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Exclusive: Afghanistan Taliban commander says his group rejects Democratic system, pushing for Islamic State

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US Taliban meetings in Doha

This story originally posted on The Dark Wire: An Investigation Foundation

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: As uncertainty grows over whether the U.S. and Afghanistan’s militant Taliban could finalize a peace deal amid ongoing talks – as well as the anticipation of a new U.S. administration – a top commander in the group told The Dark Wire: An Investigation Foundation, they remain opposed to the continuation of the democratic government system established in the country after the U.S. led military campaign ousted them from power in 2001.

“The Taliban has categorically rejected to accept any condition that the next government after intra-Afghan agreement would form through an election process,” a senior Taliban commander told the Dark Wire, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak with the media. 

“Taliban (leaders) want a strong, ‘Islamic system’ of governance in the country which could bring real reforms in all sectors including defense, health, education and financial sector of the country,” the Taliban commander added.

For more than 10 years while the militant group and the U.S. officials have negotiated for a peace deal the Taliban has remained focused on the release of prisoners, as well as the withdrawal of all U.S. forces. It has also demanded to be a substantial member in any future Afghan Islamic government system. And that’s the crux and a major issue because the Afghan government has been insistent that any deal must support the nation’s constitution and civil liberties.

The senior Taliban commander did not go into any details about earlier demands that the Afghanistan government dismantle the current Afghan National Army. The commander said that for reparation “he believes the Islamic system in Afghanistan is the only way to bring peace and end the conflict in the region.”

As for tensions in the region, they remain high. Afghan security forces killed roughly 51 Taliban fighters in the southern province of Kandahar this week, in response to ongoing attacks from the militant group. The fighting has been ongoing while both sides pursue peace talks in Qatar.

The Afghan ministry of defense said the strikes against Taliban positions in five districts on Saturday night, a mixture of ground and air assaults that also destroyed four Taliban ammunition depots, were in response to insurgent attacks.

The U.S. signed its first major agreement with the Taliban on Feb. 29. The Trump administration had been working intently since he entered office to end the 19 year war that has lead to the death of thousands of U.S. troops and wounded tens of thousands more. That deal led to the decision to drawdown U.S. troops to 2,500 by Jan.15.

The region, however, is still teeming with militants connected to Islamic State, al Qaeda and other various terrorist organizations. It is not certain if the incoming Joe Biden administration will change the trajectory of the Trump administration’s peace agreements or if it will also keep on target with the drawdown of U.S. forces.

However, Afghan government officials defend the current democratic system, saying that it does not conflict with Islamic teachings. 

Afghanistan’s history with Democracy has been short. In 2004, Hamid Karzai was the first elected democratic president of Afghanistan. At the time, the United States was at the early stages of responding militarily to the attacks launched by al Qaeda, on September 11, 2001. The U.S. targeted the Taliban government because it harbored and supported al Qaeda militants and their training camps in the region.

According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, during the past 18 years, there have been 2,400 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan. Moreover, Congress has appropriated approximately $141 billion taxpayer dollars for reconstruction and to support security forces in the region.

Despite spending billions of dollars to build a democratic system in the war-torn country, Taliban anti-democracy views have worried many politicians and Afghan people who want a democratic system in Afghanistan. 

“I am really worried when watching this news that the Taliban will end democracy in our country if they reach on any agreement with the government,” Ahmadullah Afkari, a student in American University in Kabul said. 

“We want peace in our country and strongly support the ongoing peace efforts but I believe that if we want to bring lasting peace and prosperity then we need a strong democracy,” he added.

On Thursday (December 10) Taliban Political Deputy head Mullah Baradar Akhund while addressing a conference, organized by Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, said Taliban would not be pursuing monopoly over power following the independence of Afghanistan, rather it seeks an inclusive Islamic government with all Afghans in their homeland.

“The Afghan nation has presented every type of human and material sacrifices for the past four decades for the sovereignty of our homeland and our religious and Afghan values along with the establishment of an Islamic system, and it continues to strive for this exact goal,” Baradar said. 

However, earlier in September, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while speaking at intra-Afghan negotiation opening ceremony in Doha, warned that “as you make your decisions you should keep in mind that your choices and conduct will affect both the size and scope of United States future assistance”.

“The United States doesn’t seek to impose its system on others.  We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is indeed the best way for you to break the cycle of violence,” Pompeo said. 

Sara A. Carter, founder of The Dark Wire, contributed to this report.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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