“Foreign forces are fighting each other in Afghanistan and don’t want the war to stop”

The USA started negotiations with the Taliban, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently. So where does that leave the situation?

Do the Americans want to achieve peace in Afghanistan? Is the drugs problem the priority? Why do all the efforts by the occupation regime make no sense? These and other themes are discussed by General Shahnawaz Tanai.

Gen. Shahnawaz Tanai is a historic personality. There are very few living participants in the main Afghan events like him still present on the national stage. So long as no full history of that country for the last 30 years has been written, he remains its invaluable witness who is not influenced by the ups and downs of current politics.

His house in Kabul looks like the majority of Afghan dwellings that have neither plumbing, nor heating. The gas stove cannot heat even a small room. As soon as we made arrangements for an interview over the phone, lights went off in his house, although there was electricity as usual in his immediate neighborhood. The supply resumed when it was time for me to leave. The general is officially in disgrace, out of work and under the watchful eye of the occupation secret services.

He denies much of what is ascribed to him, as, for example, his part in the elimination of Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, the last president of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Gen. Tanai is reluctant to discuss how he raised the armed forces of the Taliban that stopped the feuds between the Mujahideen and were in control of 90 per cent of the country prior to the US invasion. And yet he did play a huge role in halting the civil war in Afghanistan while the Taliban were at the helm. Where he is clean before the Afghan people is in that he was not one of those who invited either the Soviets (like the Communists) or the US forces (like the Mujahideen).

Gen. Shahnawaz Tanai
RT: General, what is your assessment of the current situation in this country?

Shahnawaz Tanai: The democratic process was started by the Afghan people themselves. Were that process supported, there’d have been no difficulties in the later period. But now we see that Afghanistan has many problems, including political and military ones. There is an army problem too, because many servicemen die. Efforts to achieve good results fail because the central government is weak, while the coalition forces are not doing what they promised. Armed groups are fighting the coalition forces, and the people don’t trust the coalition forces.

RT: Why is your name is linked to the organization of the Taliban’s military movement?

ST: It’s no secret for anyone that I was a member of the Khalq faction of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, and not just an ordinary member, but I was active in the political events both before and after the revolution. After the USSR, on orders from Gorbachev in Moscow, wound up the military operation [in 1989 – RT], Dr. Najib [Mohammad Najibullah – RT] failed to meet the demands of Khalq’s armed forces. His program for achieving peace in the country was not bad, but he didn’t fulfill all his promises, and that caused displeasure in Khalq and other political movements. As a result, many difficulties emerged, as you may know. Both before and after that, let me stress this specifically, the Khalq Party had no links with any extraneous inner or outside forces. I was serving the people of Afghanistan and pursued an independent policy.

RT: How do you explain the emergence of the Taliban?

ST: After a democratic system arose in Afghanistan, the forces of jihad, the Mujahideen and religious armed groups bent on the holy jihad came to this country from different areas of the region. Those groups built up in Kabul and started fighting each other. They brought much devastation. Each jihad-monger had aims of its own that didn’t tally with those of the Afghan people. Those jihad organizations amassed a lot of weapons, and that was viewed negatively by the people. For that reason commanders sought to strengthen their ties with outside countries in order to obtain more money for a confrontation with each other. As a result, the Taliban emerged on Afghanistan’s political stage. Backed by some world powers, that force got enough chances for coming to power in Afghanistan. They established their control over 90 per cent of its territory.

The Taliban took advantage of its fragmentation. It’s no secret for anyone, I hope, that the Taliban was established with the support of some world, or more precisely, Western powers. The Taliban ruled the country on the basis of stern religious laws. They managed to impose a strict order and control.

The Taliban sought to stop the feuds and they achieved that aim. But the situation ceased to meet the interests of the Western powers. The West realized that the Taliban no longer did its bidding. They began ruling the country without asking for a go-ahead from those who had brought them into being. This is why, taking advantage of September 11, Washington decided to bomb Kandahar and topple the Taliban regime.

After that Afghanistan was turned into a bridgehead for other nations. In pursuit of their own benefit, the Western nations are hacking this country. This wouldn’t have come about [there wouldn’t have been either the present-day situation or the Taliban] had Afghanistan not been plunged into squabbles between the jihad people and the democratic forces [in the 1980s and the 1990s – RT].

RT: Is the Taliban an Afghan movement or a strictly outside one?

ST: If we look closely at Afghanistan’s history, we’ll see that all armed movements here in some way or other are created solely by the Afghan people. The Taliban’s political program was drawn up with assistance from some world and regional powers. Of course, the effort to establish the Taliban involved some figures connected with religious Islamic regimes, the Islamic establishment, both regional and world.

RT: Who are the Taliban today?

ST: They call the Taliban any people that pursue an armed struggle with the local Afghan authorities and with the international forces. This confrontation isn’t confined to the Taliban alone. It may involve Al-Qaeda and Hekmatyar’s people, and some regional forces. But since in this matter they have identical interests, namely, they fight against the coalition and the local government, everybody calls them the Taliban.

RT: Is there a chance for peace in Afghanistan today?

