Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, called the Taliban his “brothers” in a new interview, while Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, continues to falsely claim they “lived up” to the so-called peace deal struck last year.
The remarks from the two officials — the former who led Afghanistan for nearly a decade and a half in the wake of 9/11, and the latter who served as an ambassador to Afghanistan under President George W. Bush and as the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation under President Donald Trump when the Doha agreement was reached and under President Joe Biden until after the Taliban takeover — provide a glimpse into the seemingly sympathetic views toward the Taliban held by two men whom the U.S. relied upon for many years.
Karzai, who has remained in Afghanistan since the August fall of Kabul and held numerous meetings with the Taliban, spoke approvingly in an interview with the BBC on Thursday.
“During my time in office, I would call the Taliban our brothers. It was exactly with the same purpose in mind that I called them brothers. That this is your country. Let’s build it together. Let’s work together. Let’s unite,” Karzai said. “I see the Taliban very much as brothers, and I see all other Afghans as brothers. We are a people. We are a nation.”
When asked whether the Taliban are capable of uniting the country and rebuilding Afghanistan, Karzai indicated he thinks they are.
“I have had meetings with them. The exchanges were very good on a lot of issues — the return of women back to work, the schools, the national flag of the country, and the need for a political process for a government that belongs to all Afghans — that all Afghans see as theirs.”
Karzai said Afghans who fled the country should return, saying: “I would ask on all of those Afghans who have left to come back and build it.”
He also argued that the Biden administration “must work with the Taliban” because “they are the government today.”
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A new report from Human Rights Watch contended that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 100 former police and intelligence officers, with the investigation documenting the killing or vanishing of 45 former Afghan National Security Forces soldiers who had surrendered or were apprehended by the Taliban between Aug. 15, when they rose to power, and the end of October.
“The Taliban leadership’s promised amnesty has not stopped local commanders from summarily executing or disappearing former Afghan security force members,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The burden is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, hold those responsible to account, and compensate the victims’ families.”
Bilal Karimi, a deputy Taliban spokesman, called the reports “part of a propaganda campaign.”
Khalilzad, who resigned from his post in October, claimed the Taliban was living up to its commitments in an interview with TRT World in late November.
“The Taliban have lived up, based on the agreement that we made, the United States made, with the Taliban,” Khalilzad claimed. “They did not attack U.S. forces since the agreement was signed — for 18 months not a single American was killed by the Taliban, although we attacked them whenever they attacked the Afghan forces. They have lived up for the most part not to allow terrorist groups such as al Qaeda to plot and plan attacks against the United States and our allies, and they have fought, for their own reasons, Daesh [ISIS]. They did participate in negotiations with the Afghan government. Those negotiations unfortunately did not succeed.”
The agreement signed in February 2020 said the U.S. was “committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces” within 14 months, while the Taliban would prevent al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using Afghanistan "to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
The Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al Qaeda remain deeply intertwined in Afghanistan. The Taliban gave al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan before 9/11 and continued to protect al Qaeda and fight alongside it for 20 after the U.S. invasion. Numerous members of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network have received top positions in the Taliban’s “caretaker” government.
Thomas Joscelyn, senior editor at the Long War Journal, previously criticized Khalilzad’s defense of the U.S.-Taliban deal, telling the Washington Examiner: “Khalilzad’s tenure was a complete failure for everyone except the Taliban ... Khalilzad threw the Afghan government under the bus and directly enabled the Taliban’s return to power.”
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Khalilzad didn’t seem to put any blame on the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan, contending “the collapse of the Afghan government forces, the desertion or the escape or the departure of President Ghani and the collapse of the forces created circumstances in which the Talibs went into Kabul — and now they are the government.”