ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said the group welcomed help and advice from neighboring Pakistan on how to reach a peaceful settlement in the war-torn country but would not accept Islamabad’s ‘dictation’ of the process.
The comments come amid an upsurge in fighting and the flight of thousands of members of the tattered Afghan security forces, which have raised grave doubts about the future of United States-backed peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.
The talks began last year under the then-President Donald Trump’s administration. President Joe Biden has announced the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11 this year, later than a May 1 deadline set out by the previous administration.
Pakistan has repeatedly said a negotiated settlement is the only way to end decades of war in Afghanistan.
Asked about relations with Pakistan in an interview on Pakistan’s Geo News channel on Sunday night, Shaheen said: “We want brotherly relations with Pakistan. It’s a neighboring country, is is Muslim, we have shared values, historical, religious, cultural. This is the reality.”
However, he added: “On the peace process, they can advise us, help us, but whoever imposes, no matter who it is, someone tries to give us dictation us, then that is against our principles.”
Pakistan, which helped facilitate US-Taliban negotiations in Doha that resulted in the initial May 1 troop withdrawal deal, wields considerable influence with the Taliban. The insurgents are believed to have sanctuaries in Pakistan, which Islamabad has repeatedly denied.
The swift withdrawal of US and allied troops without a negotiated settlement has raised security fears for Pakistan, especially that the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) group — which has carried out some of the most high-profile attacks in Pakistan and whose leaders are mostly based in Afghanistan — would be emboldened by instability in the country.
“We will not let the soil of Afghanistan be allowed to be used against anyone,” Shaheen said when asked about the role of the TTP in post-withdrawal Afghanistan and if the Afghan Taliban considered them opponents or partners. “We will not give permission to an individual and we will not give permission to any group that they use the soil of Afghanistan against another country. This is our policy.”
On Monday, Pakistani information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said though Pakistan wanted a “peaceful and all-inclusive” system of government in Kabul, “even if it does not happen, it will not have an impact inside Pakistan.”
“Our Afghan policy is in the interest of Pakistan,” the minister wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully Afghanistan’s land will not be used against Pakistan.”