Won’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil against another country: Taliban
The Taliban won’t allow anyone to use Afghanistan’s soil against any other country, though India is welcome to complete its reconstruction and infrastructure projects in the country, a spokesman for the group has said.
The remarks by Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, made during an interview with Pakistan’s Hum News channel late on Monday night, were the first official comments by a leader of the group since it assumed power in Kabul on Sunday following the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government.
India had opened channels of communication with some Taliban leaders and factions over the past few months but New Delhi is yet to take a call on any recognition for the new dispensation in Kabul. On Tuesday, India withdrew its ambassador and diplomatic staff from Afghanistan, reflecting misgivings about Taliban guarantees for the security of foreign missions and their personnel in Kabul.
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Asked about the Taliban’s views regarding India, Shaheen said in Urdu: “We have said that we will not allow any country or any group to use the soil of Afghanistan against anyone. This is clear.”
Shaheen, responsible for the group’s interaction with foreign media, added: “Secondly, [India] has made projects, many reconstruction and infrastructure projects, and if they want, they can complete the incomplete projects because they are for the people.”
He further said: “But if anyone wants to use Afghan soil for their objectives or for their military objectives or for their rivalries – our policy doesn’t allow anyone to do that.”
India recently withdrew all professionals working on hundreds of development projects in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Besides major infrastructure projects such as constructing the Parliament building in Kabul and the Salma Dam, India was implementing scores of smaller community development projects to build facilities such as schools and health centres. With total pledges of $3 billion, India was also the largest regional donor in Afghanistan.
The external affairs ministry recently made it clear that India has no role once projects are completed and it would be up to the Afghan people to protect them.
In response to another question on whether the Taliban would ensure that any Indian presence in Afghanistan wouldn’t be used against Pakistan, Shaheen said: “They [India] have incomplete projects in Afghanistan such as roads and dams, they should complete them. But as I said, we will not allow anyone to use [Afghan soil] against any other country. This is our clear-cut policy.”
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Shaheen’s remarks.