Minister-Counsellor Mohtaat`s interview for "Echo of Moscow"
In an interview for the Echo of Moscow radio station, the Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Russia, Homayoun Mohtaat, and the third secretary of the Embassy, Ghaus Janbaz, spoke about the current situation in Afghanistan, the prospects for inter-Afghan negotiations and the future of the country
A. Osin-Hello! I welcome our guests from Afghanistan to this studio. These are Ghaus Janbaz, press attache of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Moscow and Minister-Counsellor Homayoun Mohtaat.
G. Janbaz― I'm the third secretary.
A. Osin― It's not a big deal. I was misled.
G. Janbaz― We would also like to thank you for this opportunity and, on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, to welcome you and the distinguished listeners of Ekho Moskvy Radio.
Alexander Osin― Without exaggeration, the situation in Afghanistan is probably worrying everyone in the world right now due to the changes that have taken place. I am referring to the beginning of the withdrawal of coalition troops in general and American troops in particular. How do you assess the situation at the moment?
H.Mohtaat-Yes, indeed, you correctly noted that the situation in our country is currently turbulent. We are now facing an invasion of international terrorism, led by the Taliban group*. Currently, there are military operations in 31 of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The Afghan armed forces are fighting against various groups of international terrorism, including the Taliban.
Recently, according to independent sources, more than 3 thousand people have unfortunately died at the hands of Taliban terrorists and more than 300 people have moved directly from their places of residence.
A. Osin― That is, they became refugees.
H. Mohtaat-Yes, they moved inside the country.
A. Osin― Tell me, according to some data — I can refer to the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the data that sounded on the air — the Taliban have a 75-thousand group, while government troops, too, according to various data, can number even more than 100 or 200 thousand. How do you assess the balance of forces now and the prospects? Can we call what is happening a civil war in the country?
H.Mohtaat― Before answering all your questions directly, I should note that although the number of the armed forces of Afghanistan is higher than that of the Taliban, the fact is that the enemy we are facing is terrorists, and terrorists, as you know, do not observe the rules of war, the rules of wartime. They violate the elementary customs of war, not to mention the conventional rules of war.
Right now, at the moment when we are communicating with you, fierce battles are taking place in the administrative center of Helmand province in Lashkar Gah directly in the city. And the Taliban are hiding in residential buildings, civilian objects, thus creating a roof for themselves, namely hiding in civilian objects, in the homes of ordinary people. And the fact that there are certain reports that the Afghan army has left certain counties in Afghanistan, this is done precisely because the Afghan army observes and knows the rules of warfare and does not want to kill its own people. While these people do not take into account anything, neither the civilian population, nor civilian objects. And in order to avoid civilian casualties, these counties were abandoned.
In order for our words not to look like just words, you can contact non-governmental organizations, international humanitarian organizations for human rights. There are clear, absolutely impartial reports on what is happening, what level of violence the Taliban has been committing in Afghanistan for at least the last three months. In the district of Malistan, located in the province of Ghazni — this is in the center of Afghanistan, the Taliban killed 40 civilians absolutely without trial. Also, in the Spin Boldak district bordering Pakistan-this is Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan — they killed more than 100 representatives of a particular tribe also without trial, guided by revenge and hatred for this particular tribe.
And another very bright and at the same time very sad example. A well-known comedian in Kandahar, his last name is Khasha, was taken out of his home, and was shot in the city in broad daylight. His fault was that he could make people laugh, tell jokes, speak with humor.
Another point that I would like to emphasize is that these are not the 75,000 Taliban people who are fighting in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, we are facing a complex, a collection of terrorists, most of whom are included in the list of terrorist organizations under Russian legislation, among other things. We, our army and the Government are facing representatives of these terrorist organizations.
Together with the Taliban, representatives of such terrorist organizations, also banned in the territory of the Russian Federation by the Supreme Court of Russia, as Ansorullah, the NRZB, the Uzbek so-called Islamic Uighur movement in China and various terrorist organizations are fighting side by side against the government and people of Afghanistan.
The level of violence, brutality and ruthlessness shown by the representatives of the Taliban has embarrassed even some countries that, one way or another, show some sympathy for the Taliban movement. And the Government of Afghanistan is currently engaged in documenting all the facts and acts committed by the Taliban that fall under the norms of international law and can be considered war crimes. Just yesterday, a statement was made by the US and British embassies in Kabul, which condemned the actions of the Taliban in the Spin Boldak area in Kandahar, and they designated these actions as a wartime crime, a crime of a military nature.
A. Osin― In this light, how do you assess the possibility of an intra-Afghan dialogue, or negotiations with the Taliban and those who are fighting with them against the official authorities, are impossible.
H.Mohtaat― The priority of the Government of Afghanistan is to establish peace. In this regard, I must mention the efforts of the Russian Federation, the Russian Government, which is actively engaged in finding a peaceful solution to this problem and has organized several conferences called the Moscow Consultative Format. The Afghan Government has always welcomed these efforts, whether it is the organization of negotiations in Doha, the capital of Qatar, or in Moscow, the Government of Afghanistan always sends its high-ranking representatives to these events in order to actively participate in this process.
