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1 Oct, 2018 10:37

Taliban never sought peace with US as it fights both Americans & ISIS, commander tells RT

The Taliban has never tried to mend ties with the US as they continue to fight against both Americans and Islamic State, a commander of the group told RT. He denied that any member was ever permitted to discuss peace with the US.

Taliban leaders rarely appear on TV. However, Mullah Tofan, a warlord of Pati Kot district in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, gave an interview to RT in which he denied speculation that the insurgent group had an appetite for reaching out to the United States – and so does the United States.

“The Americans never wanted to cooperate with Taliban and Taliban also never asked Americans to cooperate,” Tofan said, noting that US forces are bombing the militants while they are fighting against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

Commenting on reports of the US ferrying IS fighters from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, he said: “That might be possible, because we also heard this.”

The Taliban are fighting against both Americans and Islamic State, Tofan said, claiming that the group has had “lots of success” in these operations. Previously, media reports suggested the militants were seeking tacit cooperation from US and Afghan government troops to halt airstrikes and avoid hitting Taliban forces as they battled IS.

Observers said the unusual request could have led to a reconciliation between the Taliban and the Western-backed Afghan government, but Tofan vehemently disagreed, saying: “Taliban is not in the hands of Americans.”

The interview follows intense violence that saw the Taliban making huge gains in rural areas and urban centers around Afghanistan. The militants have briefly seized several cities – most recently, in August, they captured the important city of Ghazni, just 150km from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  

Nevertheless, there is low-key diplomatic activity going on in and around Afghanistan. In recent months, the Taliban reportedly sent official delegations to neighboring Uzbekistan, and also held talks with US diplomats in Qatar, where the militants’ political wing has an unofficial liaison office.

However, when asked whether some moderates within the Taliban are willing to talk about peace prospects with the US, Tofan denied any such possibility. Taliban leaders do not want to negotiate with the Americans, and would “never give permission to any Taliban members to negotiate on behalf of Taliban leadership,” he insisted.

Instead, the Taliban commander confirmed that representatives of the insurgent group will attend an upcoming peace conference in Moscow once a date and agenda have been set. “We are waiting [for it], then we will decide what to achieve from the conference,” Tofan said.

The talks in Moscow would mark the Taliban’s first public appearance in the international arena since they were removed from power in Afghanistan following the US-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban is widely recognized as a terrorist organization by Europe, the US and Russia.

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