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The Taliban just gave its first press conference since the insurgent group took over Afghanistan.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the long-elusive Taliban spokesman, appeared in front of cameras for the first time to promise security and peace during the Taliban takeover. “After 20 years of struggle we have emancipated [Afghanistan] and expelled foreigners. This is a proud moment for the whole nation,” he said. “This was our right, and we achieved this right, and we would like to express our gratitude to almighty God for having brought us to this stage.”
Mujahid also said that the Taliban wanted to make the country “no longer a battlefield of conflict,” and added that anyone who fought against them has been pardoned. “Animosities have come to an end,” he said. “We don’t want any external or internal enemies... We want to live peacefully.”
During the conference, Mujahid added that foreign countries and aid agencies would remain safe in Afghanistan, saying, “Your security is ensured, we will not allow anyone to do anything against you.” The reason the Taliban entered Kabul, he said, was because “the previous government was so incompetent. Their security forces could not do anything to ensure security ... We had to enter Kabul to ensure the security of the residents.”
The Taliban spokesman then promised the formation of a new “strong, inclusive” government, one which would soon have functioning agencies. He said that women would not be discriminated against in Afghanistan and would work “shoulder to shoulder with us” within “our frameworks.” The Taliban, Mujahid said, is “committed to the rights of women under the system of sharia (Islamic) law.”
Mujahid also added, “We are committed to the media within our cultural framework.”
And that framework is quite clear: Nothing the media does should go against Islamic values. “The media should not work against national values and national unity,” Mujahid said. He also said that the Taliban would not promote drug smuggling or the production of narcotics.
Mujahid spent more than 20 minutes taking questions from journalists at the end of the conference, including women and international reporters. At one point, Mujahid asked for more questions from the conference’s international contingent. “Nobody is going to be treated with revenge,” Mujahid said, when asked about the treatment of Afghan contractors and translators who worked with international militaries in Afghanistan. “They are going to be safe. Nobody is going to be interrogated or chased … We have pardoned everybody.”
This peaceful and conciliatory tone from the Taliban stands in stark contrast to images of thousands of Afghans desperately attempting to flee Kabul, citing concerns of retribution and violence. Many women in Afghanistan have also expressed horror at the prospect of Taliban rule.
And while pressed about the role of women in Afghanistan, Mujahid said they were waiting for the new government to form and laws to be made so that they could “observe those laws and regulations” as they related to the role of women.
The stunning and swift collapse of the Afghan government and military has so far been marked by critiques of the United States for poor planning that has possibly put hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives at risk. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency that has documented U.S. failings in Afghanistan for more than a decade, issued a devastating report calling into question the basic ability of the U.S. government to engage in nation-building.
In a speech Monday, President Joe Biden continued to affirm the U.S. decision to pull out of Afghanistan. “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America’s war-fighting in Afghanistan,” said Biden. “American troops cannot, and should not, be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”