The Afghan Taliban have demanded their political office in Qatar be re-opened for talks and contacts with both the world community and stakeholders in Afghanistan.
The office was closed down in 2013 just days after it was formally opened due to then Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s objections over the use of the flag and plaque of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ at the building. The Taliban had used the Islamic Emirate moniker during their reign in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
Though the Qatar office is still closed, Taliban negotiators continue to live in Doha.
At an international conference in Norway last week, the head of Taliban’s political office Sayed Tayyeb Agha said the group had the right to call themselves the Islamic Emirate and use its flag at their office. He added that the facility, once re-opened, would be a permanent address for contacts, talks and meetings with Afghan, international and human rights groups.
“The Islamic Emirate should have the right to interact with the media for political purposes,” he told the delegates, according to a Pashto-language text the Taliban released on Sunday.
“The impression that the Taliban do not talk to the Afghans and sit only with foreigners is wrong,” Agha said at the conference organised by the Oslo Forum and co-hosted by the Norwegian foreign ministry and the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.
“The Taliban have started meetings with the Afghan sides and the process continues. However, talks have not been held with the Kabul administration as it has no powers to take decisions on key issues,” he said. “The Americans and foreigners are the real causes of the Afghan problem and that is why we want to talk to them first. Talks with the Kabul administration at this stage are useless.”
Agha also criticised travel restrictions imposed on the Taliban negotiators, telling the delegates that two senior members of the group’s political office – Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar and Qari Din Muhammad Hanif – were unable to attend the Oslo conference despite being scheduled to do so due to UN sanctions.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2015.