Tamim Ehlas: "Glamorous mujahideen don't want to fight"
On May 1, the United States began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. In an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza, Afghan historian, chairman of the Association for the Promotion and Development of Youth of Afghanistan Tamim Ehlas noted that until the structure of negotiations between the government and the Taliban terrorist organization banned in Russia is changed, talented representatives of the Afghan people, long-term peace in Afghanistan will not come. The United States will play an active role, as it is difficult to maintain financial stability without American money. At the same time, Russia together with Pakistan, Iran and China should become guarantors of the truce. A unilateral withdrawal of the US Armed Forces will do nothing. The positive signal in all of this is that "everyone is tired of fighting," and therefore a truce-peace is inevitable.
- On May 1, the United States officially began the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Do you think this will lead to stability on Afghan soil and in Central Asia?
- Before answering this question, I want to say that the Afghan war is one of the longest and bloodiest wars in the history of mankind. Afghanistan is a crossroads where the interests of many powers collided. Regarding your question, for 40 years there has been a war with which the United States was directly linked. There is a version about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and many experts say about it, that in fact it was a provocation on the part of the Americans. They provoked the leadership of the then USSR, Brezhnev and Ustinov. National Security Advisor Carter famously said that "we created a trap for Russia so that they have their own Vietnam."
- You probably mean Zbigniew Brzezinski?
- When the question arose about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, there were good conditions for reconciliation and peace. But, unfortunately, because of America, this plan failed, including the UN Special Representative. During that period, it was possible to preserve all the institutions of the state, there would be peace and stability. In the aftermath of September 11, the United States accused the Taliban in power of sponsoring the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, banned in Russia, and providing cover for Bin Laden. This became the basis for the introduction of American troops on September 12, the day after September 11. The Security Council immediately decided that they could bomb the Taliban positions. The Americans slowly began bombing the positions of the Taliban, and their first troops, the Marines from the Arabian Peninsula, captured the province of Kandahar. This is how the invasion of our country by American troops began. Then came the next Security Council decision on the NATO Coalition Armed Forces (ISAF), and NATO also sent troops into Afghanistan.
- It turns out that if the Americans had not entered the territory of Afghanistan on September 12, there would have been complete order and a normal situation?
- Yes. A normal environment would be. There is now no evidence that Afghans were involved in 9/11. They brought in troops only to catch Bin Laden. But bin Laden was not caught, in May 2011 he was caught and killed in northern Pakistan. During the invasion of Afghanistan, they killed Al-Qaeda leader Abulfaz in Kandahar province, another Bin Laden adviser named Abu Mehmed in Khost province, and Taliban warlord Daddulah. It was their only achievement, but they never caught Bin Laden.
Although those who were involved in the terrorist attacks were not citizens of Afghanistan, but of Saudi Arabia….
- Right. I do not know exactly how reliable this is, but they say that the Taliban offered the Americans in some Islamic state to organize a trial and extradite bin Laden to be tried in accordance with Sharia law. The Americans did not agree to this proposal of the Taliban. And for almost 20 years, American troops have been in Afghanistan. During this period, the Americans spent somewhere more than $ 800 billion.
- Almost a trillion.
- Almost a trillion. Of these, $ 137 billion went to the infrastructure of Afghanistan, $ 86 billion - to create the Afghan army. Unfortunately, the money that NATO countries have spent is taxpayer money. There was a lot of corruption in spending this money. Here, not only the top of my country was involved, but also foreigners. They set up various companies to waste this money. I can say directly that the money did not go as intended.
After these events, the Americans needed to organize the leadership of Afghanistan. They organized a conference in Bonn, where an interim government was created, headed by Hamid Karzai. Ministerial portfolios were divided among different forces of the mujahideen. Unfortunately, there was no competence and will of the Afghan people. If during the Bonn Conference they had included the Taliban in the government, I think they would not have had to spend so much money, there would not have been so many casualties among the civilian population of Afghanistan. During the entire campaign, the Americans lost 3,500 troops, and more than 25,000 were injured. According to many experts, these figures are underestimated.
- By the way, you mentioned the Taliban. This is an important issue because the Taliban have a lot of support among the population. Do you think it is possible to build the future of Afghanistan without taking into account the opinion of the Taliban?
- As an Afghan, I want to answer this question in the following way: all the parties that were involved in the 20-year war are not supported by the people, not one of them. It's true. The mujahideen, the Taliban, and other forces that fought in Afghanistan have no justification in the eyes of the people.
I also wanted to add on the previous question. At the Bonn Conference, the Americans chose those people who could not bring happiness to the Afghan people, did not improve the country's economy. Now the international community is proud that after the introduction of US troops and NATO in Afghanistan, human rights, women's rights, freedom of speech are respected, and the press is free there. Indeed, there is progress. Thousands of schools operate in the country, there are changes in the tax system. The current President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has made very big steps in the economic direction. This cannot be denied. But before him, the former elite was highly corrupt. They used the money allocated by the USA in their own interests. The invasion of foreign troops for any country is not a plus, but compared to the pro-American government, the power that was during the introduction of the USSR's troops, led by Najibullah, was not corrupt. There was no corruption. The president had a five-room apartment, which is still located in the 2nd microdistrict of the city of Kabul. He had no bank accounts.
