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Taliban’s #2 writes New York Times op-ed claiming group is cautiously committed to peace

Former Taliban fighters line up to handover their Rifles to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound. (Lt. Joe Painter/Department of Defense)
February 20, 2020

The deputy leader of the Taliban has written a new op-ed published in the New York Times on Thursday spelling out his group’s intentions in ongoing Afghan peace talks and assuring their commitment to a potential peace deal.

The op-ed, written by Sirajuddin Haqqani and titled “What We, the Taliban, Want,” spells out the Taliban perspective on the war in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 18 years. Haqqani said Taliban hopes for a peace agreement were initially low, but that the group is now committed to a potential agreement and will keep with the deal despite concerns Afghanistan will once again become a terrorist haven, as it had been in the years that led up to the Al-Qaeda attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States. We were forced to defend ourselves. The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand,” Haqqani wrote. “That we today stand at the threshold of a peace agreement with the United States is no small milestone.”

Haqqani’s op-ed comes just days after reports of a cease-fire agreement with the U.S. and pending peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Though the purported peace deal would include a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops over an 18 month period, there are still concerns about the Taliban seizing control of the country after U.S. forces leave the country.

The Al-Qaeda terror group was able to take root in Afghanistan as a result of a friendly government in the existing Taliban administration, before U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban government in the early months of the war.

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“We are aware of the concerns and questions in and outside Afghanistan about the kind of government we would have after the foreign troops withdraw. My response to such concerns is that it will depend on a consensus among Afghans,” Haqqani wrote. “We should not let our worries get in the way of a process of genuine discussion and deliberation free for the first time from foreign domination and interference.”

Haqqani further claimed that once the Afghan peace talks proceed, the country will form into an “Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity.”

“We are also aware of concerns about the potential of Afghanistan being used by disruptive groups to threaten regional and world security. But these concerns are inflated,” Haqqani wrote.

Haqqani said the Taliban is weary of years of fighting and Afghans at large are opposed to allowing foreign groups to take residence in the country to “turn it into a battleground.”

The U.S.-Taliban negotiation process has been an ongoing effort of President Donald Trump’s administration but sporadic Taliban attacks have seen Trump pull back from peace talks and call the Taliban’s commitment to a peace agreement into question.

Some online called the New York Times into question for running the Taliban op-ed.

Washington Examiner commentator Becket Adams said Haqqani’s article “feels like a leaflet flyover.”

Another Twitter commentator criticized Haqqani’s claims the Taliban did not choose the war.