Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Ex-Taleban Chief: Talks With Insurgents Futile

Former rebel fighter believes there’s no point in talks because neither side is prepared to compromise. By Habiburrahman Ibrahimi in Kabul
By Habiburrahman Ibrahimi
  • Taleban troops parade through Musa Qala. Photo by Aziz Ahmad Tassal. November 2007.
    Taleban troops parade through Musa Qala. Photo by Aziz Ahmad Tassal. November 2007.

A former Taleban fighter who leads a paramilitary force loyal to the authorities in the eastern Afghanistan province of Wardak has said apparent government efforts to talk with the Taleban are a waste of time.

In a wide-ranging interview with IWPR, Hajji Gholam Mohammad, 47, said the reported negotiations aimed at reconciliation were “futile”, as the government and the insurgents are not prepared to make concessions. He described the talks as little more than “media propaganda”.
 
Gholam Mohammad, who used to command a force of 2,000 Taleban fighters, and was later imprisoned for two years by the American military, told IWPR that he joined the Taleban in the Nineties to combat the cruelty and corruption of the mujahedin commanders who controlled the country at the time.
 
But he believed the current resistance of the Taleban was unjustifiable because it was “destroying the country”. He told IWPR that the insurgents were now led by Pakistanis, not Afghans, and it was not clear what their aims were.  “I don’t know what they are fighting for,” he said. “They destroy bridges, kill doctors and engineers and do terrible things.”
 
Gholam Mohammad previously led a band of mujahidin that fought the regime of Dr Najibullah, the last communist president. When that collapsed, he returned to his village with his fighters.
 
He says that he stayed out of subsequent inter-mujahedin fighting but ensured the security of his area during the civil war. When the Taleban was created, he decided to join them, believing they would fight corruption. He says he led a force of about 2,000 men.
 
“When the Taleban regime collapsed [in 2001], I went back to my province, Wardak, and lived in mountains. I carried on fighting the government for two years. Then [President] Hamed Karzai called the elders of Wardak province to Kabul and asked them to bring me back from the mountains and get me to join the government,” he told IWPR.
 
“Karzai had also sent a message via the elders saying if I stopped my opposition, he guaranteed that the Americans would not touch me, but it was not true. A few months after I agreed to join the disarmament process with my 1,700 men carrying light weapons, the Americans came after me one night and took me to Bagram [air base]. I was imprisoned for two and a half years and forgotten.”
 
Gholam Mohammad said he was imprisoned from 2004 to 2006 and was released when Karzai went to the Wardak provincial capital of Maidan Shahr to open a road. Local people asked the president to release him and Karzai complied. He said he then agreed to command a unit of the government’s paramilitary force in Wardak out of loyalty not to the regime but to the people of the area.
 
“I took responsibility for leading the public protection forces in Wardak province because the people wanted me to. I am indebted to the people for their support and trust in me. I will work for the people's welfare as long as I live,” he said.
 
He said the Taleban initially had good ideals but had become cruel, “When the Taleban movement was created, a culture of checkpoints was common all over Afghanistan. The people could not live peacefully. The commanders…started to behave with such cruelty that people just wanted to die.
 
“I joined the Taleban because they started fighting against these cruel commanders. The Taleban would cut off the hands of robbers and would execute murderers. The Taleban regime implemented Islamic orders. Justice and security were ensured.  
 
“However, I do not think the current resistance of the Taleban is justifiable, because they are destroying the country. They destroy bridges, kill doctors and engineers and do terrible things. Besides, the Taleban are now led by different people, Pakistanis. I do not regret my cooperation with the Taleban, but the Taleban have now changed their goals, which are not what they were in the past.”
 
Gholam Mohammad said he no longer had any contact with the Taleban.
 
“I do my job and they do theirs. I do not know what they are fighting for, but I have decided not to fight anymore. The country should be reconstructed; people should be calm and should be allowed to lead prosperous lives. The country should be protected from destruction,” he said.
 
“The process of negotiation between the government and the Taleban is futile.  The government just talks about it but it is not [even] clear whether it has a mandate. I think it is just media propaganda. As far as I am concerned, there is a big difference between the government and the Taleban's goals and neither wants to change.”
 
He said no one appeared sincere about wanting talks, “The government and the international community do not seem honest to me in this regard because they talk about negotiations on one hand and intensify war against the opposition on the other.”
 
A great gulf remained between the aims of the Taleban and the government, Gholam Mohammad said.
 
“The Taleban do not accept the Afghan constitution and call it un-Islamic in some cases. They want the Islamic sharia, something which the government has failed to implement today. The Taleban do not want foreign forces to be present in Afghanistan and consider Afghanistan an occupied country. They call their war jihad and in their opinion, the current situation in society is not Islamic. The Taleban say that they will not negotiate with the current government as long as the foreigners have not left the country.”
 
“It is obvious that the Taleban do not want power in the framework of the current government,” he added.
 
Habiburrahman Ibrahimi is an IWPR trainee in Kabul.