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Afghanistan tells Taliban: peace or we will ‘fight’

Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib, Ambassador to the United States, Afghanistan, Former Deputy Chief of Staff to H.E. The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. (New America/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

As the smoke gradually cleared from an Afghan presidential election riled by Taliban threats over the weekend, the country’s national-security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, issued a message to the hard-line Islamic insurgents that the government won’t back down from them.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s general debate in New York on September 30, Mohib said: “To the Taliban and their foreign sponsors, hear this now, a message from the Afghan people: Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight. This is a fight we can win.”

For the Afghan people, Mohib said, “peace is our common objective, and terrorists are our common enemy.”

However, peace cannot be rushed “at the risk of empowering” terrorists, he said.

His speech came two days after a little more than 2 million people voted in the presidential election, which was marred by a spate of militant attacks across the country and reports of problems at polling stations.

At the UN, Mohib said many people were deprived of their right to vote on September 28 because the country faced problems securing polling stations against the Taliban — the militants control or exert influence over about half the country and issued warnings to potential voters.

For those who did, Mohib said he was “proud,” saying they risked the “threat of terrorism” and their lives, while some voters had their fingers cut off by the Taliban during prior elections.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have both claimed victory in the election, whose outcome is expected to be announced on November 7.

Yet the election transcended politics, Mohib said.

“We all voted not just for a president, but we also voted for democracy,” he said. “We voted for our constitution. We voted for freedom and sovereignty. We voted for prosperity and connectivity. We voted for peace. We voted for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”

In a country where a generation has grown up knowing only war and not peace, “the opportunities afforded to us through the gains of the past 20 years have allowed us to change hope into something much more powerful — belief,” Mohib said.

Fighting continues in a war that is nearly 18 years old as peace remains elusive ever since the United States earlier in September withdrew from a lengthy series of talks with the Taliban whose main component was sealing a truce.

Still, Mohib thanked the country’s Western backers, “particularly NATO-member countries,” who have “stood by us over the past two decades as we recovered from war, as we rebuilt, as we reimagined a new Afghanistan.”

Their sacrificed lives were acknowledged as well.

“You invested heavily and dearly in our vision for an Afghan democracy, even with the lives of your own countrymen and women,” Mohib said.