Acting Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar said that the international community would have to work together to find a solution for the prisoner exchange to be completed and they remained optimistic about reaching a consensus.
During a BBC interview on Tuesday, Atmar discussed the prospects of the peace talks, release of Taliban prisoners, reduction in violence and the roles and responsibility of the international community.
When he was asked how the Afghan government was dealing with the Australian and French government’s request to not release certain Taliban detained as they were extremely dangerous, the minister responded, “Well they are all dangerous. They have been dangerous to Afghans, regional and international security. That is why they were in prison.”
He explained that regional and international allies will have to work together for the “sake of peace” to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
Atmar also said that the current deadlock can be broken if the Taliban show “flexibility and realization” on their part that the Afghan government has delivered in its promise.
“We have released all the 5,000 people [Taliban prisoners] that were part of the promise to the Taliban. And we are committed to releasing more if the Taliban also release the Afghan prisoners with them,” he said, referring to the 22 commandos and pilots detained by the group.
He said that the international partners are negotiating with the Taliban and they remain “pretty much optimistic” about reaching a consensus on the solution.
On ties with Al Qaeda
When asked whether he believed the Taliban had fulfilled their promise of breaking ties with Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, Atmar cited reports by the United Nations Security Council and other international monitoring groups that claim otherwise.
“Well they will have to [break ties with Al Qaeda]. This is a challenge, both for us and for the international community. We need to make sure, otherwise there won’t be a peace deal. They will have to deliver on that obligation,” he emphasized.
On U.S. military withdrawal and Presidential elections
“We are hoping that the withdrawal of troops will be conditions-based, linked to progress on the peace process and commensurate with the capacity-building of the Afghan national security forces so that they can do the job entirely independently,” Atmar noted.
He said that the security and stability of Afghanistan was not just important to the country, but also to the international community.
“Mind you one fact that security and stability in Afghanistan is not just serving Afghans… It is the security of the Afghan people, the region and by extension the global community.”
He said they had NATO, the European Union and over 40 nations involved in the peace process because of the stakes involved.
The same goes for the leader of the U.S. who will be elected in November, the minister said.
“So if it is a common interest… it will have to be dealt with that way, no matter what administration is in place, I am absolutely confident that the American security will be their number one priority and that security is essentially linked to what is happening in this region.”
On targeted killings and attacks
The minister also said that the Taliban will be held accountable by the international community if they fail to fulfil the conditions set by the Doha Agreement and reduce the levels of violence.
When responding to a question on whether the Taliban were responsible for the targeted killings of civilians and attacks on peace activists, Atmar first called all such perpetrators “terrorists” who were killing innocent civilians.
When pushed to answer if they were the Taliban, he said:
“For some of these incidents, the Taliban have not dismissed responsibility, they have kept quiet about it. Now whether they are directly involved or not, it is their responsibility if they do not reduce violence in the country as they promised.”
He added that the prisoner exchange process was premised on the fact that there will be a reduction in violence, according to the Taliban’s agreement with the U.S.
“Now, if the Taliban have not done their part, clearly this is their responsibility and they will have to explain it not only to the Afghan people but to the international community.”
On women’s rights
“The number one promise that the Afghan government, the Afghan leadership, the Afghan president, the Afghan state, and the recent Loya Jirga have made to the Afghan women and Afghan citizens is that we will not make a compromise on human rights, women’s rights and our democratic values, which are the basis, the foundation for our Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”