Fateh Sami (written, edited & translated)
Afghanistan is a Safe Haven for Harbouring Terrorists, threatening the security of the region.
The living conditions of the Afghan people have worsened since the fall of Kabul and the re-emergence of the Taliban in power. In addition to hunger, poverty and disease, every day we are witnessing terrorist operations in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan. This deteriorating situation shows that the Taliban are not even capable of managing the country’s security. However, some believed that if the Taliban took power, they would at least be able in providing more security than the previous governments, given the fact that the Taliban terror group were the main cause of insecurity in the past. Undoubtedly, the escalation of the current insecurity in Afghanistan is spreading to neighbouring countries and the entire region. In particular, insecurity seems more likely to spread to Iran’s eastern borders than to other neighbours. This issue has caused many concerns in political, media and domestic expert circles. Especially in the last few days, we have witnessed disputes and border tensions between Iran and the Taliban’s self-made administration. The tension reached the point that the army was sent to the eastern borders of Iran. Meanwhile, there are rumours that the Taliban representatives will be accepted at the level of the third secretary in Iran. It indicates the start of the official acceptance of the Islamic Emirate of Taliban by the Islamic State of Iran. In such a complex and contradictory security and diplomatic setting between the Taliban and Tehran, the key question is the possibility of the continuation of relations between the two countries.
Since the formation of administration in Kabul, 259 days have passed. During this period many explosions took place and many people were killed and maimed recently. The situation in Afghanistan for all people has become more worrying than before. Nonetheless, during this period, some political figures including the former Parliament members, the media and Radio and Television showed somehow diplomatic support for the Taliban on their agenda since the ۱۵th of August 2021, and even before that date.
Regarding the matter, it is better to listen to the interview of Dr Abdul Mohammad Taheri who worked as the first cultural advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran to the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan. He lived in Afghanistan for many years. His evaluation of the current situation is as follows:
Question – Mr Taheri! Do you consider the supportive and internal purgatory view of the Taliban in Iran to be logical and close to reality?
Answer– No, not at all. My analysis is based on the personal experiences I gained during my long stay in Afghanistan. The political view of some people and political factions inside is not a criterion for my judgement and analysis. The benchmark is my humanistic view; not because I am unaware of the political goals and positions of some gentlemen in supporting and defeating the Taliban, but because I never disregard the humanistic view and facts for some unrealistic interests. The facts that I have seen with my eyes and felt with my flesh and blood in the shadow of my long years in Afghanistan; because if we base the analysis on the party and political interests, the facts are completely reversed and the audience is presented with an idea of reality. As a humanist, I try to present the facts that I have witnessed with my own eyes in response to your question. The Taliban, whose forces easily bet they could shoot a boy with a gun while riding a bicycle or execute a woman in Kabul Stadium for talking to a non-mahram man, has been in office for more than eight months, trying to establish themselves in Afghanistan. The performance of this so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan during this period in all aspects and levels of life from economic and livelihood issues to media freedom, women’s rights, politics, cultural and social issues, education and even security has been so catastrophic that now for certainty Afghanistan is on the verge of complete decline and destruction. Now, how can such a government with such a record, both in the first period and in the last few months, be accompanied by our domestic support as Iranians?
Question – In addition to the security concerns of Afghanistan these days, do you see the claim of changing the Taliban and the repeated preconditions of Tehran and the international community regarding the formation of an inclusive government by the Islamic Emirate with the same pessimistic spectacles?
Answer – Why pessimistic! Incidentally, my observation and reflection are quite realistic, because it is not possible to count on any of the Taliban’s positions on the establishment of an inclusive and national government with the presence of all Afghan ethnicities and religions. You cannot count on any promises of the Taliban. Therefore, it is still a question for me how the Islamic Republic of Iran has believed the words and promises of the Taliban in this regard, with what logic, wisdom, intellect and with what political insight. Anyone who has little knowledge of the Taliban and its constituents, as well as a review of the group’s record since its inception, will easily realize that the Taliban in no way, I emphasize, in any way will share power with others. They do not share with any political stream. Simultaneously, the Taliban’s biggest challenge to democracy is paying attention to the people’s vote, and essentially the process of turning power from the outcome of the ballot box. I explicitly state that this group (Taliban), faction, band, gang, stream, congregation or anything that can be called has a serious problem with democracy and a broad-based government. Since its formation until now, the Taliban has given no legitimacy to democracy, the people’s vote, the ballot box, the rotation of power and so on. They have neither been interested in a democratic election in the past nor will be in the future. The ideology of the Taliban concerning the formation of a democratic government is based to reject the legitimacy of elections and the authenticity of the ballot box. So, the “Islamic Emirate of Taliban” simply means the destruction of democracy and the elimination of legitimacy in this country. How?
Now, I ask you, how can the Taliban, who do not believe in the originality of the democratic discourse and democratic interaction and consider the elections as forbidden will be prepared to accept elections as a way to be in power. According to their judgement, whoever votes in the election is an infidel and must be killed, so how can one expect any change in their behaviour.
Question– So you do not agree with Tehran’s action to accept a representative of the Taliban government at the level of the third secretary for the Afghan ambassador?
