Taliban sincere about talks with US: Zaeef
"The negotiations could provide a platform for a similar effort between the Taliban and the Afghan government, if problems concerning foreigners are addressed," Zaeef told Pajhwok Afghan News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.
On the sidelines of the second Bonn conference, the US, Germany and Qatar agreed to set up a Taliban office in Qatar, a move supported by the Afghan government and welcomed by the fighters.
"It seems the two sides have agreed on several things, like the opening of Taliban's liaison office and an exchange of prisoners," he believed, saying the process was still at an embryonic stage.
Zaeef was optimistic about the outcome of the parleys, if not hampered or halted. "I think if the US is sincere, then Taliban will respond to its sincerity. And if there is any conspiracy, the result will be opposite."
With regard to American designs, Zaeef accused the US of pursuing a complicated policy. The Obama administration was under pressure from militants to stop fighting outside the US, he added.
"The US is also facing international pressures to make known its stance on the war in Afghanistan. The 11-year-old conflict remains unresolved," remarked the ex-diplomat, who was held at the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility after the Taliban were ouster from power.
"When a political strategy replaces a war plan, politics should be preferred. When the Taliban were in power, they also preferred talks with the US," he pointed out, suggesting a prisoner swap deal would facilitate the dialogue.
"I have a proof of that. We had presented several proposals about the problems faced by the US before and after the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, the US government rejected the options," Zaeef said.
Asked why the Taliban were talking to the US instead of the Afghan government, he replied the basic issue was between the fighters and the Americans. Without resolving that problem, there was no possibility of a settlement with the government, he maintained.
The former ambassador said no party to the war could sideline the other, a fact highlighted the past 30 years of Afghanistan's history. "The government in Kabul must work for making the US-Taliban talks a success and should wait for a second round of talks", Zaeef suggested.
"Pakistan has its own role, but the problem has to be resolved by the Afghans themselves," he opined, arguing the Afghan-led peace process had failed because the Taliban were considered a Pakistani puppet. "I think that approach was wrong, and now the US and its allies have realised it."
The international community had used the condition that the Taliban accept the Afghan constitution for their return to politics as a tool of hoodwinking the world, he remarked. But embracing the basic law is an internal issue that should not thwart the peace process, according to him.
"In my view, the term of recognition of the constitution has been used by foreigners and Afghan officials to their own benefit. The Taliban don't recognise the government or its constitution," Zaeef said, adding accepting the constitution meant upholding all agreements signed by the government, including putting a number of militants behind the bars for several years.
"It is right that the country needs a constitution, but peace is more important and framing a new constitution jointly is possible," he said, denied playing any role in the talks between Taliban and the US. But if any side asked him for consultation, he would be ready for it in the larger interest of Afghanistan, the ex-envoy concluded.
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