Afghan party leader lambasts US for leaving a devastated land tainted with hatred, eyes stronger role for China
Published: Aug 13, 2021 03:48 AM
Dr Latif Pedram, leader of the National Congress Party (NCP) of Afghanistan and a former Member of Parliament  Photo: Courtesy of Pedram

Dr. Latif Pedram, leader of the National Congress Party (NCP) of Afghanistan and a former Member of Parliament Photo: Courtesy of Pedram


Editor's Note:

The situation in Afghanistan has entered a crucial period after the US pulled out most of its forces and peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are in a stalemate. In a recent exclusive interview with Global Times reporters Zhao Juecheng and Hu Yuwei (GT), Dr. Latif Pedram (Pedram), leader of the National Congress Party (NCP) of Afghanistan and a former Member of Parliament, said that the hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan left "a devastated land and political system tainted with blood and hatred." Pedram believes that the former Soviet Union and the US both failed in the country, and China is eyeing a constructive role in the future economic and social reconstruction of the war-torn country.

The NCP of Afghanistan, formed in 2004, was regarded as the only major opposition party not linked to an armed group. Moreover, Pedram was a candidate in Afghanistan's 2004 presidential election and received the fifth highest votes. As a political activist, Pedram called for lasting peace through dialogue and peaceful means. 

A devastated land left by the US

GT: The withdrawal of US troops ended the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan. However, the security situation in Afghanistan has become more complicated and increasingly perilous in recent days with escalated violence. What does the withdrawal of US troops mean to Afghanistan? 

Pedram: The withdrawal of US troops has not ended the 20-year war in Afghanistan. It has ended the longest war in the history of American hegemonic and occupying wars.

The people of Afghanistan forced the United States on the battlefield and in politics to announce the end of its occupation. 

Despite the presence of US troops, NATO, and its allies, the war in Afghanistan continued and still continues. The United States left its largest military base in Bagram, north of Kabul, in the dark of night and "stealthily" without informing Kabul. The US has not remained faithful to its obligations and commitments under the Kabul-Washington Strategic Pact.  

The fact is that American forces have failed like the Soviet Union, and they want to justify their failure by claiming the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the defeat of al-Qaeda. We all know that al-Qaeda and ISIS have been reactivated in Afghanistan. The United States and some other countries have played an undeniable role in the transfer of ISIS-affiliated forces to northern Afghanistan.

GT:In your opinion, how has the US caused the current situation in Afghanistan and what is the US political legacy in the country?

Pedram: What Afghanistan has inherited from US is poverty, a rising unemployment rate, the destruction of social services, the unprecedented increase in class distinctions, a wealth gap, the destruction of the middle class, a vast economic mafia network, an underground economy, increased cultivation, production, and smuggling of drugs, addiction among more than 4 million young people, an ethnic war, the collapse of good values, the growth of a culture of corruption, money laundering, and lying.

The removal of patriotic officers and generals from the Afghanistan armed forces, early retirement, the destruction of Soviet-era weapons, eventually the reliance of the Afghanistan army-like forces on NATO in a small and incapacitated subset are parts of this catastrophic American legacy.

In addition, the stunning rise of brothels, the collapse of individual morality, and prostitution, are parts of the American legacy in Afghanistan.

The United States also disappointed the people and ruined their expectations of democracy, human rights, and civil rights. The faces of American imperialism, and postmodern-colonialism, hidden beneath American democracy and human rights, were revealed. People's frustration with what is called American democracy and human rights are another part of American legacy in Afghanistan.

For an intellectual or even ordinary Iraqi, Libyan, and Afghan citizen, the United States is a face of aggression, bloodshed, murder, looting, and crimes against humanity. For us, the American heritage is a devastated land and political system tainted with blood and hatred.

The Afghanistan left after United States is an example of the hell in the book "Divine Comedy", written by the Italian poet "Dante Alighieri": O posterity! O you who pass here, throw away your hopes!

Dialogue urged for lasting peace

GT: The Taliban claimed to have control of 85 percent of Afghanistan in July. Can you substantiate this claim? How far is it from the real situation of the Taliban's force and control spectrum?

