Afghan Taliban dismisses fear of attacks on India after US troop withdrawal, says neighbourhood's support vital to rebuild country

FP Staff

Almost a month after US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with Afghanistan's once all-powerful extremist regime Taliban, the "Taliban Political Commission" or TPC is neither discouraged nor is it sitting still.

Furthering its long political journey from being treated as a rogue militant-backed group to gaining enough political legitimacy to be sitting across world powers at the negotiation table, the so-called TPC is touring Pakistan, Moscow and cutting deals with the world powers. The latest such instance being the militant group negotiating the release of three Indian engineers it took hostage, in return of release of 11 of its men. The freed Afghan Taliban men include prominent leaders like Sheikh Abdul Rahim and Maulvi Abdur Rashid, both of whom have served as governors during the Taliban administration before the US-led intervention in 2001.

Before this, a high-level Taliban delegation on 4 October met Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan to discuss the stalled peace process in Afghanistan. In early September, days after Trump stunned the world when he suddenly declared that the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban were 'dead', the TPC was in Moscow discussing the fate of nearly-finalised peace treaty.

Then, according to a report in The Diplomat, the Moscow visit was followed by similar appearances in Tehran and Beijing, lending further credence to Taliban diplomatic clout which, in a way, diminishes the authority of the elected government in Kabul.

At such a time, the Taliban, which has gotten prolonged support from Pakistan, has also hinted that it would like to settle differences with India or at least is willing to settle for a no-interference policy.

In conversation with News18's Zakka Jacob, Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Suhail Shaheen sought to dismiss India's fears that the militant organisation will direct its attention to foment trouble in India once the US troops pull out of its territory.

"It is not a genuine fear, it is not a reality. Why we should turn our fighters towards India when we need to reconstruct our country after its liberation. We need to have a relation with other countries to help us in reconstructing and developing our country. We do not have any policy of interference in any other countries, rather, we want to have good relations with every global partner. That's our policy," Shaheen told News18. 

However, India has maintained that while it backs lasting peace in Afghanistan, it is not in favour of letting a militant organisation call the shots on the peace process while keeping the democratically elected government out of the process. Although the country did participate as an observer in the peace talks anchored by Moscow.

It is noteworthy here that Russia was the one that overruled strenuous objections from Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and invited a Taliban delegation to Moscow in November 2018 to hold peace talks. Russia's relationship with the Afghan government has steadily deteriorated since. Moscow has twice this year hosted meetings between the Taliban and prominent Afghan personalities.

While Washington has been seeking an exit to its longest war, the Taliban are at their strongest since their ouster in 2001 and hold sway over more than half the country, staging near-daily, deadly attacks across Afghanistan.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Afghan Taliban frees three Indian engineers held hostage in exchange for releasing 11 outfit members, says media report

Taliban delegation meets US peace envoy for first time since 'dead' Afghanistan peace deal

Pakistan asks Taliban to resume talks with US for early, peaceful resolution of conflict in Afghanistan

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