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Taliban wants Japan role in US withdrawal from Afghanistan: Mainichi interview

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai is seen in Doha, Qatar, on July 8, 2019. (Mainichi)

DOHA, Qatar -- Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a senior member of the Taliban that previously ruled Afghanistan, expressed hope that European and Asian countries including Japan will serve as guarantors to make sure that the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan when Washington and the Taliban agree on a pullout.

"According to the draft which we are going to agree (on, the) draft ... and agreement will be signed, and announced in front of the guarantors. I hope most famous Asian and European countries will be guarantors. That will be decided by all sides. (Though) not decided yet, Japan is (an) important country, Japan may be there (as a) candidate," Stanikzai said in an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

It is extremely rare for Stanikzai to speak to a Japanese news organization. This is the first time that the Taliban has mentioned the possibility of Japan's involvement in the ongoing negotiations on a U.S. pullout.

Stanikzai, who leads Taliban's team of negotiators with the United States on U.S. forces' withdrawal from Afghanistan, said the two sides are currently negotiating the timing of a pullout and how to prevent terrorist activities in the country.

He emphasized that the Taliban will implement the agreement after confirming that the United States has begun to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. "After America starts withdrawal of its forces, we will go to other steps according to the draft," he said.

Washington is aiming to reach an agreement with the Taliban on a pullout by Sept. 1 prior to the Sept. 28 Afghan presidential election, but Stanikzai said the Taliban is not bound by the schedule of the election.

When asked whether the Taliban cared about the timing of the election, Stanikzai replied, "No, we are not in a hurry. That is the U.S.'s demand."

However, Stanikzai suggested that the Taliban would not hesitate to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan if the presidential election goes ahead before the agreement is reached. "Any sort of election under the occupation of foreign forces is illegal. We cannot accept that," he warned.

Stanikzai also explained that various forces within Afghanistan will hold talks on the future of the country including a cease-fire and the political regime after an agreement is reached with Washington. "According to the draft which we have, after everything is finalized, intra-Afghan dialogue including Kabul, politicians, activists and all Afghans will start," he said.

Stanikzai served as deputy foreign minister and deputy health minister under the Taliban regime (1996-2001). He now serves as deputy head of the Taliban's political office in Doha, Qatar.

(Japanese original by So Matsui, New Delhi Bureau)

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