ST: Why are such problems arising not only in Afghanistan but all over the world? Let me tell you. The developing and underdeveloped countries get the feeling that they’ve been deprived of their due share. They become aware that the world powers want to use them in their interests and that they are making profits from them. As one philosopher said, it’s natural for any ethnic group in any country that people start an armed fight in the name of justice. The same is with the developing countries. We in Afghanistan can feel that. First Britain took advantage of it, next the USSR, and now the United States is unjustly using Afghanistan for its purposes. The British, the Soviets, and the Americans invaded Afghanistan’s territory, thus causing a retaliatory reaction. They’d better help Afghanistan and support its development. History is repeated today. A world power came to Afghanistan, and it is averse to putting up with the people’s interests.

Look at what is going on. The coalition forces came. They promised to put the country in order, to improve life and the economy, to streamline the social sphere. But what do we see? To this day 60 per cent of people live amid total dislocation, in poverty, like they did before, below the poverty line. The army is distrusted, and no change is in view. But it was created by the coalition. Look at my shack. The living conditions are not improving. And what attitudes on the part of the people can you expect under these circumstances? People can see that the central authorities are after profit, making a lot of money and using it for their purposes. The people are sick and tired of that. Should the government perform well, evolve a harmonious governance system, rule-of-law, an efficient economy and local administrations, the war would have come to an end, the nation would have been reunited, and the people would have enjoyed a decent life.

RT: What can Russia do?

ST: Russia would do well to learn the USSR’s lesson. And, secondly, it’s very important that Russia should help not only the coalition but also the people. It’s very important to strengthen friendship with Russia. And for that one must be sure that Russia’s aid to Afghanistan is efficient.

Thinking back to the Soviet period, it must be clear that you cannot neglect the view of the majority of people. The USSR didn’t trust Khalq who was supported by the majority of Afghans. By backing less important forces, the USSR created the conditions for a split. Afghanistan became destabilized. Political and economic problems emerged both in Afghanistan and the USSR. In consequence, the world’s entire socialist movement suffered a defeat. If Russia responsibly helps Afghanistan, treats it with good intentions, then eventually we will forget about the erstwhile conflicts.

RT: Does NATO’s role do any good to the Afghan people?

ST: NATO and the USA are making the same mistakes as the USSR did. The Afghan people should be allowed to do something with their own hands. One has the impression that they are failing to learn from history. I told both Gorbachev and the KGB chief Kryuchkov that they should seek support from the majority of the people rather than its 20 per cent. The Americans are following the same path as the Soviets did.

RT: Is it true that the Soviet-trained Afghan officers joined the Taliban army?

ST: Following the disintegration of the USSR, the Soviet Army collapsed, with Russia’s army emerging in its stead. It has changed greatly. The same happened under Dr. Najib, when he toppled the democratic regime. At that time, the authorities didn’t want Afghanistan’s revolutionary army to continue in existence, and they disbanded it. Left without a job after the army’s disintegration, officers and men, as is only natural, joined the Taliban army. They had to support their families. Currently, some former officers from the revolutionary army of Afghanistan are working for NATO in order to make a living. Russia, too, as we can see, is drawing closer to NATO. Your army has changed a lot as well. These are processes of life. Each time there is a regime change it’s people that suffer, and they attempt to find a way out.

RT: What should the coalition and President Karzai do today to achieve peace?

ST: It looks like the coalition forces don’t want this war to stop. If they did, why did they do nothing to let the people of Afghanistan really feel as much? Why aren’t they tackling any problems of Afghanistan? Why didn’t they create at least a strong army in Afghanistan? It seems to me the world powers have an interest in maintaining the current situation in Afghanistan. Those powers should stop their infighting. If they do, they won’t tear this country apart and start rebuilding it.

RT: What important things about Afghanistan should a foreigner understand?

ST: They should learn from history, study Afghanistan’s past, particularly the 20th century, the Soviet period in Afghanistan. They should see that not a single person will be able to solve the Afghan problem single-handedly. Neither can NATO and the USA, or the local authorities. They cannot succeed where both the Mujahideen, and the Khalq, and the Taliban failed. A common path should be chosen jointly. Afghanistan was always a very motley thing. Some don’t like the Soviet record, others don’t like the Americans, or Karzai, or the Taliban. But there will be no peace as long as foreign forces are locked in hostility in the territory of Afghanistan.

RT: What does it mean to be an Afghan?

ST: We know from history that Afghanistan held a very important position, both for the West and for the East. This steeled the people. As a result, it is now in a position to pull through everything. The people won’t tolerate some foreign forces to sacrifice its freedom. Not a single world power is able to conquer and subdue Afghanistan. Better to have a dialogue with the Afghans, listen to them, understand their views, and establish relations with them through friendship and help. Our land shouldn’t be invaded. People will organize their lives on their own.

RT: Can the drug problem be solved?

ST: I don’t think this is the main issue. What is important in the first place is the coming of a reasonable authority that will establish order. After that, the drugs will be dealt with in no time.

RT: What is order and reasonable authority in Afghanistan?

ST: Let me repeat it especially for you. A normal system of power should be created from scratch. Borders should re-established and controlled. A central authority should be strengthened. Everything will get into its proper place if we conquer disunity. Afghanistan is sick; it has aches alternately in its back, in its arms, or in its belly. Drugs are just one of the aches that hit this or that part of the body. If you heal the heart and the innards, the other ills will disappear as well.

Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT