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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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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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