- Was life safer in Afghanistan?
- And how. Then there were no kidnappings, it was safe, there was a strong army. We had nearly 500 military aircraft. The USSR spent a lot of money to create our professional army. In the region, after Turkey, the Afghan army was the most combat-ready. Unfortunately, due to the actions of international and regional players who were promoting their geopolitical, military and economic interests, the country was destroyed, the entire army was destroyed, all officers and soldiers were left to fend for themselves.
- Do you think the Americans will have time to come out before September 11, as Joe Biden plans?
- I am very worried about one statement by Joe Biden, made on April 13 at the White House. Do you know what he says? He says: "The withdrawal of our troops does not depend on the situation in Afghanistan." This sounds very strange. He says: "We do not want our soldiers to stay there until the end because of the situation in Afghanistan."
- That is, come what may, we still leave?
- Yes. These are the words of Biden that worry us very much. History repeats itself. By decision of the Security Council, they invaded Afghanistan. Now they are leaving, which casts doubt on the fate of Ghani and our government, their achievements, the army on which they spent their money. I think that for the withdrawal of troops, an international guarantee is needed with the participation of the UN, the United States, Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, so that civil war does not break out again. This is not beneficial to either Pakistan or Russia. As a great power on a global scale, Russia is not indifferent to what is happening in Afghanistan. Russia really wants to put an end to drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Central Asia, to Eastern Europe. Russia wants the Taliban not to provoke threats to it.
- As far as I understand, the Taliban, unlike other organizations such as Al-Qaeda or the terrorist organization ISIS, banned in Russia, does not have the ideology of building a world caliphate. That is, they are limited to the territory of Afghanistan ...
- Yes, fortunately it is. You probably know that peace talks with the Taliban have already been held in Moscow twice with the participation of a government delegation. It should also be noted that Pakistan is the main patron of the Taliban. It cannot be denied. But I think that Pakistan's position will also change, because now the military-political situation inside Pakistan is not so smooth. In the states where Pashtuns live, there are protests over human rights violations. And inside Pakistan there are terrorist attacks against government and state forces. Pakistan wants Kabul to have such a government that would take into account the interests of Pakistan. What are Pakistan's interests? Pakistan's interests are to connect Pakistan's trade and economic relations with the Caspian region, with the Black Sea, so that Pakistan becomes a transit country for both gas and oil. I recently read that the Taliban, in their 13-page strategy, stated that they want maximum power. They consider themselves the winner of this war. But I think we need to negotiate. These peace talks, which were held in Qatar, in Moscow, in Tashkent and now in Istanbul, will reduce the dispute between the hostile parties. For the first time, hostile forces are sitting at the same table. From my point of view, this is progress. The Afghan problem is our internal problem, and we ourselves must get out of this situation and solve this problem. But, unfortunately, in these negotiations there is no will of my people.
- Do you mean that the Taliban and the government that are sitting at the negotiating table do not fully represent the interests of the people?
- Sure. They have no authority to make decisions for us. In the agreement that was signed between the Taliban and the United States - what was the will of the people? We absolutely did not participate in drafting the text of this agreement.
- It turns out, on the one hand, there is a puppet government of Afghanistan, which was installed by the Americans. On the other hand, there are the Taliban, who seized power by force of arms. And they do not fully represent the interests of the Afghans. Do you think the Taliban do not represent the interests of the people, well, at least the Pashtuns?
- I would not agree. I am a supporter of the preservation of the current government and the republic. Because the ruling forces want the republic to take into account the interests of all groups and nationalities, this may not be the case in another system. Therefore, we came from the monarchy to the republic and the presidential system of government. I think the problem is not so much in the Taliban and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, as in the possible termination of financial aid.
- That is, the main problem of Afghanistan is the lack of economic resources?
- The backbone of today's government is the United States. Even if the government is 50-60% composed of the Taliban, they will also rely on the United States for some time, when there will be economic transformations. I cannot imagine our national army without America's help. Even for one bottle of water money is paid from abroad. On the other hand, a withdrawal would be beneficial. We will create our own army, independently raise our economy. The current president of Afghanistan is a good manager. By the way, he worked in Russia, participated in the creation of the banking system in Russia. Afghanistan's biggest problem is water. He tries to solve it. He has ambitious plans.
- What do you think, on what conditions can the Taliban and the government agree? Is there a risk that when the Americans leave, the Taliban will be able to seize power?
- I think that the Taliban will not agree to this, it is not in favor of the Taliban.
- Because foreign states will make concessions to the Taliban. They have palaces that they have built for themselves. These are not the mujahideen who run through the mountains and deserts, they are already sitting at their computers.
- Have they become glamorous?
- They became glamorous. Therefore, everywhere, when it comes to negotiations, they are right there. And the strangest thing is that there are no professional diplomats or professional politicians at these negotiations.
- What is it connected with?
