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17 Aug, 2021 15:43

Taliban promises peace, amnesty, rights ‘within Sharia law’ & ‘narcotics-free’ Afghanistan in first intl media press conference

Taliban promises peace, amnesty, rights ‘within Sharia law’ &  ‘narcotics-free’ Afghanistan in first intl media press conference

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid made numerous sweeping claims in a Tuesday press conference saying the Taliban is focused on forming a government in Afghanistan, will observe women’s rights and has “pardoned” wartime enemies.

“We have all borders under control,” Mujahid told reporters at the first media conference in Kabul since its takeover by the Taliban. He promised that a government is “seriously” being formed and “it will be announced after completion.”

Amid the ongoing chaos in Afghanistan as the US has struggled to get military allies out of the country as Taliban fighters have moved in on previous strongholds, including the capital city of Kabul, Mujahid said enemies of the Taliban have been “pardoned.”

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“We have pardoned everybody for the benefit of stability or peace in Afghanistan,” he said. He added, however, that those who have died in the past few days as the Taliban has reclaimed land hold sole responsibility for their deaths.

“Those whose lives have been lost as a result of fighting for the enemy, this was their own fault. We conquered the whole country in a matter of days,” he said. 

Despite this sentiment, Mujahid assured that translators and allies to the US military will not be interrogated or “treated with revenge.”

“Nobody is going to knock on their door and ask them who they have been working for,” he said, adding that many younger Afghanistan citizens are “assets” that should remain in the country.

Mujahid did not give too many specifics about this new “government” being formed, but he did touch on how some issues would be handled, including press freedom. While Mujahid promised the press can remain “free and independent,” it must also work “within our cultural framework.” 

The Taliban will not, however, accept “any media practices in our country against Islam and Muslims,” Mujahid later promised. 

He similarly said women will have the right to work and study, but only “within our framework,” not specifically explaining what kind of limitations this “framework” will present in this potential new government. 

Womens’ rights, Mujahid said, will be “under the system of [Sharia law],” which many in the international community have argued impedes basic human rights. Mujahid made the diplomatic argument on Tuesday that Afghanistan has no “problems with the international community” and only wants their “right to act according to our religious principles” to be respected. 

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Mujahid also promised a country free of narcotics, but insisted that help would be needed from other countries as Afghanistan needs “alternative crops” to replace the booming poppy fields in the country, which have created a steady stream of opium and narcotics production – something the Taliban has made clear it will be seeking to stop.

The United Nations has responded to the Taliban’s sweeping promises by calling for action on the pledges.

“We will need to see what actually happens and I think we will need to see action on the ground in terms of promises kept,” spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told the media in New York, following the press conference.

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As the Taliban has reclaimed territory, including the capital city of Kabul, some embassies have been evacuated, including the US’, which staff vacated on Sunday. Some countries’ diplomatic staff, including Russia’s and China’s, have made contact with the new de facto Taliban government, however.

European Union foreign ministers met on Tuesday to discuss how best to approach the Taliban, which is seeking international recognition and support as the US’ wartime effort in the country comes to an end.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, released a statement before the Taliban takeover of Kabul, warning the group it would face “isolation” if it retook the city. The official seemed to have had a turnaround this week, however, recognizing that the Taliban had “won” the military conflict and therefore the EU was obliged to talk to its leaders.

Also on rt.com EU foreign policy chief: Taliban ‘WON THE WAR,’ we’ll have to talk to them – and acknowledge mistakes

In his previous statement, Borrell said “support” for Afghanistan would be “conditional” on “respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities.”

Russia has similarly called for a more inclusive government from the Taliban, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this week that it was in no hurry to recognize the Taliban – still designated a terrorist group by Moscow – as a legitimate authority in the country.

Lavrov did nonetheless recognize Tuesday’s wide-ranging press conference as sending a “positive signal” about Afghanistan’s future.

“What the Taliban are declaring in Kabul, and how they are showing their willingness to respect the opinion of others in practice – that, I think, is a positive signal,” he said.

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