Answer– Incidentally, this is one of the few actions that I consider positive.
Question– For what reason?
Because all the destructive actions of the Taliban government against Iran in Afghanistan can be transferred to the representative of this group with the official reaction and protest of Tehran whenever required. You see, we are not dealing with a country and modern system of government, either in the form of “Government” or “State”. We are confronted with an ethnic, tribal and religious administration called the Taliban, (which was assisted by external and internal forces, headed by Pakistan, the USA, Britain and the government of Ashraf Ghani- added by the editor) in seizing power in Afghanistan. At the same time, within this government, there is a wide and diverse range of other streams that disagree with the Taliban on various internal and external issues. So, if the Taliban take any action or position against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran will not be able to take anyone by the collar. But when a representative of the Taliban is present in Tehran, any protest can be conveyed to the Taliban authority, and this does not mean accepting the Taliban’s government.
Question – According to your previous points, the precondition for the recognition of the Taliban by Tehran and the society does not lead to the formation of an inclusive government?
Answer- I have said before that forming a “government” does not make sense when the Taliban do not give legitimacy to elections. This is a matter of tribal and religious government, not the state. Therefore, considering this point, either for some reason, Tehran still wants to support the Taliban and we do not know about it, or Tehran has no knowledge of this process, and the latter is the excuse worse than the sin. You see, the Taliban is a radical terrorist movement that, by its very nature and policy, has a holistic view of power. So, it is natural that they want to take the whole power. If from now on, an individual, media, party or group inside the country wants to continue supporting the Taliban, rest assured that it can no longer manoeuvre on the justification and parameter of the change of the Taliban compared to 20 years ago, because the list of government ministers stands as evidence. The Taliban definitely would not have gotten better if it had not been worse than it was two decades ago.
Question – You have many years of experience in direct consultation with Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ashraf Ghani’s government, and you are closely acquainted with his political and diplomatic views as if you know Hamid Karzai. Recognizing whether Afghan political figures, from the remnants of the former government (Ashraf Ghani’s government) such as Abdullah Abdullah to Hamid Karzai and even Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are now unable to manage the Taliban and moderate their positions. Although these individuals have previously sought to engage with the Taliban through certain measures such as the formation of a three-member council?
Answer- In a realistic context, I am not very optimistic about the impact of these people and even of a council that consists of them. Although these people have entered the development process in Afghanistan with a peaceful view, given the sphere of their influence and their political vector in the developments of this country, especially in Kabul, has diminished significantly. They are not able to manage the situation and moderate the Taliban. They will never be able at all. Cautiously, they should do a lot of work to take care of their safety.
Answer- Yes, Even Hekmatyar.
Because Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, although a member of the Taliban, eventually joined the government and the Kabul system. Therefore, the Taliban do not look at him as in the past. In light of this, if for any reason the Taliban do not consider Hekmatyar an option that is in line with their policies and plans, there is no reason not to remove him.
Question – So do you believe that there is a scenario of the Taliban eliminating these people?
Answer– Now that we are witnessing the formation of an all-Taliban government, the context for its occurrence has increased. This point is not limited to Karzai, Abdullah, Hekmatyar, etc. As long as the Taliban rule lasts, there will be room for the physical elimination of all Afghan politicians and elites. Rest assured that with the formation of the Taliban government from now on, every politician who now remains in Afghanistan must fear for his life. Of course, this does not happen in the next few days, weeks or even months. This means that it is unlikely that these people will be prosecuted and executed by the Taliban any time soon, although it is not unlikely, due to the current unfavourable situation, the Taliban is closed to this issue. However, even if nothing happens to them in the short term and they are not tried and executed, you can be sure that in the medium and long term, when the Taliban gain more control over Afghanistan and, as he puts it, pursue its Islamic Emirate with these ministers, each one of these politicians will either be tried and executed or removed from the scene of developments in Afghanistan in a terrorist incident without the responsibility of the Taliban, especially politicians who have a lot of popular support. However, it should be noted that after the terrorist attacks and explosions at Kabul Airport in amid the American escape in August of last year, with the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan, the Taliban have now been more open to elimination. As it can entrust its terrorist operations to this current (ISIS), in which case the work of the Taliban will be very simple. Currently, in practice, ISIS in Afghanistan which acts ambiguously as the operational and security arm of the Taliban, can be tasked with eliminating every single political, even social, and civil opposition in Afghanistan that is at odds with the Taliban government.
Question – In line with your final analytical proposition, there is also the possible scenario that terrorist bombings in Afghanistan after the inauguration of the second Taliban government are essentially a plan by the movement itself to eliminate, purge or intimidate other anti-Pashtun tribes and religions. And it is the anti-Taliban, which operates in the name of more radical streams such as ISIS, without direct responsibility to the Taliban. How close do you think this scenario is to reality?