- This is ambition, this is a corrupt political system. There are very competent specialists in Afghanistan. Let at least one teacher or mothers, fathers, whose children have suffered, participate in these negotiations. For 20 years, Americans have said that 21,000 civilians have died. I absolutely disagree, the numbers are much higher. They bombed without trial or investigation. From drones. In one night, four of my nephews - they were wonderful young people - they shot. They were not connected at all with any government bodies or with the Taliban.
- Awful ...
- Yes, it's monstrous. So there is great hope for Russia that Russia will be very actively involved in these negotiation processes. And Russia would gradually invest in our economy. Russia is closer to us. America is about 10 thousand km away.
- Russia is almost a neighbor if you take the CSTO border.
- Yes. We have colossal experience of contacts with Russia both in the field of education and in the field of economics. Russians know all the mineral resources. Which mountain, which province has diamonds, gold, gas, and oil. Russia could participate in tenders. Russia has a tremendous role to play in these peace negotiations. God forbid if civil war breaks out there again. Yes, indeed the Taliban have a lot of control. Along with them, there are other terrorist groups, like ISIS, and this is dangerous for us, and for Russia, and for the countries of Central Asia. Peace talks will not yield results until there is regional agreement - these are Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia, China. China, by the way, has now also invested a lot of money in the Afghan economy. They won a tender for mining in Afghanistan. The world will benefit everyone. There is also one question that interests everyone. Despite the fact that the coalition forces of the NATO countries were in Afghanistan, the production of drugs did not stop.
- It even grew ...
- This is a very strange question. And now the Americans are saying: "We have a common interest with Russia in Afghanistan." Do you know which one? End drug trafficking.
- You know, there is such a proverb: "The Moor has done his job, the Moor can leave." That is, they entered Iraq allegedly because of Saddam Hussein, because of chemical weapons, in fact, the target was oil. And to Afghanistan, as it turns out, because of drugs.
- Because of drugs and bin Laden. And they did not find bin Laden in Afghanistan either, they found him in Pakistan. Pakistani policy in these relations is rather strange. Much now also depends on Pakistan. Recently, their prime minister came, the minister of defense was in Afghanistan. They say that even we will help the Afghans in the peace process. Let's hope so.
- Maybe because of the support of Pakistan, the Taliban sometimes behave uncompromisingly? That is, Pakistan is pressing, saying "don't make concessions"?
- May be. But the Taliban will compromise anyway. Once, for two or three days, there was a ceasefire in all the provinces of Afghanistan. The Taliban say they did this to let everyone know that they are not dependent on Pakistan.
- Your forecast, will the Americans really be able to fulfill their task? Since May 1, they have already begun the withdrawal of troops; by September 11, this process will end. What will happen when the Americans leave? How will the situation develop further?
- You know, before September 11 you will have to sit and negotiate a hundred times. The Americans have a very strong influence on the negotiation process - a lot depends on them.
The Taliban are now preparing their new proposals for talks in Istanbul. They are asking to release another 7 thousand prisoners and remove their leaders from the "black list".
- Afghanistan now, in fact, resembles Libya. Active hostilities have been going on in Libya for the last two years, but quite recently everyone there realized that there was nowhere else to go. Neither side can win further….
- I am surprised that my poor people have endured this for more than 40 years. Our country has really been turned into an experimental base. Both regional players and international players. I am optimistic and think that the civil war will not start again. On the other hand, I want to say that now Afghanistan is not the Afghanistan of the 90s. He has changed a lot. In Afghanistan, in 20 years, a lot of educated young people have appeared. These are masters, candidates of science. There are 110 private universities in Afghanistan alone, and in the 90s there were no such universities at all. I travel to the provinces and meet people, students, etc. English is spreading a lot. Our association also promotes the Russian language along with English, German and French. There are 45 TV channels. There are direct roads from the villages to the capital. People can come to the capital or to the centers of the provinces and study, work. Therefore, the Taliban cannot but take into account that the population and worldview are already different.
- That is, those installations that were previously broadcast by the Taliban do not work for this generation already ...
- TikTok, Instagram, Facebook have played a huge role in recent years. Even old people have telephones. They read the news, collate, compare. It is now very fashionable for parents to have their children educated. This was not the case. The most important thing is to change the negotiation mechanism. As long as there are people there who are sitting in Kabul, who have money and power, they will send their nephew, their son, to negotiations. This is a kindergarten. The fate of an entire nation is being decided. How can you trust such a diplomatic mission to some illiterate boys. Our Foreign Ministry must wake up. I hope that Russia will help the process of Afghanistan becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, now it is there as an observer, but it is better if it becomes a permanent member.
- Moreover, the main goal of the organization is the fight against terrorism.
- And we could negotiate directly with the Pakistanis with the help and mediation of Russia. Equally. We need to work with the players in the region. Including with European countries. NATO and US members. Again, I repeat, Biden's words of April 13 at the White House make me very worried. They are incomprehensible to me. This is irresponsible. This in itself can ruin the entire negotiation process. "What's going on there is none of my business, I want to rid myself of this problem."
- Let's hope that you are mistaken, and Biden will still act responsibly, and the wishes that you indicated will be heard. And finally, not even 40 years later, but centuries later, because we know that Afghanistan was in a state of war almost from its birth. First with England, then with the Americans.