The brother of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud says India is not backing the Resistance and any government establishing ties with the Taliban will not be considered a friend of the anti-Taliban Resistance.
New Delhi: Ahmad Wali Massoud, who served as Afghan ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2002-2006, is the younger brother of the late Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in a suicide bombing on 9 September, two days before the 11 September attack on US soil. Subsequent investigations revealed that the assassination was carried out on the order of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in active collaboration with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.
Wali, who is the founder and chairman of the Massoud Foundation, is now a part of the anti-Taliban resistance along-with Ahmad Massoud, his nephew and son of Ahmad Shah Massoud. In an interaction with The Sunday Guardian, Ahmad Wali Massoud spoke about the ground situation in Panjshir valley, in and around Kabul and elaborated on the reasons on why Afghanistan fell so swiftly to the Taliban. According to him, the Indian government was not supporting the resistance and any government that establishes normal ties with the Taliban, will not be considered as a friend of the anti-Taliban resistance. This view assumes significance as indications are that India is likely to move towards establishing some sort of formal ties with the Taliban. Excerpts:
Q: Mr Massoud, let’s start from the beginning. Who do you attribute the swift fall of Afghanistan to? Was everything pre-decided? Where were the 300,000 Afghan troops?
A: Apart from many other reasons, the main reason why Afghanistan fell was the decision, action of the United States which left Afghanistan in a very irresponsible way. Of course the government of Afghanistan, especially Dr Ashraf Ghani and his associates, are solely responsible inside Afghanistan. But a contract by US special representative Dr Zalmay Khalilzad who signed it with the Taliban was one of the main factors why Afghanistan fell.
Now whether Dr Khalilzad took the actions on behalf of the United States, or it was his own personal decision, we don’t know. But that was the main reason. You are talking about 300,000 Afghan troops, well apart from technical issues, what we are saying is that the Afghanistan problem was mainly a political issue rather than a military issue. The military was strong enough to defend the country; of course they had technical problems, especially when the Americans left due to which the Afghanistan army was left without any air support and other technical support. But the main reason was the political decision made on behalf of the US and the conduct of Dr Khalilzad.
Q: How would you rate the role of Zalmay Khalilzad in the entire process? Did he do his job in a transparent, unbiased manner?
A: Mr Khalilzad was the main reason why Afghanistan fell. Whether he did not really process the peace process properly or he really acted on behalf of others to make Afghanistan fall, I don’t know, but at the end of the day, he was responsible for what happened. He did not do his job properly. What is the reason for that? We don’t know that yet because he has to be questioned, either by the United States, by the Senate or by some other entities and then only many mysteries will be revealed. So Dr Khalilzad has to be questioned on why Afghanistan fell.
Q: What is the situation in Afghanistan now? As per Taliban, everything is normal now.
A: Afghanistan has never seen such a situation ever before in its history. This is the first time that Afghanistan is under such a situation. In every dimension we look, Afghanistan is in a very bad situation. The economic situation, social, cultural situation, everything is in a bad condition. Nothing is normal in the country. Apart from that, at this moment, Afghanistan is turning into a sort of time bomb, a hub of terrorism. It can explode anytime and when that happens, it can engulf and burn the whole region. So that is the main thing, the main concern that the regional countries are worried about. As far as the situation inside Afghanistan is concerned, our people are concerned, we are already a victim of the situation. The change of regime in Afghanistan has caused a lot of things, tragedies in Afghanistan that cannot be explained in this short answer.
Q: A lot has been written about the anti-Taliban resistance. Is that resistance really working on the ground? Or is it something that has no traction on the ground and just a romantic fairy-tale for the international media? What is the situation in Panjshir now? Taliban had shared images, videos that showed Panjshir is now under their total control?
A: Taliban has succeeded in taking control of the roads and the Panjshir valley, which as you know, is a mountainous region; it has got a lot of side valleys. It is the side valleys that are occupied by the Resistance forces and images that the Taliban are showing to the people are mainly taken from side roads, from the areas close to the narrow roads of the side valleys. At this moment, there is a kind of deadlock, the Resistance fighters are all along the side valleys.
Q: You are one of the leaders who have not accepted the Taliban rule. What is your next plan of action? Will you be spending your time in Dushanbe now? Or do you plan to move to Afghanistan and “defeat the Taliban”? If yes, how do you intend to do it? You don’t have any army.
A: Afghanistan is our country, and the Resistance is our cause. We have been struggling for our cause for the last four decades, so of course we will continue to struggle for our cause. We are not resting here or there; we are planning to do whatever we can do inside Afghanistan. Yes, we don’t have an army, but we never had an army before. Even during our resistance against the Russian invasion, we did not have the army. People of Afghanistan, our people are there, they are fighting, defending their homeland, they are fighting their invaders and they are fighting the terrorists. So, our army is our people, the resistance our cause and Afghanistan our country.
Q: You have been a diplomat to the UK. In some of your tweets, you have said that Afghanistan was betrayed by the US and other allied Western powers. What makes you say that? As per the US government, it spent trillions of dollars in 20 years to empower the Afghan government and ultimately, it had to leave Kabul.
A: When the US came to Afghanistan, they came with the intention to root out terrorism and to help Afghanistan, but when they left after 20 years, they gave us back to the Taliban. Yes, they did spend trillions of dollars, but why did they make this decision (to leave)? It must have been a part of a great game that we don’t know. But what we know is that we have been defeated, what we know is that we are losing, we have lost our country. What we know is terrorists are there, what we know is they left Afghanistan in a very irresponsible way. We know a lot of things. Yes, we know that that they spent trillion of dollars, but they left Afghanistan to the mercy of terrorism. So therefore, what is very important for us is our cause, our country, our people. Regardless of their game plan, our cause is our responsibility and that of our people.
