Afghan amb to the US on the Taliban: ‘They are not interested in peace but power’

The Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about the security situation in Afghanistan, and the government’s handling of it.

Grieving families buried their dead on Sunday after a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital that killed 50 people, many of them pupils between 11 and 15 years old.

The number of people wounded in Saturday’s attack climbed to more than 100, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. In the western neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, families buried their dead amid angry recriminations at a government they said has failed to protect them from repeated attacks in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood.

Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as students were leaving for the day, Arian said. The Taliban denied responsibility, condemning the attack and the many deaths.

In the capital rattled by relentless bombings, Saturday’s attack was among the worst. Criticism has mounted over lack of security and growing fears of even more violence as the US and NATO complete their final military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about the security situation in Afghanistan, and the government’s handling of it.

Marco Werman: Why is the Afghan government unable to protect civilians, such as the attack last weekend targeting the Hazara community in Kabul?

Ambassador Roya Rahmani: The Afghan government is doing all that they can. The reason that they are mushrooming here and there is because it’s an insurgency because unfortunately, the cost of perpetrating these acts are very low because there is an environment of conflict that is continuing to exist because of the Taliban’s continuous violence.

I mean, the question on many people’s minds is who is behind these attacks and how they can be stopped? What is your assessment?

The people who are behind these attacks are terrorists. I don’t know what other name I could possibly give them. How they can be stopped is by bringing an end to this conflict, regardless of who claims and doesn’t claim it. The issue is that there is this environment that continues to exist that allows for such things to happen. To stop it, we need the support of our international allies, the regional community, the regional countries, because we have to also look at where the terrorists are able to get their finances there, how they are able to get the explosives within the country, how they are managing these attacks. All of these different aspects of this conflict need to be addressed.

So, the Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack on Saturday. I’m just wondering, what more could President Ashraf Ghani have done to move the peace negotiations with the Taliban forward?

The president has done everything that we can do to move the negotiations forward, and he is continuing to do so. The president is working continuously with all the political factions in Afghanistan. He is trying to solidify the consensus for a united front. During the negotiations, he has announced that he is willing to shorten his term and resign for his successor, given that they would continue a peace mandate. So, from our side, we are willing to do all we can. The problem is that the Taliban, unfortunately, have presented that they are not interested in peace, but in power.
Well, I mean, the Afghan government was left out of peace talks with the Taliban, even with the US troops in the country. It feels like the Taliban has the upper hand there, not the government. And peace is not moving forward.

Where is the problem?

It is a conflict over power. It is not about peace. It is not about the well-being of the people. It’s not about the will of the people. And unfortunately, the conflict will continue as long as any group would try to impose on the Afghan people their way or their view.

Do you think it was a good idea then, for the US to leave now?

Well, that was their decision. And as stated, we respect the decision that the US has made. But as President Ghani has said, it is a risk and opportunity at the same time. Right now, as we have said — and the rest of the international community also echoes — there is no reason for this conflict to continue. The very basis of the continuation of conflict by the Taliban was that there is the presence of foreign troops, there as an occupation, as they put it. But, that is finished. That’s over. The troops are withdrawing. So, what is the reason that the Afghan people are continuously suffering and bearing the brunt of this? It is a conflict and perpetuation of violence merely for power and at the expense of innocent citizens of Afghanistan.

Ambassador Rahmani, a lot of people in Afghanistan are concerned about what comes next among experts. There’s an almost unanimous belief that the Taliban are aiming to come back to power. You’re in Washington right now, but if that turns out to be the case, would you go back to Afghanistan with your family?

When we opened to the Taliban an unconditional offer of peace, it was expected that they would come back and be part of the community? I mean, what I understand from your question, Marco, is that you are saying that they will come back in the way that they did in 1996.


I would say that’s not possible. That’s not possible, because that will be met with huge resistance by the people in Afghanistan. We have security forces who are ready to fight them, and they are already doing so. And they will fight hard and the result will be a continuation of a very bloody conflict.

Ambassador, in your heart of hearts, can you imagine the Taliban coming into power in that kind of democratic way?

I know that there are a lot of differences. Unfortunately, we have not seen a major shift in their position vis-à-vis certain very critical issues. But the option is not easy. You either take the path to peace and you negotiate — and negotiate means give and take — or you continue this conflict, which the second option is not something anybody would desire or anybody would like to see. And I repeat again, it is going to be catastrophic, immediately for us, and long term for the rest of the world and the region.

And if the Taliban doesn’t care about catastrophe, I mean, you already said this is about power, not the best interests of the people.

Unfortunately, I can’t say any more than what I already said. It is what it is. The people of Afghanistan, the security forces, cannot agree to the same comeback of the Taliban as they experienced over two decades ago.