Pedram: Absolutely yes. About 75-80 percent is controlled by the Taliban. Seventy percent is quite clear and accurate. It means they were able to take control of many areas. They control more than 205 districts, almost half of all districts in Afghanistan. This is true so far. It is not a lie or an exaggeration. The forces of the Kabul regime were either defeated, retreated, or bought off. The Taliban have had many successes.

GT: The Afghan government and the Taliban initiated a new round of peace talks in Doha on July 17. Are you optimistic about the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban? What issues are most challenging in the peace talks? 

Pedram: Following the Tehran talks, the Doha peace talks resumed, but to no avail. There was no ceasefire. All that was agreed upon was to allow COVID-19 vaccinations in areas under the control of the Taliban.

During Eid prayers at the Presidential Palace, the Palace, also known as ARG, was attacked by Taliban missiles shortly after the Doha meeting, exactly one day later.

It is debatable, whether peace will be achieved today or tomorrow. We have no reliable signs. The theories and beliefs of the forces involved are far apart from each other. But we must achieve lasting peace through dialogue and the use of peaceful means. 

I am optimistic about peace, but not about the way the negotiations are going on in Doha.  We have to have another kind of peace talk process on hand, and the spectrum of negotiators has to be rethought.

The type of subsequent government, the methods of forming the government, the jurisprudential principles, the religious principles of the government, the person who will be head of the interim government, the elections, or the "settlement and contract" council, the Islamic emirate, or the republic, are the main and serious disputable issues.

The transitional government must include the Taliban, other opposition forces, real representatives of the ethnic groups, some from Kabul regime, both individuals and institutions, and political parties. The civil rights, ethnic, and cultural diversity, the level of social, economic, and cultural development that varies from province to province, must be clearly reflected in a democratic federal government. Federalism is the right solution to the current crisis and ethnic war.

China's role highly expected

GT: Some Western analysts said China is trying to fill the "power vacuum" left by the US, and that it intends to expand its economic and geopolitical influence in Afghanistan. What is your opinion on this view?

China has no history of military aggression or occupation. China has an ancient wisdom. China is a great economic power and our neighbor. China's relationship with our country has always been based on good neighborliness, respect for each other's sovereignty, and territorial integrity. 

The big "Belt and Road" project is also in the interest of development and job creation in Afghanistan. We welcome this great project of our neighbor country. 

On the contrary, the US and India want to sabotage this major project by supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters in northern Afghanistan. For this and other reasons, the war in northern Afghanistan will be prolonged. The US is still pursuing insurgence, war, and instability in northern Afghanistan.

GT: Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said that the Taliban "welcomes" China's assistance in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan with the departure of US troops, calling China "a friend to Afghanistan." What do you think of this position expressed by the Taliban to China?

Our party (NCP of Afghanistan) and our allies do not  see the economic plans of China as a threat to the region, and we welcome and support those projects too. I have read almost all of Chairman Mao's books, as well as works of other leaders. We agree with those plans and support the implementation of Chinese projects in favor of the establishment of a modern Afghanistan/Khorasan.

The Taliban welcomed the Chinese projects in a statement. They also welcomed the US withdrawal and called China a friend to Afghanistan. Our party, despite deep and strategic disagreements with the Taliban on the type of future government, civil and social freedoms, and the economy of the country, we are in agreement with the Taliban's position on the China projects and we consider it wise and correct. The Taliban took a good stand.

We agree with the Taliban that the US had occupied our country and now we consider its withdrawal to be in the best interest of the country and the peace and stability of the region. 

GT:  What are your expectations for China's role in the Afghanistan peace talks and bilateral ties between the two countries in the fields of economy, science, and technology?

We expect that China will cooperate more than ever to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

With the defeat and consequent withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, China can and should play a greater and more meaningful role. China should take an active part in the reconstruction and socio-economic development of Afghanistan, and even the political development and the construction of infrastructures in Afghanistan.

As two neighboring countries, we want to expand economic, scientific, technical, and academic cooperation. We trust China. This trust comes from the traditional and ancient relationship between us. Even before the Chinese socialist revolution, under the leadership of Chairman Mao (the person who changed the face of Asia and the destiny of Asia politically), our people traded with China in Badakhshan. This relationship is very old and this trust is very deep. We can flourish through those good historical connections, good neighborliness, and mutual respect more than ever.