AAR News Release
Rabbani Calls Taliban "Foreign-backed Occupation Force"
Afghan Leader Asks International Community to Get Serious
By Omar Samad
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2000 AAR In the midst of what some analysts consider crucial military developments in Afghanistan where the Taliban and their foreign supporters are pushing for a decisive victory against their Afghan foes a high-ranking delegation headed by ousted president Prof. Burhanudin Rabbani, attended the UN's Millennium celebrations in New York last week. While the Taliban groaned and whined about Rabbani's presence at the UN parley, the head of the UN-recognized Islamic State (ISA) used the few media opportunities that presented themselves to bash the Pakistani-backed Taliban and ask for the world community to seriously consider measures to counter the internal and regional threats paused by the Taliban regime and its backers. By contrast - to the astonishment of many observers and for reasons that are still not clear - his five-minute official speech delivered at the UN podium in front of most world leaders, was void of any direct reference to the Taliban or Pakistan, and scantily dealt with the current situation in Afghanistan, preferring instead to address UN administrative and millennium issues.
Referring to the recent fall of Taloqan, the temporary administrative center of his regime, Prof. Rabbani told Azadi Afghan Radio during a 20-minute interview at the end of his trip, "the offensive to capture Taloqan was unleashed more than a month ago by the Taliban, some Pakistanis and Arab elements, who want to sow the reign of terror." He vowed that the anti-Taliban United Front (UF) coalition forces will "defend Afghanistan's independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty every step of the way." Calling the Taliban "a foreign-backed occupation force," Rabbani added, "we are confident that this occupation will not last long and, as history has shown, the people of Afghanistan will never surrender to occupiers."
Rabbani blamed the international community of apathy toward the Afghan conflict. "It is a sad reality that the world has forgotten Afghanistan and its people," added the former theology professor turned factional leader during the Soviet occupation years, turned head-of-state in 1992 as part of a power-sharing arrangement that he never relinquished amid severe factional confrontations in the Afghan capital.
Following four years of foreign-inspired factional battles for control of Kabul, the then-resurgent Pakistan-backed Taliban ousted Rabbani's administration from Kabul in 1996. Threatened by Pakistan's designs in the region and by the Taliban's extremist brand of Islam, several countries in the region, including most Central Asian States, Iran and Russia have continued their limited support of the Rabbani regime. Meanwhile, the Taliban, ostracized by the world community for harboring terrorist groups, violating human and women's rights and turning Afghanistan into the world's largest producer of opium, continued to rely even more heavily on Pakistani military and logistics assistance. Thousands of recruits from Deobandi-Wahabi style Pakistani religious institutions, remnants of Arab fighters-turned terrorist, and a host of Islamic militants from various countries are now involved in a bid to cut off the supply network of the Afghan resistance forces, under the command of veteran fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, scattered in several provinces.
Following the fall of Taloqan last month, the Taliban asked the UN one more time to extend recognition to their regime and complained about Rabbani's presence at the UN. UN sources have said that given the Taliban's track record on many issues, there is almost no chance for the world community to recognize them. Only Pakistan and the UAE have full diplomatic relations with the Taliban, while Saudi Arabia has downgraded its diplomatic recognition of the militia regime. When asked about his own legitimacy, Rabbani said that he had the approval of a 1992 assembly (shora-e Ahl hal-o-Haqd), which reflected the popular will. Referring to the Taliban demand, he said, "the occupation of the country by foreign elements does not give them legitimacy."
Pointing to the possibility of a Taliban victory, Rabbani urged the world community to "get serious" about finding a peaceful settlement to the Afghan crisis. "If they can find a quick solution to East Timor or Kosovo's problems, then why can't this be done in Afghanistan?" asked the ISA leader. He suggested that world powers exert sufficient pressure on Pakistan to contain it from "mad-rush military interference," that has created "an unstable and threatening environment in the region."
Rabbani also reiterated his regime's willingness to hold peace talks with his foe following cessation of hostilities. "For the sake of peace, we are ready for talks, but in the first instance, the war must stop," he told AAR.
When asked about his views on holding free elections or convening a traditional Grand Assembly (Loya Jirga), as proposed by the former exiled Afghan King M. Zahir Shah, Rabbani said, "we approve of elections, and of a Loya Jirga or any other gathering that can bring peace and reflect the will of the people." But he was not clear about any specific role the former King might be able to play, and instead favored a collective approach instead of an individual one to tackle the Afghan crisis. When asked about the so-called "Cyprus peace movement," which is allegedly favored by the current Iranian government, Rabbani said, "in my opinion, Cyprus or any other meeting for peace can be considered as a positive and useful step." He doubted that former archrival Gulbudin Hekmatyar may be behind the "Cyprus movement," and said that the Cyprus organizers have denied Hekmatyar's involvement, even though he does not have sufficient information on the subject. Hekmatyar, a favorite of Pakistani military circles until the emergence of the Taliban late in 1994, was responsible for a major part of the rocket attacks on Kabul during the factional battles, which destroyed more than half the city and left over 40,000 dead. The shelling from the city's outskirts continued by Taliban gunners following the ouster of Hekmatyar in 1995 until the fall of the capital.
Prof. Rabbani denied recent media reports alleging secret talks between his emissaries and the Taliban in Pakistan. But he alleged that the Taliban had recently secretly held meetings with Russian officials in Turkmenistan. In the past the Taliban have accused the opposition of ties with Russia, urging their followers and the Pakistani and Arab militias to wage a "jihad" against the opposition.
When asked about the latest peace efforts of Turkmenistan's special envoy, Boris Sheikhmoradov, Rabbani termed the Turkmen's initiative, which came at the heels of a well-planned Taliban offensive against Taloqan, as "overly optimistic and not totally based on realities." Sheikhmoradov had claimed that Taliban leader mullah M. Omar had approved to hold unconditional peace talks with the UF opposition. Just prior to the Taloqan offensive, the Pakistanis had also wholeheartedly endorsed the initiative, and Sheikhmoradov had claimed that the Iranian leadership was also in favor of his peace plan, the details of which were not released. "Mullah Omar is not in favor of peace and the Taliban were created to wage war and to shed blood," said Rabbani.
On whether he had met Gen. Pervez Musharraf at the UN summit, Prof. Rabbani replied "no," and added that if he had, he would have reminded Musharraf, "no country can impose its will on the Afghans, and to change Pakistani policy toward Afghanistan."
The ISA leader's delegation at the Summit was comprised of Dr. Abdullah, Haji Abdul Qadeer, A. Rahim Karimi, Ustad Q. Urfani, Gen. Abdullah Khan and Amb. Massud Khalili. /end
Azadi Afghan Radio 09/12/00 Rev.1: 23.30 email: mail@ - ph: 703.790.6977
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