Representatives of the Taliban jihadist organization told Afghan media outlets on Sunday that the goal of their participation in peace talks held this weekend in Doha, Qatar, with the legitimate Afghan government and the United States was to negotiate the liberation of Taliban jihadists and a return of Islamic law to the country.
A 21-person delegation featuring at least four former Guantánamo Bay detainees represented the Taliban at the talks, attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior Afghan government negotiator Abdullah Abdullah. Both Pompeo and Abdullah expressed enthusiasm that the talks would result in the full withdrawal of American troops from the region and thus an end to the longest war in American history, spanning nearly two decades.
Speaking to Afghan news sources, members of the Taliban team expressed hope in seeing fellow members of the terrorist organization freed.
“Negotiations about the government and the release of remaining prisoners are the topics that will be on our agenda,” Mohammad Naeem Wardak, a Taliban spokesperson, told Afghanistan’s Khaama News. The outlet quoted a negotiator on the Afghan government’s side, Massom Stanekzai, saying that he felt the talks had begun on a positive note and “there wasn’t any effort to drive the negotiations towards controversial discussions.”
Khaama interpreted Wardak’s remarks to mean the Taliban was hopeful to see the 7,000 Taliban jihadists in Afghan custody freed: “Wardak said at a meeting Sunday evening in Doha that establishing an Islamic government in Afghanistan and releasing 7,000 Taliban prisoners are their agenda for the Intra-Afghan negotiations, according to sources.”
Mawlawi Abdul Kabir, another member of the Taliban negotiation team, told the Afghan news network Tolo that his colleagues sought a return to a fully Islamic Afghanistan under Sharia, the Islamic law, and an end to the American and NATO presence in the country established after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“(We want) a government in which the Holy Quran is ruling, the hadith of the messenger (Muhammad) is ruling, the Hanafi school is there, and the occupation is over,” Tolo quoted Kabir as saying.
The Taliban do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan. Instead, it considers itself the true government, forced into exile by the U.S. “occupation.” It refers to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”