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Taliban intelligence chief speaks out

If the Taliban regains control of Afghanistan, women will have no place in national politics or the media, and the country will be ruled under Islamic law.

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Politiken's interview

How the interview was carried out

The interview on this page was carried out by the Afghan Director Nagieb Khaja and his Afghan assistant Ahmad Tassal on behalf of Politiken in an area of Helmand Province to which reporters are not normally admitted for security reasons.

The questions themselves were drawn up by Politiken.

The interview was carried out in Pashto, after which it was transcribed and translated into English by Ahmad Tassal. It has been edited from the English version by Julian Isherwood for the sake of fluency.

Abdullah is the Taleban chief’s name, but he is known by another name and does not wish to have his full name published.

Some of the terms used in the interview

Taliban: Pashto for students, referring to the beginning of the Taliban movement.

Talib: Literally a student, one of the Taliban.

Emirate: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was the name given to the country when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Masjid: mosque

PBUH: Peace be upon him – the honorific Muslims always use in connection with naming the Prophet Muhammad.

Mujaheddin: A jihad fighter

Madrassa: An Islamic seminary/school

Pashto: The language of the Pashtun people, which is spoken by some 50 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Afghan diaspora. It is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, alongside Dari.

How old are you?

My name is Abdullah and I am well-known in Mardan (Ed: Pakistan). I am from the Nawa district (Ed: Helmand, Afghanistan) and I am 42 years of age.

How long have you been active with the Taliban?

Joining the Taliban came easy. We were being taught at religious school when the Taliban came to Kandahar. We joined them and remain with them.

What is your function with the Taliban?

The normal everyday life of Afghans is in cultivating different crops and selling them as a way to improve lives. I have carried out a lot of duties for the Taliban.

When the Taliban took Logar province, I became the head of the province. After that I was the head of customs in Nimroz province. I was a district governor for some time, and for a long time I was a first line commander in the military, commanding 500 Taliban. I am now the head of intelligence for the Taliban in the Nawa district in Helmand and have many spies in government, among the general population and within the Taliban in order to monitor events. All of these informants collect information, which they then give me and which I in turn share with the Taliban leadership.

How do people know that you are a Talib, you don’t carry any weapons?

Our Emirate says that those who work in the Secret Service should not bear weapons. Having weapons is a problem at the moment and we would not be able to carry out our jobs if we carry weapons.

Why did you join the Taliban?

Joining the Taliban was the obvious thing to do. Before the Taliban, the Russians were here, and before them the British. Everyone was fighting over Afghanistan. In such a situation, and given that those fighting against the Russians were being used by other parties, our Islamic faith compelled us to join the Taliban. Everyone was with the Taliban, because it brought with it an Islamic government that gave promise of improvement.

Give a short description of your life over the past 10-12 years

The American attack against Afghanistan made life difficult for Muslims and particularly Afghans. They put me in Bagram prison and did lots of cruel things to us. Many of my friends were killed in the fighting, but we were happy even with all these problems because we were doing the right thing.

For the past decade I have had a lot of problems – injuries to my head, half of one of my legs has been amputated and I have lost fingers and have pieces of shrapnel in my hands. But these are difficulties I am happy to bear, and will continue to do my duty.

What did the Americans want from you in prison?

They wanted the Taliban to be separated from al-Qaeda and to join the Afghan government. But that was impossible because they were cheating us. They were making demands that we could not agree to.

How would you describe what has happened in Afghanistan and Helmand over the past 10-12 years?

I want all Afghans to unite and not be deceived by foreigners or neighbouring countries. I see success in peace and unity. I am against the current situation as on the one side there are the Americans and British and on the other Iran and China all fostering division among Afghans.

When the Taliban regime fell, people expected their situations to improve and that they would have a good life. Unfortunately the government could not deliver, was unable to provide security and with ISAF killing more civilians with their bombs. There are a lot of cases in which ISAF bombed wedding ceremonies, masjids, buildings and other places.

Some months ago ISAF bombed a home in our area where university students were located. They killed all of the students.

All of this cruelty is being carried out by the Americans because they are in power. The Afghan government does not have the authority. This was proved to us once when following a bombardment, people went to the district governor. He said he couldn’t help them because he didn’t have the authority and people should go to the Americans and talk to them.

How has the past decade affected you and your family’s lives?

Over the past 10 years, my home has been looted by Afghan and ISAF forces 18 times. They have stolen my family’s clothes and other things, they have stolen my personal things, they carried off our deed of sale to the land. We left for Pakistan and a boring life here, sometimes in the shadow of guns, and sometime in the shadow of trees.

