Taliban chief claims “US foreseeing its own defeat”

The United States is on the verge of defeat and will quit Afghanistan soon, according to Taliban’s chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai. He was speaking at an internal gathering in Doha, Qatar, on April 28, organized to commemorate the day in April 1992 when Afghan Mujahideen overthrew the Communist regime in Kabul. The Voice of America (VOA) on Tuesday reported that Stanekzai claimed the Americans “will leave of their own accord, or they will be forced out.”

Stanekzai’s remarks came just two days before he led a Taliban team into fresh talks with US interlocutors. Pro-Taliban social media outlets on Friday released a video of Mr Stanekzai’s speech, a day after the US special reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad concluded the week-long negotiations with Taliban representatives in Doha. In the video, Mr Stanekzai can be heard lauding the bravery of the Afghan nation for defeating British and Soviet invasions of their country in the past and resisting the current foreign military presence.

“God has helped us defeat two superpowers in the last century. The third super power that we are currently confronted with is also on the verge of defeat,” Stanekzai claimed.

Stanekzai also denounced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other pro-government officials, comparing them with those who had supported Moscow during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. “The ill-fated Ghani did not participate in the jihad against Russians but he still takes credit and says, ‘I am an Afghan and we defeated Russians,’” Stanekzai said, highlighting that throughout the period of Russian occupation Ghani did not live in Afghanistan, but returned to Kabul after the US-led military coalition had ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

“You will see that tomorrow when, God willing, Americans are defeated the same Ashraf Ghani and the same Karzai, who are their [US] stooges and were brought to power, they will again take pride in claiming we are Afghans and we defeated the Americans,” said the chief Taliban negotiator.

Last week, Ambassador Khalilzad tweeted that his talks with the Taliban were making “steady but slow progress on aspects of the framework for ending the Afghan war,” but affirmed that the current pace of talks was not sufficient “when so much conflict rages and innocent people die.” On the other hand, former US Defence Chief Robert Gates, on Saturday, warned that there’s a “real risk” that if American forces withdraw from Afghanistan before the Afghan government is stable, the Taliban might retake control of the country.

The current peace dialogue between United States and the Taliban was initiated nearly a year ago wherein both sides claim they have prepared a preliminary draft agreement. The proposed document exclusively focuses on how and when US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in return for assurances that the Taliban will not allow transnational terrorists to use Afghan soil for attacks against other countries. Ambassador Khalilzad, though, has linked a final agreement to a comprehensive cease-fire by the Taliban and the insurgent group’s participation in an intra-Afghan dialogue to permanently end the decades of hostilities. The Afghan government has been excluded from the talks, a move that has angered Ghani.

The Taliban have been insistent on Washington agreeing to and announcing a withdrawal plan. The group has persistently dismissed the Afghan government as a product of an “American occupation,” claiming that the administration has no decision-making authority. Further, they claim that they will reject all cease-fire calls and any formal intra-Afghan peace talks until all foreign troops leave the country.

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