghanistan, Mamundzay also sought to caution New Delhi that terrorist groups were mobilising resources and training recruits on Afghan soil to carry out attacks in Kashmir and the rest of the country.
“Many of these organisations use Afghanistan as a launch pad, as a place where they can get training, mobilise their resources. They are in symbiotic relationship with the Taliban. Attacks from 26/11 to Pulwama to Pathankot have been attributed to the same organisations. So India has legitimate security concerns,” he said.
Mincing no words in condemning Pakistan’s alleged support to the Taliban, Mamundzay said Islamabad’s notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorist is flawed.
“A terrorist is nobody’s friend. There can’t be a ‘good’ terrorist. It is quite evident that non-state actors cannot function without the consent of government or legitimate state. Pakistan has the resources. It can prevent the bloodshed of innocent Afghans. I hope some common sense will prevail and there would be changes in Islamabad’s policies,” Mamundzay said.
“Turning a blind eye to those who train suicide bombers for Afghans is something we want Pakistan to stop doing,” underlined the ambassador.