The following are
excerpts from an interview with Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador
to Pakistan, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on December 3, 2010.
Abdul Salam Zaeef:
It is true that there were problems in Afghanistan, which began in 2000
and intensified in 2001. At that point, the US had decided to place
an economic embargo on the Taliban. The UN had also decided to impose
an embargo, under pressure of the US. It also froze the assets of Afghanistan
abroad. There were problems, and the Americans were demanding that Osama
Bin Laden and his comrades be handed over. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
were also exerting efforts in order to have Bin Laden handed over.
Several UN delegations
decided to visit Afghanistan. I met with Kofi Annan in those days, but
all those meetings and contacts were characterized by the arrogance
of [the other] party. They did not present reasonable plans or demands.
They insisted that Osama Bin Laden be handed over to the US. At that
time, we presented three proposals to resolve the problem. I personally
exerted many efforts in an attempt to resolve the problem. I presented
these proposals to the US, through the US embassy in Islamabad, and
we discussed the matter.
The first proposal dealt
with the need for them to understand the Afghan traditions and culture.
We were not defending anybody’s crime, but rather we were defending
the country’s independence, as a religious responsibility. But the
Americans were not willing to accept these proposals. In addition, Afghanistan
and the US did not have an extradition agreement. They wanted nothing
less than to have Osama Bin Laden handed over to them. Our proposal
was that if they presented sufficient evidence implicating Bin Laden,
he would face a fair trial in Afghanistan.
We told them several
times, when we met, that this proposal was a feasible one. But the American
delegation did not visit Kandahar. The Taliban had serious intentions,
and wanted to take a step towards them, but because of the American
arrogance, and because of its refusal to recognize the Islamic Emirate,
the US refused to conduct a dialogue, and persisted that Osama Bin Laden
be handed over to them, completely disregarding the proper ways to resolve
Don’t you think that the Taliban made a mistake by harboring Bin Laden?
What is your view today, after all the years that have passed, and the
tragedies that have been befallen Afghanistan in the past nine years?
Abdul Salam Zaeef:
I do not accept the claim that we made a mistake, although anybody can
make an error. We were right, because we were defending our independence
and our customs.
Guantanamo Prison was
not [just] a prison, but a manifestation of political arrogance and
a place to amass hostages. The attitude there was inhumane and even
unworthy of animals. It was based on deriving benefit from the detainees
in Guantanamo. They would torture us in an attempt to gather information
violently, in order to obtain evidence to present to the American people
and the world, so they could justify their attacking of Afghanistan.
Another goal of Guantanamo
was to intimidate those who are behind [sic] the US. The third goal
was to send messages to other countries, because the Americans consider
the UN and its laws to be of no importance. Whenever we asked for anything
from the Americans, they would say: “You deserve nothing from us because
you are terrorists. Whatever we give you is a gift, from the goodness
of our hearts.” Official UN and Afghan representatives were not permitted
to visit that prison.
Many problems combined
to give rise to the current situation. When the US was preparing to
enter Afghanistan, I sent them a message warning them, in several ways,
not to do so, and saying that a war in Afghanistan would not be a simple
mission. True, gaining control is easy, but remaining here is very difficult.
From the very beginning, the mistake was for the US to come to Afghanistan,
and this only intensified when the Bonn Conference made another mistake,
by deciding to send the NATO forces and give them control of Afghanistan.
Another mistake was to
trade in the lives of the Taliban members: arresting people, killing
them, raiding the homes of the Taliban members, attacking people and
intimidating them, while hunting for the Taliban.
Their continued presence
in Afghanistan throughout this period is another great mistake of theirs.
The very presence of the Americans in Afghanistan is a great problem.
Afghanistan and the region in general cannot tolerate the US.
There are vipers in this region – China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and
India, which are nuclear powers.
Being in this region
is difficult for the Americans, and this is their greatest mistake.
If they want to remain in Afghanistan and to resolve the problem, they
must, first of all, put an end to the war in Afghanistan. Today, the
war is against the people, not against the Taliban. What [the foreign
forces] did in Afghanistan is a violation of the Afghan people’s values,
beliefs, and independence, and inhumane treatment of the people. They
became intoxicated with power. I believe that all this has caused the
Afghan people to abhor them even more, but instead of overcoming these
mistakes, they merely augment and expand them. They continue to fight,
to bomb, to kill people, and to arrest them, and this automatically
strengthens the Taliban.