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Taliban eases stance as Iran condemns offensive in Panjshir

By AFP, published by The Straits Times

Kabul – The Taliban today (Sept. 6) called on former members of the Afghan forces to integrate with the new hardline rulers, as Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the group’s military offensive in the holdout Panjshir Valley.

“The Afghan forces who were trained in the past 20 years will be asked to rejoin the security departments alongside Taliban members,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference in the capital Kabul.

The spokesman added that any insurgency against Taliban rule would be “hit hard”, after earlier saying it had captured the Panjshir Valley – the last pocket of resistance.

“The Islamic Emirate is very sensitive about insurgencies. Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another,” Mujahid said.

“Anyone who picks up arms and starts another resistance, without any doubts, will be our enemy.

“The war has ended, the country is getting out of the crisis. It is now time for peace and reconstruction. We need the people to support us.”

Three weeks after seizing power but with no government so far announced, the spokesman said an “interim” system would first be announced to allow for changes.

“Final decisions have been taken, we are now working on the technical issues,” he said.

“We will announce the new government as soon as the technical issues are resolved.”

A key issue for the Taliban is the reopening of the airport in Kabul, which was the scene of a massive United States-led evacuation plan that ended last week.

Qatar has been working with the Taliban on getting the airport back up and running, and Mujahid said “serious efforts” were under way to restore operations.

“Technical teams from Qatar, Turkey and (the United Arab Emirates) are working hard to repair the equipment,” he said, adding international flights would resume “soon”.

Since its sweep to power last month, the Taliban have been met with widespread condemnation from the international community, with many fearing the government will be similar to the brutal regime of 1996 to 2001 when it was first in power.

Mujahid told the journalists at the press conference that “Afghanistan has the right to be recognised”.

Iran today “strongly” condemned the Taliban’s military offensive against holdout fighters in the Panjshir Valley, as the Islamist group claimed it had taken control of the area.

“The news coming from Panjshir is truly worrying,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters. “The assault is strongly condemned.”

Iran, the region’s dominant Muslim Shi’ite power, had until now refrained from criticising the Taliban since the Sunni group seized Kabul on Aug 15.

“On the question of Panjshir, I have insisted on the fact that it be resolved by dialogue in the presence of all the Afghan elders,” Khatibzadeh said.

“The Taliban must equally respect their obligations in terms of international law, and their commitments,” he added, affirming that “Iran will work to put an end to all the suffering of the Afghan people in favour of establishing a representative government for all Afghans”.

Alluding to Pakistan, Khatibzadeh said Iran condemned “all foreign interference” in Afghan affairs.

“We would like to inform our friends, and those who might make the strategic error of entering Afghanistan with different intentions, that Afghanistan is not a country which accepts the enemy (or) the aggressor” on its soil, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman added.

Iran, which shares a 900km border with Afghanistan, did not recognise the Taliban during its 1996 to 2001 stint in power.


Top: Afghan resistance force members patrolling in armoured humvees at an outpost in the Panjshir province, on Aug. 23, 2021.Photo: AFP, published by Straits Times

Home Page: Taliban members standing near a poster of their leader Haibatullah Akhundzada in Kabul, on Aug. 26, 2021.Photo: Reuters, published by the Straits Times

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