Q: The Taliban has been accepted as a “good terrorist” group by some experts, a group that will counter ISIS, the “bad” terrorists. Would you agree with this assessment?
A: There is no good terrorist or bad terrorist—a terrorist is a terrorist. So, therefore, if we brand someone as a good terrorist, we are helping them. So, this is nonsense. Those countries which are kind of classifying groups as bad or good, they just want to use terrorists as a tool to enhance their own interest. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, there is no separation between Taliban, Daesh (ISIS) or Al-Qaeda, they are all the same. When Afghanistan is becoming the ground for rivalry between different countries, then, of course, they will use this sort of branding like good and bad terrorist and all of that.
Q: What was the role, if any, that was played by Pakistan in installing the Taliban rule in Afghanistan?
A: Pakistan always had a role in Afghanistan, in war as well as peace. Obviously, Pakistan has helped the Taliban, it is crystal clear, there is no doubt about it. No one can deny this at all, I don’t think even they will deny this. Can’t we see how much effort they are putting in to make Taliban acceptable to the world community. The effort that they are putting to inject money and all other supplies and the effort that they are making to really kind of smoothen the image of Taliban so that they can be accepted by the world. It means that they have got influence over the Taliban.
Q: You had spoken to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan post the takeover of Kabul. Was he happy or upset over the developments?
A: Yes, I spoke to the PM of Pakistan. Yes, he was saying good things, that he was not for this sort of development, that he was for the relationship with all ethnicities in Afghanistan, not just Pashtun. He said very good, nice things; there is no doubt about it. But when it came to action, he acted contrary to what he had said, to what he promised. It is not only I who witnessed it, all the leaders saw what he said and what really happened to Afghanistan.
Q: Amrullah Saleh and your nephew, Ahmad Massoud, were seen as a part of the front that was fighting against the Taliban. Is Saleh still a part of the front?
A: Anyone who is fighting the Taliban, who is fighting the injustice, who is fighting the invasion, who is fighting the occupation, who is fighting terrorism, extremism—they are a part of the resistance. Some are fighting in the field, some are fighting by using words, some are fighting in a cultural, political field. Resistance belongs to all Afghanistan whoever is against the Taliban policies.
Q: President Ashraf Ghani shifted to Dubai post the takeover of Taliban. Do you believe Ghani had any other choice?
A: I think the republic of Ghani is gone and he is the main cause for the fall of Afghanistan. His leadership is the main reason why Afghanistan fell, it has gone, it is finished. There is no continuation of that sort of republic anymore. That republic was corrupt and the fact that he was not elected by the people of Afghanistan, that was the main reason why Afghanistan fell, that was the main reason behind the leadership of the regime deciding to hand over the whole power to the Taliban. Don’t forget that Ashraf Ghani is responsible for transferring the power to the Taliban.
Ghani could have done many more things, don’t forget that before the Taliban came, Ghani boasted that he would defend Afghanistan and he was not like others who escaped. He showed, portrayed himself as a brave Afghan man, that he could do this and that, but it was all boasting. Ghani has done treason; he committed a crime by handing over the country to the Taliban. He had many other choices. Ghani, a Pashtun, a nationalist, never wanted to share power with the rest of the country. So that’s why it was preferable for him to hand over the power to his ethnic fellow like Taliban rather than to anybody else.
Q: Did you and your colleagues reach out to the Indian government for help of any kind as the Taliban were winning over one city after the other? If yes, what was the response received?
A: No, I did not reach out, but maybe some others might have tried to ask for help but so far, we have not seen a trace of that help in Afghanistan, not during our initial part of the resistance, not until now.
Q: Could India have done something to stop the Taliban from taking over Kabul? Or it just did not have that much of “resources” or calling card in Afghanistan to do anything?
A: When our first resistance started, there were some countries which are close to us, who said you are resisting for a good cause and you are close to us, including India. But as soon as the resistance went against the Taliban, then of course, India left us all alone and they just left the whole thing and concentrated on other issues. So, their cooperation was with us until 20 years ago. Later, they went very close to Ashraf Ghani and Karzai who themselves were very close to the Taliban. I don’t know, I don’t want to judge whether their policy was right or wrong but we all can see that the result this policy has achieved is not right.
Q: The Taliban have repeatedly reached out to the Indian government seeking to establish formal relations. If the Taliban remain in power in the coming years, all countries, including India, will have to explore various ways of developing some sort of working relations with the Taliban. Does that worry you?
A: Any country trying to work out some kind of relationship with the Taliban, they are trying to see whether they can make Taliban toe a moderate line or somehow forge some sort of relation to see how exactly they can help Afghanistan—that is another issue.
However, countries who are kind of trying to enhance their own interest by establishing relations with the Taliban, it means they are promoting terrorism. At the beginning, this might look all right because the Taliban may respond kindly, and they may say ok we will accept and they will accept some sort of condition.
But let me say that the Taliban are a part of a terrorist network; any sort of relationship with the Taliban in the long run will hurt all of us, humanity and countries. It is better not to use terrorism as a tool, it is better to draw a red line which states that side is terrorism, this side is humanity. In the short run, establishing relations with the Taliban may give leverage against the rival country or party, but in the medium and long term, that would be a tragedy. As far as we are concerned, anybody who establishes relations with the Taliban cannot be regarded as a friend of ours.