KABUL: One of the most powerful men on the Taliban council, Agha Jan Motasim, nearly lost his life in a hail of bullets for advocating a negotiated settlement that would bring a broad-based government in Afghanistan.
In an exclusive and rare interview by a member of the so-called Quetta Shura, Motasim said a majority of Taliban want a peace settlement and that there are only “a few” hardliners in the movement. “There are two kinds of Taliban. One type believes foreigners want to solve the problem but the other group think foreigners only want to fight,” he said by telephone.
But Motasim chastised the West, singling out the US and Britain, for failing to bolster the moderates by refusing to recognise the Taliban as a political identity and backtracking on promises which he said strengthens hardliners and weakens moderates.
Motasim used his own stature to press for talks nearly three years before the United States began making overtures to the Taliban in late 2010. Several bullets shattered his body and he was hospitalized for many weeks..
“I wanted a broad-based government, maybe some hardliners among the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan didn’t like to hear this and so they attacked me,” he said.
He said the Taliban have three main demands: They want all Afghan prisoners released from US-run detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan; the names of all Taliban currently on the UN’s sanctions blacklist removed; and recognition of the Taliban as a political party.