Agency Islamabad: The Afghan Taliban has said that despite the ongoing talks with the US and other regional powers, it had “not yet reached” any conclusion that would entail an immediate end to hostilities against America and its allies, according to a media report. “We are forced to wage war. Our enemies are attacking us; therefore, we are also combating them,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was quoted as saying by DawnNewsTV. The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. In a series of tweets after six days of talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha last month, Special US Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the US has made “significant progress” in its peace talks with the Taliban. “We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” Khalilzad said at the time. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.” Since being appointed in September, Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America’s longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years. But Mujahid said that, even in Moscow talks, nothing concrete was achieved that would compel them to end the war and military pressure, the channel reported. He insisted that the Taliban are holding talks with the United States “on their own initiative”. Responding to a question regarding the timing of the talks, the militant commander explained that, even prior to the US invasion, the Taliban had asked Washington to engage in dialogue instead of war, the channel said. He said that they had eventually even opened a political office in Doha, Qatar in 2013 for this purpose, but Washington had been unwilling to negotiate at the time. The spokesperson said that now that the US is willing to talk, they have decided to engage with them. When asked about Pakistan’s role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, Mujahid said: “There is no role being played by any outside country. This has always been our own initiative and policy.” He, however, said that if the Taliban do end up having a say in the Afghan polity one day, they will approach Pakistan “as a brother and a neighbour”, seeking “comprehensive ties based on mutual respect.” He acknowledged that Pakistan had remained “the most important hub” for Afghan refugees during the Soviet invasion. Mujahid said that while the Taliban do not have a codified manifesto, their “clear” objectives were the end of the occupation of Afghanistan, establishment of an Islamic government, establishment of peace and security, reconstruction of Afghanistan and the provision of administrative services. He also said a new constitution will be drafted and “implemented in light of the teachings of (the) Shariah. On a question regarding the possible formation of an interim government in Afghanistan, he said that the Taliban had neither held any discussions regarding an interim government nor had they proposed such an idea. Explaining the Taliban position on refusing to talk to the government in Kabul, Mujahid said that any talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani regime would have symbolic ramifications. If the Taliban were to hold talks with the Kabul government, it would mean that they had “accepted this stooge regime as a legitimate government (even though it was) imposed upon us by aircraft and (the) bombing of invaders”, he said. He said that talks between two opposing powers are meant to achieve a mutual resolution to outstanding issues and the re-establishment of peace and stability. “This process does not mean [a] partnership with anyone,” he said. Mujahid added that the Taliban believe that as long as Afghanistan is occupied, ceasefires and intra-Afghan talks would not amount to much. “We first and foremost have to put an end to the occupation and then focus on resolving our internal issues.” Responding to a question regarding the Taliban’s support to the al-Qaeda leadership, which led to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Mujahid said that: “The Islamic Emirate sheltered those foreign Mujahideen (Al Qaeda operatives) that had arrived in Afghanistan during the period of jihad against the Soviet Union and remained behind as [an] inheritance. Their protection was a religious and cultural necessity.” However, he said that currently there was “no one that needed (the Taliban’s) shelter”. “The Islamic Emirate (Taliban government) shall never allow anyone to harm others from our soil,” he asserted.
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