My father and brothers went to prison. They were beaten by soldiers who took a lot of money from my father and brothers.

What will happen when the foreign soldiers have left?

ISAF’s withdrawal will result in two things. On the one hand it will be a hard year for Afghans, but a year of success for all Muslims. But the negative side will be this; the Karzai cabinet will begin fighting among themselves and fall. There will be opposition and fighting among the tribes and in the tribal areas. They will all be fighting for support. But the Taliban always fights for its faith and Islam. The government is fighting the wrong battle as the tribes will not benefit. If they fought for Islam, the people would follow them.

Political in-fighting does not forge enough support.

You all say that the Karzai government is prepared, but faced with challenges. There are currently 48 countries alongside the Afghan forces to take care of security. But a few days ago Karzai’s own headquarters was under attack. So there are problems. Sometimes it’s the northerners and sometimes it’s the southerners attacking Kabul City. If they were strong, these attacks would not be happening.

Do you feel a need for revenge?

Islam does not allow revenge. We do not take revenge on people; we forgive everyone and will not have anything outstanding against them. We will obey only Islamic law, and we will remove the law of Afghanistan.

Will people seek revenge after the foreign soldiers left?

People will seek revenge against America, and that is their business. I do not think people will take revenge on the Afghan government.

Can you name three things in the daily life of Helmand that will change if you and the Taliban come to power?

Three things that we want to safeguard are: people, the family’s women and wealth. All these three things will remain secure.

We will obey Islamic law, we will develop the electricity system and we will help people as much as we can. We will bring peace and security, and it will be an example to the world.

People who work in various branches will be able to gain more experience. People will behave themselves, see each other as brothers and we will not hold grudges. We want a government that earns the heart of the people.

We accept that we made many mistakes in our previousl government. But now we want a real Afghan government. Before we were fighting Tajiks, Uzbeks and other tribes in north Afghanistan, but now we say that all Afghans should be united.

How will women be treated?

Women will be given the rights that Islam gives them. Our religion gives women extensive rights and they shall have them. At the moment there is cruelty against women, they are forced into sex – and that is illegal in Islam. We will also remove the interference from outside countries and remove animosity. That is our policy.

Will girls still attend school if you and the Taliban come to power?

We will allow women to be educated in the way that Imam Azam, Hazrat Muhammad PBUH and our religion allow.

We do not prohibit girls from the education that Islam gives them.

What will happen to television, radio and mobile phones – will these still be legal?

We will not close any channels, but will compare content with Islamic law and remove those programs that are against Islamic teaching. We will not allow women to have a program with men. This is not allowed in our religion, and we will prohibit women from going on radio and TV.

What will happen to the female politicians?

In Islam women should attend to the politics of the household, they should bring up their children and should have a good life with their husbands. It is politics enough for them to make a good family

When the foreign soldiers have left, will the US, Great Britain and Denmark still be your enemies?

We do not make enemies of countries. But there are in the world two clans: one Muslim and the other infidel. God says the infidels will never be friends with Muslims. The foreigners came to Afghanistan for different reasons and they will never be our friends. The animosity will continue.

Will the Taliban still be friends with al Qaeda when the foreign soldiers have left?

Al Qaeda is a party that has members all over the world. The Americans define Al Qaeda as terrorists, we say Americans are also terrorists. Al Qaida has an effect all over the world,

If we define al Qaeda in the same way that Americans define it, we can give the name of Al Qaeda to those who kill innocent people or attack a country.

But in fact al Qaeda is Muslim - and Allah says all Muslims are brothers. So I can say Muslim al Qaeda will never be rejected.

How are your relations with other ethnic groups from Afghanistan such as the Tadjiks and Hazaras?

The Taliban sees all of those who work or have a relationship with Americans as the same – irrespective of whether they be residents of the north of Afghanistan like the Tajiks or Hazara, or Karzai’s government. The question is only whether people follow the way of Islam – and in which case they are our brothers, or if they do not, they are our enemy.

Do you and the Taliban have more in common with the Karzai government than with the Northern Alliance?

As I said before there are two clans in the world - Muslim and infidel. We have no prejudice against any other tribe. We will accept that war has descended on Pashtun areas, but in the north of Afghanistan in places like Badakhshan, Bamian, Hazarajat and Noristan provinces there are also Taliban mujaheddin.

Previously when we were fighting in the north of Afghanistan, that was due to Islam. We carried out a jihad against them because they were the opposite of Islam. They were doing cruel things and they did not pay attention to Islam. I know they had a jihad against the Russians, but after that they abused their position. As a result we decided to declare a jihad against them because of their cruelty.

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