Mohib says ANDSF will ‘break Taliban’s backbone in four months’

KABUL (TOLO News): In a rare statement, Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib has predicted that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will “break the Taliban’s backbone in four months” and he believes the stalemate in the battlefield is over.

A fresh spate of violence continues to grip various regions of the country, including a recent attack by the resurgent Taliban in western Ghor province, which left at least 15 members of the public uprising forces and civilians dead and dozens more wounded.

Speaking to TOLOnews’ Lotfullah Najafizada, Mohib reiterated that Pakistan continues to support the Taliban and that he does not see a prospect for peace in Afghanistan unless steps are taken to address Pakistan’s concerns.

“The stalemate of the battlefield is over. Not only the stalemate but the Taliban’s backbone will be broken if we continue the [current] situation in the next four months,” Mohib said.

The National Security Advisor said his criticism of US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban was on behalf of the Afghan government and the people.

Mohib, who, in March, questioned Khalilzad’s efforts for Afghan peace, said that he does not regret about what he said at the time about the top US negotiator.

Back in March, Mohib at various public forums during an appearance at a Washington DC-based think tank and in an interaction with reporters described the US’s talks with the Taliban as surrender discussion.

At the time, Mohib argued that Khalilzad was keeping the “duly elected” Afghan government in dark and that in the latest round of talks in Doha, they were humiliated and made to wait in a hotel lobby.

Mohib believes that Khalilzad’s recent diplomatic efforts for peace have failed.

“I have a responsibility before the people of Afghanistan. I serve as the national security advisor in my own country. The national interests are on top of everything. The peace process is a complicated process. This was one of the harsh comments; possibly we will see more of it,” said Mohib.

Mohib said the topic of peace is also misused by some [Afghan politicians].

“Peace is being misused. Peace is a dignified topic and it is misused. We have witnessed that the people of Afghanistan went to Mecca and signed a deal but thousands of Afghans were killed in its implementation,” he said.

The Taliban who claim to have control over large swaths of lands in Afghanistan have always refused to engage in talks with the Afghan government and instead branded the government in Kabul as a western “puppet”. However, the group has held six rounds of talks with US officials.

Mohib said that the US can talk to the Taliban on their issues as both are parties to the conflict, but it cannot negotiate with the Taliban on behalf of Afghans.

“The US talks with the Taliban is from their own side because they are also a party to the conflict. They can talk on a number of topics but they cannot talk on issues which are belonged to the Afghan government. That belongs to the matter that we should sit and talk directly with the Taliban,” Mohib said.

Meanwhile, Mohib said that it is impossible to bring peace in Afghanistan until Pakistan’s concerns are addressed.

“The conflict in Afghanistan will not end unless we talk on Taliban’s sponsor. We must be able to directly negotiate with Pakistan. It is impossible to bring peace [in Afghanistan] until Pakistan’s concerns are addressed,” Mohib explained. “Talib cannot do it [the war] alone.”

In response to a question about Taliban’s ability, Mohib said: “Many discussions have been made on this topic over the past 18 years and it has been proved with evidence that the Taliban cannot continue the war even one day without Pakistan.”

In the meantime, Mohib said that the nearly 900 prisoners who are being released are all members of the Taliban and that he is 80%-90% sure that they will not return to the battlefield.

“Thorough and required investigations were carried out in this respect not to release those who will return to the battlefield,” he added.

On a question about the upcoming presidential elections, Mohib said that President Ghani is willing to sit with all presidential candidates to agree on a code of conduct for election campaigning.

“All candidates should sit with the president and the chief executive [Abdullah Abdullah] and work on a mechanism to prevent those activities which come in the category of campaigning in these four months’ time,” Mohib added.

Mohib mentioned that the ties between the Taliban and the regional countries were a threat to Afghanistan’s national security, including the relations between Iran and the Taliban.

Mohib’s statement comes at a time that Afghanistan is heading closer to the September presidential elections which will also mark Ghani’s five-year mandate, a tenure which saw some major ups and downs in the security and political fronts which also includes a sweeping rise in civilian and military fatalities.

In January, Ghani while addressing a panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland disclosed new figures on casualties of Afghan forces by saying that more than 45,000 Afghan security personnel have lost their lives since he took the office in September 2014.