Answer: Unfortunately, the political and security situation in Afghanistan confirms this scenario in a very serious and bold way. That is, the Taliban will pursue this series of terrorist operations either to completely purge some ethnic groups and religions, such as the Hazaras or even Sunnis with Sufi leanings and any opposition or by intimidating the entire Afghan society. But there are two very important points in between. First, following your question, the ruling Taliban can certainly no longer carry out suicide operations directly, so the best and most ideal environment is for terrorist operations by groups like ISIS to be led by the Taliban themselves. Secondly, it should not be forgotten that the security situation in Afghanistan will be volatile due to the continuation and intensification of terrorist operations and explosions in the streets and mosques of this country. There are the best conditions for the survival of the Taliban government.
Question- How and in what way?
You see, the Taliban, under the pretext of managing the current security situation in Afghanistan, can delay the fulfilment of the precondition of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the entire international community for the formation of an inclusive government at any time. Therefore, the Taliban can continue or extend this interim government for as long as it wants; because it is enough for the Taliban to use the crisis in Afghanistan as an excuse, whether in terms of economy, security, social, political, etc., to extend the life of this interim government, claiming to manage this crisis situation. At the same time, the Taliban, under the pretext of these sensitive security conditions, can create a lever for diplomatic acceptance of their government. Of course, I am reluctant to use the word cabinet or government for the terror administration of the Talibani system, so I will use the same Talibani government. Meanwhile, the Taliban have now turned their shoes upside down because they claim that their cabinet is temporary, as opposed to the list of its members. It is another reason for the lying of the Taliban terrorist faction. You know that in the political logic of an interim government, in conditions of transition and crisis caused by the revolution, coups and the like the interim authority is more concerned with a government that is formed with the presence of more parties and political streams, to manage the transition period and crisis. The party want to seize all power at once to provoke a crisis.
Question- How long can this hypocrisy of the Taliban work for them? Anyway, when will this lie of the Taliban end?
Answer: First of all, I explicitly state that the government intended for the Taliban was formed and the Taliban no longer have any plans to change this government. Second, the time it takes for the Taliban to manoeuvre politically and diplomatically over the temporary nature of their rule is only for themselves, not for the Taliban’s opponents and critics.
Question: Before entering your field of expertise in Afghanistan, let us focus on the devastating and, of course, direct consequences of the continuation and intensification of the current insecurity in Afghanistan under the shadow of the second Taliban government. What do you think these consequences will be? Especially in the last few days, we have witnessed some border tensions, which even led to the deployment of the army. In addition, is there any news that the Taliban government is trying not to activate the border posts between the two countries?
Given the series of developments that have taken place in the eastern borders of the country over the past few days, and considering my view of the future, the current situation cannot be called the security consequences of the Taliban government. The issue is more serious and beyond these words. It should be called “direct and indirect security threats” to the Islamic Republic of Iran; the direct threats posed by the resurgence of ISIS terrorist groups and the Golan Heights, especially Khorasan ISIL, in Afghanistan with the strengthening of the Taliban government are undoubtedly a sign of their opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Where are they? Other terrorist and extremist factions, such as the Haqqani movement, which is now in the body of the Taliban government, as well as al-Qaeda, etc., should not be forgotten. A much more important point to note is the issue of US security influence, first and foremost Israel. The current situation in Afghanistan, if it continues, will be the best space for the Mossad Golan. In other words, in addition to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, the Kurdish region of Iraq, Turkey, the Republic of Azerbaijan and Qarbagh, now that the Taliban government has come to power, Israel can cultivate professional spies and infiltrate terrorist groups in Afghanistan. It can encroach on Iran’s eastern borders and could also incite some terrorist movements to create insecurity in eastern Iran.
Question- Let’s focus on your main specialty, education, especially since one of the most important current concerns of Afghan society seems to be the destruction of the current education system in the shadow of the return of the Taliban. The Taliban’s refusal to allow girls to enter schools has exacerbated these concerns. In any case, you played an effective and serious role in the transformation of Afghanistan’s education system after the fall of the Taliban for many years. Under these concerns, should we see the gradual elimination of girls from the education system, as well as the higher education system and universities in this country?
With this in mind, do you consider all your achievements in transforming Afghanistan’s education system to be wasted with the return of the Taliban to the country’s political scene?
Answer- If the Taliban is the same as it was two decades ago, and I think it will be worse and more violent than before, and we will see this over time, and if the Taliban take their previous thoughts more seriously in the education system and inject the higher education in Afghanistan, which it certainly does, and unfortunately, I do not see my efforts, but all the efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran to transform the education system in Afghanistan was in vain. I do not emphasize my efforts and achievements in Afghanistan. Anyway, as an advisor, I also tried to change the education system in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, but the important point is that with the return of the Taliban, the construction, organizational, manpower and all logistical costs of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the face of the transformation of Afghanistan’s education system is now gone. Therefore, the greatest damage and destruction of the education system of Afghanistan will be borne first by the Afghans themselves and later by the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran, both economically, socially, culturally and, more importantly, manpower, spent a lot of services and money to transform the education system in Afghanistan to the point that Iran is even in the centre. The weight of the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, Kandahar, was also looking for a new education system. I personally once every two weeks, organised the teachers of the literacy movement of the Islamic Republic of Iran for many years, trying to build the modern bases of new education in Afghanistan.