After the recent Reuters interview with Siraj Haqqani, I shuffled through my archives to see if there is anything new in what he said. Below are a excerpts of a few interviews I did with him in 2010. You’ll see he covers similar ground. The Haqqanis are quite pragmatic and have an established track record of exhibiting openness to a deal, although for legitimacy purposes it seems unlikely that such a development would come independently of the Quetta Shura Taliban.
Haqqani has been reticent in the last year–largely because, his people explain to me, of the fear of drone attacks. In fact, if I’m not mistaken this is the first time he has publicly surfaced in over a year. That it comes in the midst of heightened US accusations against the Pakistanis is probably not an accident: Islamabad has for some time been promoting the Haqqanis as responsible interlocutors in a potential peace process.
Your father worked with the U.S to defeat the Soviets. Is there any way you could talk with or work with the Americans to bring peace to Afghanistan?
At that time my father didn’t have a personal relationship with Americans. Back then the whole international community was supporting the Afghan Jihad, including Western and Arab countries. Also back then the Afghan freedom fighters were relying more on the assistance and aid of Islamic countries rather than Western countries. Like today, during the Soviet era the Mujahidin were fighting an occupying force and believed that foreign forces are the only obstacle which prevents peace and stability in Afghanistan. This is why we wanted the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces. Today too the withdrawal of the occupying forces is one of our main demands. Once the occupying forces leave Afghanistan the fighting will end and peace and stability will be restored.
Under what conditions could you be part of an Afghan government led by President Karzai?
We are not an independent or separate group. We are part of The Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan. And we are serving under the leadership of Mullah Omar. We don’t have any personal demands. The whole world knows about The islamic Emirate’s demands.
Under what conditions would you be open to a negotiated settlement of the war?
We are not a separate group. We follow the Islamic Emirate’s decisions regarding talks. We support whatever path they chart.
What are your responsibilities?
We have been assigned to organize and coordinate jihadi affairs in Loya Paktia by his excellence the Amir-ul-Mominin. We also have membership on the Emirate leadership council and I am to perform duties of the Emirate delegated to me on a timely basis.
Was your group directly involved in the suicide blast that killed a number of CIA officers in Khost recently?
I can say that we were not involved. But beyond that, I can’t say–I’ve been ordered by our leadership in the Shura not to talk about this. It’s better that I don’t say anything. Our central leadership has ordered that I keep quiet about these sorts of sufferings of NATO and America.
Was your group directly involved in the recent attack on a guesthouse in Kabul where Indians lived?
Our Mujahedeen were not involved in the attacks, but we are happy that they took place because all foreigners who come to our country are working for the continuity of the current occupation and they help the crusaders in various areas and issues.
What are the differences between the Taliban and al Qaeda?
In our faith in Islam, we are one. In the countries that we want to capture, our geographical location, our organizational structure and our fighting tactics, we are different.
Some Taliban fight against Pakistan, but some others fight only against the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Is there any difference between the two?
In terms of belief, we are all Muslims of one body. But the organization, fighting strategy and geographical location is different.
Why has Pakistan been arresting senior Taliban leaders?
None of our leaders have been arrested.
Pakistan says Mullah Beradar and other senior Taliban have been arrested. What has been the impact?
We must give sacrifices in the fight against the crusaders. In this fight, whether we are killed, martyred or thrown in jail we are proud of it. We have organized our campaign in such a way that our struggle is based on ideas, not individuals. You can harm people, but no one can harm ideas.
What is the goal of your movement? What kind of government do you want?
Afghanistan should have an independent, free and strong central Islamic government, in which the life, property and honor of every Afghan is protected and people can live a life of respect and dignity.
Is your war against all foreigners or just those associated with foreign militaries? What is your stance on NGOs?
In accordance with Islam we are ready to deal with every NGO. Islam has a full set of guidelines about social relations. The benefit of Afghanistan and Islam are the top priority for us.
Is the Taliban mainly a Pashtun movement or do you have support from other ethnic groups?
We enjoy the support from all ethnic groups in Afghanistan. It’s a conspiracy of the crusaders to present the movement of the Taliban as a Pashtun one. They want to provoke the linguistic differences in Afghanistan, through which they will guarantee their presence and existence here.
Some Shiite groups and non-Pashtuns are concerned that if the Taliban once again come to power they will be deprived of their rights. Is their concern valid?
The Islamic Emirate believes that the rights of all citizens in light of Islam are equal and should be without any discrimination. Such propaganda is propagated by outside agents. The Islamic Emirate was tested by the nation already and has delivered in practical terms to their countrymen, so there is no concern from any Afghan citizen about the Islamic Emirate.
Do you believe that girls should be allowed to go to school and get an education?
Yes, we believe that under the direction of Islam, males and females should study. The education of men and women is in accordance with the sacred religion of Islam. If you look to history, those who today speak about education and other rights of women did not consider women as human even yesterday. And they still use women solely as a means to satisfy their sexual pleasures, whereas women have an honorable status in Islam. Islam was the first to give respect to women. When we have the direction of Islam with us, we do not need the spoiled and filthy civilization of the West to tell us about women’s education.