ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: As uncertainty grows over whether the U.S. and Afghanistan’s militant Taliban could finalize a peace deal amid ongoing talks – as well as the anticipation of a new U.S. administration – a top commander in the group told The Dark Wire: An Investigation Foundation, they remain opposed to the continuation of the democratic government system established in the country after the U.S. led military campaign ousted them from power in 2001.
“The Taliban has categorically rejected to accept any condition that the next government after intra-Afghan agreement would form through an election process,” a senior Taliban commander told the Dark Wire, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak with the media.
“Taliban (leaders) want a strong, ‘Islamic system’ of governance in the country which could bring real reforms in all sectors including defense, health, education and financial sector of the country,” the Taliban commander added.
For more than 10 years while the militant group and the U.S. officials have negotiated for a peace deal the Taliban has remained focused on the release of prisoners, as well as the withdrawal of all U.S. forces. It has also demanded to be a substantial member in any future Afghan Islamic government system. And that’s the crux and a major issue because the Afghan government has been insistent that any deal must support the nation’s constitution and civil liberties.
The senior Taliban commander did not go into any details about earlier demands that the Afghanistan government dismantle the current Afghan National Army. The commander said that for reparation “he believes the Islamic system in Afghanistan is the only way to bring peace and end the conflict in the region.”
As for tensions in the region, they remain high. Afghan security forces killed roughly 51 Taliban fighters in the southern province of Kandahar this week, in response to ongoing attacks from the militant group. The fighting has been ongoing while both sides pursue peace talks in Qatar.
The Afghan ministry of defense said the strikes against Taliban positions in five districts on Saturday night, a mixture of ground and air assaults that also destroyed four Taliban ammunition depots, were in response to insurgent attacks.
The U.S. signed its first major agreement with the Taliban on Feb. 29. The Trump administration had been working intently since he entered office to end the 19 year war that has lead to the death of thousands of U.S. troops and wounded tens of thousands more. That deal led to the decision to drawdown U.S. troops to 2,500 by Jan.15.
The region, however, is still teeming with militants connected to Islamic State, al Qaeda and other various terrorist organizations. It is not certain if the incoming Joe Biden administration will change the trajectory of the Trump administration’s peace agreements or if it will also keep on target with the drawdown of U.S. forces.
However, Afghan government officials defend the current democratic system, saying that it does not conflict with Islamic teachings.
Afghanistan’s history with Democracy has been short. In 2004, Hamid Karzai was the first elected democratic president of Afghanistan. At the time, the United States was at the early stages of responding militarily to the attacks launched by al Qaeda, on September 11, 2001. The U.S. targeted the Taliban government because it harbored and supported al Qaeda militants and their training camps in the region.
According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, during the past 18 years, there have been 2,400 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan. Moreover, Congress has appropriated approximately $141 billion taxpayer dollars for reconstruction and to support security forces in the region.
Despite spending billions of dollars to build a democratic system in the war-torn country, Taliban anti-democracy views have worried many politicians and Afghan people who want a democratic system in Afghanistan.
“I am really worried when watching this news that the Taliban will end democracy in our country if they reach on any agreement with the government,” Ahmadullah Afkari, a student in American University in Kabul said.
“We want peace in our country and strongly support the ongoing peace efforts but I believe that if we want to bring lasting peace and prosperity then we need a strong democracy,” he added.
On Thursday (December 10) Taliban Political Deputy head Mullah Baradar Akhund while addressing a conference, organized by Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, said Taliban would not be pursuing monopoly over power following the independence of Afghanistan, rather it seeks an inclusive Islamic government with all Afghans in their homeland.
“The Afghan nation has presented every type of human and material sacrifices for the past four decades for the sovereignty of our homeland and our religious and Afghan values along with the establishment of an Islamic system, and it continues to strive for this exact goal,” Baradar said.
However, earlier in September, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while speaking at intra-Afghan negotiation opening ceremony in Doha, warned that “as you make your decisions you should keep in mind that your choices and conduct will affect both the size and scope of United States future assistance”.
“The United States doesn’t seek to impose its system on others. We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is indeed the best way for you to break the cycle of violence,” Pompeo said.
Sara A. Carter, founder of The Dark Wire, contributed to this report.