‘US will have to talk to Taliban’

After ten years, the US is finally coming to the realization that they are going to have to actually talk to the Taliban, and accept the fact that it will have a large influence on the future of Afghanistan, journalist Assed Baig told RT.

RT:It appears the Taliban may be stepping up the violence to grab political power ahead of the NATO exit next year. Do you agree with that?

Assed Baig: I think we can see very clearly that we've seen an increase in attacks. We've also seen a number of defections taking place, just last month we saw former senator Qazi Abdul Hai defect to the Taliban, he was a district governor in the northern province of Sar-e-Pol. So we are seeing an increase of action on both sides, but I think that the favor is probably with the Taliban when the Americans leave, because they are the ones who have control of large parts of the countryside and we are seeing defections even from the police and the military over the Taliban.

US policy of not engaging with the Taliban backfired

RT:This all started with the War on Terror, specifically against the Taliban, it is a kick in the teeth for America, isn’t it?

AB: Definitely the policy of not engaging and not going in for talks with the Taliban has really backfired. Now they are coming to realize only after 10 years that they are going to have to actually talk to these people and maybe even accept the fact that once they leave, the Taliban will have a large influence on the government and the future of Afghanistan.

RT:Will there be any last minute olive branches put forward, any last minute talks to try and make steps forward?

AB: I think there is stuff going on behind the scenes; for example at the request of Karzai Pakistan released a second command, one of the highest-ranking Taliban officials in a sense to facilitate peace, but peace in Afghanistan cannot be done without talking to the Taliban and without talking to Pakistan. America is going to have to engage with these major players if it wants peace in the region.

RT:We talked with a presidential candidate earlier in the program who told us that people would rather defect to the Taliban than support the corrupt government. Is that the general feeling?

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo)

Afghans looking at Taliban as source of stability

AB: I think if you speak to Afghans on the ground, what they really want is security, and they currently don't have it. The government does not have much credibility outside the major cities. So people are already looking towards the Taliban as a source of stability, not that they agree with the ideology or the methodology, but what they actually want is security and to be able to feel safe, not having to be searched or stopped and searched by foreign troops or anyone insulting their culture. So I think we will see more people looking at the Taliban, because this is the only option they actually have.

RT:Of course the real war in Afghanistan is the ongoing production of drugs. It's rife there. What happens when NATO pulls out, what it's going to mean for drugs production?

AB: If you look at drugs production during the times of the Taliban, it actually decreased during the Taliban, because they actually cut it out and gave people alternatives, alternative farming to do and other means of income, but since the war on terror, drug production increased. Now I'm sitting in London and the majority of the heroin, actually 90% of it, is coming here from Afghanistan via Pakistan.

RT:What do you put that increase down to then?

AB: I think the lack of security, lack of governance and the war on terror, so if you actually concentrate on killing so-called militants, or the Taliban, then it creates a vacuum for drug lords to come in. So when the Taliban reigned they actually clamped down on drug lords and clamped down on opium production. Now, since the West is gone and America and the UK targeted the very people that were clamping down on the drug lords, the drug lords resurface and continue their business, and actually they are becoming very rich because of it, and some of them are in government.

RT:So another unfortunate consequence of NATO presence there. When Karzai leaves what about the future of Afghanistan and its foreign policy? 

AB: I think Karzai has tried to play a game. He came in on the back of Americans, but then he's also been critical as well at times because he realizes his own reputation of American stooge… that's what he's called anyway. I think that what's going to happen is Washington's relationship with Afghanistan will be dependent upon who's in power. But as we've been speaking about, with the increasing influence and the strengthening of the Taliban, I think Washington will have to start talking to the Taliban.