And the Government of Afghanistan has repeatedly announced that it is ready to discuss the possibility of the Taliban's participation in the joint management of the state. And, in principle, our requirements for the Taliban are not so great and there are not so many of them. Just yesterday, our Foreign Minister, speaking with a correspondent of the Russian meida 'Izvestia', put forward the following demands: the Taliban must sever its ties with international terrorist networks, stop violence, stop terrorist acts on civilian and other objects, and start certain substantive negotiations.
A. Osin― In Russia, a mixed reaction was caused by the meeting of the unofficial Russian authorities with the emissaries of the Taliban movement, since, as you rightly noted, this organization is on the list of banned in our country. How does the Government of Afghanistan, the official authorities of the country relate to such contacts?
H. Mohtaat― As I have already noted, our Government always welcomes any efforts, including the efforts of the Russian side to put pressure on the Taliban movement to call them to negotiations and to establish a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Our relations with the Russian Federation are long-standing relations, diplomatic relations go back far into history, at least more than 100 years. We have a common concern that Afghanistan will not turn into a base of terrorism. And this is a common concern of both Afghanistan and the Russian Federation.
At the last meeting, which took place in Moscow, where representatives of the Taliban were also present, the Taliban said quite good things in words. However, we got the impression that these words were mainly intended to please the host country, that is, the Russian Federation. However, as you can see, what the Taliban says and proclaims in words is completely contrary to what they are doing. Therefore, we have always consistently called on our neighbors, the countries that we consider our friends, to treat the words spoken by the Taliban with caution.
For example, the Taliban consistently notes that they have an internal agenda and they do not participate in the agenda outside of Afghanistan. However, they are ideologically connected with the organizations and groups with which they cooperate, which we have already mentioned to you. How can they break with this ideology of terror? For example, they tell some of our friends: "If we come to power, we will fight against ISIL* (Islamic State*). And at the same time, they claim that they occupy more than 70% of Afghanistan. The question arises: in this territory, which they consider 70%, is there any evidence that they fought in the war with ISIS*?
Therefore, we can draw a simple conclusion that all the statements they make exclusively pursue one goal: to mislead the international community.
A. Osin― Is ISIS present in Afghanistan? And in what form?
H.Mohtaat― We do not deny that certain disparate groups of representatives of the Islamic State, or, as it is customary in the East to call it, Daesh, are present in Afghanistan, and they are conducting terrorist activities against the Afghan people.
If the Taliban really has a goal to fight against ISIL, then it would be easier to combine efforts and capabilities with the Afghan armed forces, which are also fighting against these same terrorists. What is the problem? The Taliban declared its goal to end the occupation of Afghanistan by the Americans. The Americans are gone. Now what is the logic of war? We have not stated and do not claim that the continuation of the war pursues such a goal that some individuals should remain in power.
However, we are talking about a certain system, a certain regime, a certain republican system in Afghanistan, which has been established for 2 decades, including with the help of Russia, it is vital and viable. We are talking about the continuation of the existence of this system. Therefore, we cannot and will not allow the destruction of the system, the system that was installed at such huge costs, both for our allies and for the Afghans themselves.
I will give a small example. The Russian government has trained or trained more than 200 Afghan prosecutors over the past 2 decades. As well as professional personnel in other areas. For example, about 20 people come to the territory of the Russian Federation every year to gain certain experience and knowledge, and here they receive qualifications. If we talk about the same 200 prosecutors, they were trained to ensure that the right justice is done within the framework of legal legislation, so that international legal standards are observed. When the Taliban comes, what will happen to the prosecutors? How will justice be administered?
At the same time, as a result of targeted terrorist acts, they killed several of these prosecutors. And don't even doubt that as soon as they come to power, they will kill them all.
But the example of Russia, which has trained and is training prosecutors and other professionals, is just one example. The same contribution, the same assistance is provided by the United States, France, England, and even Estonia has trained relevant professional employees for various activities of the national economy, and so on. These states, including Russia, have spent huge amounts of their taxpayers ' money. And thanks to the help and assistance of these states and the people of Afghanistan, a system has been built, and we must put all this into the hands of such a bunch of people who absolutely do not know what to do with it, and will destroy and kill everything that does not walk and think like them — this is unfair, and they do not offer anything in return. Our state is recognized by the international community, is a member of the UN, is recognized by all countries of the world, and it seems to me that we will not allow this to give power and the state into the hands of a completely incomprehensible terrorist organization.
A. Osin― We have representatives of this country called Afghanistan on the air: Mohtaat Homayoun, Minister-Counsellor and 3rd Secretary of the Political Department of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Moscow, Ghaus Janbaz, 3rd Secretary of the Political Department of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the Russian Federation.
This system, this state, was built by you, it was supported to a large extent by a serious military contingent of the United States. Unfortunately, this is probably not the case now. Will you be able to cope with the situation yourself? — the first question. And the second: to what extent do you need or would you like to get the help of other major players-China, Russia, the United States? This is the direct presence of some contingents, these are intermediary services, this is economic assistance — that's what you would like?
A. Osin― What would you like?
H.Mohtaat― A very good question. If you look at the modern history, especially the history of the last 6 years of Afghanistan, then Afghanistan was able to establish the kindest, broadest relations, for example, with the countries of Central Asia. One of the priorities of both the Government and the President of Afghanistan is to achieve self-sufficiency. Afghanistan considers itself a member of a large family of Central Asian peoples. Unfortunately, all our resources, including humanitarian and human resources, are being spent on war. We are well aware that this war will not have a winner either on the part of the Government or on the part of the Taliban.
Afghanistan has vast and diverse useful resources both in the bowels of the country and on the surface, and can use this to achieve self-sufficiency. And the priority goal in this context is to turn Afghanistan into a kind of economic crossroads. Historically and geographically, Afghanistan can play the role of a link between Central and South Asia. We could, would, and are already developing the broadest relations, as already mentioned, with China, with Iran, with the countries of Central Asia and with Pakistan.
And in this regard, I would like to note that during the last meetings of the Big Three, which were held, including in Moscow, representatives of Russia, China and the United States stated that they are in no way interested and will not recognize the restoration of the so-called Taliban Emirate. Of course, a peaceful Afghanistan is beneficial to everyone and, above all, to itself and Russia, China and the countries of Central Asia. And we consistently and respectfully call on our friends, including the Russian Federation, to put pressure on the Taliban group so that they stop committing violence.
On the other hand, we want to note that we accept the Taliban group as a kind of objective reality, a given in Afghanistan, and it is for this purpose that we are ready to negotiate with them in order to talk about the future of our common country. But at the same time, when the Taliban commits violence day after day, not reducing, but increasing the onslaught, destroying the infrastructure of Afghanistan, killing civilians, how do you think, as a responsible state, how should we behave? How should we react to this? Should we respond to this violence properly within the framework of the law or not? The right of the state to defend the rights of citizens and the vital activity of the state and to prevent its destruction.
Just yesterday, the heroic feat of the city of Herat was practically accomplished. The city of Herat was subjected to the most powerful attacks of the Taliban for several days. But people have come to the conclusion that they no longer want to tolerate violence and raids, exclusively armed raids by Taliban terrorists. And they came out on their roofs shouting " God is great!", and they answered with their own weapons that they were not with them, that they supported the armed forces of Afghanistan, the government of Afghanistan. And they call on the Taliban to stop the violence. And we call on the international community to hear the voice of the ordinary Afghan people.
A. Osin― And another very important and complex, probably unpleasant question. It is known that a fairly significant amount of drugs enters the Russian Federation through the Afghan-Tajik border. According to the government's estimates, has this flow increased over the past month or two, has it remained unchanged or, conversely, has it decreased? And how do you assess the role of the Americans in this issue? How was it with them?
H.Mohtaat― Thank you for the question. After a new era in the history of Afghanistan emerged in 2001, one of the priorities of the Afghan Government's policy is the fight against drugs. And in this regard, the Afghan government, together with the international community, has developed a certain algorithm of actions. In particular, if we talk about the Russian Federation, the so-called anti-drug police were regularly trained on the territory of the Russian Federation. This mission is still ongoing.
The Afghan State, as a responsible State, having certain obligations to the international community, has developed specific economic measures so that farmers on the land would not grow opium, but replace it with alternative products.
At the same time, it should be noted that one of the elements of financial support for terrorist organizations and, in particular, the Taliban itself, is precisely the smuggling and cultivation of drugs. And the concern that you mentioned was also expressed by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who noted that he had spoken directly with American top officials and the American leadership on this issue in order to prevent the smuggling of narcotic drugs from the territory of Afghanistan to Central Asia and to other states.
Unfortunately, the war, riots, the unsettled situation and the situation are implicitly increasing the flow of drugs and drug trafficking. And here we see another contradiction between the statements of the Taliban and the practical results, because, as you understand, they stated that if they came to power, the production and cultivation of narcotic substances would be brought to zero. This cannot be true, since it is the income from drugs that is the basis for their financing. Their activity is provided by the sale of narcotic substances and drugs. Therefore, it is absolutely obvious that if they win, these drugs will move further North.
A. Osin― I thank our guests for an interesting conversation. We had representatives of a wonderful country called Afghanistan on the air-Minister-Counsellor Mohtaat Homayoun and the 3rd secretary of the political department of the Embassy of Afghanistan, Ghaus Janbaz.
* activity is prohibited on the territory of Russia
*The text of the interview is given in an adjusted form. You can listen to the original interview in Russian at the link:
Minister-Counsellor Mohtaat`s interview for "Echo of Moscow"