When Taliban release their leader’s statements on different occasions, I read all Pashto, Dari and English versions to understand what they actually want to convey to different groups and how the words they use represent their thinking process. Interestingly as a native Pashto speaker, I can see much clearer what the Taliban think and believe than what their English or Dari versions convey. The intricacies in their messages can often be overlooked by non-Pashto speakers. It is probably because each language has its unique way of representation of thoughts and ideas of their native speakers. If the recipient of a message thinks in the language of the sender and hail from the same cultural background, he can easily understand and interpret what the message sender wants to convey and therefore their underlying thought process.
Here I am dissecting the Pashto text of what Taliban calls the message of felicitation of their leader (Amir-ul-Mumineen) Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada to try to make it easier for non-Pashto speakers, especially our international partners to understand the stand of Taliban on different issues and how the words they use represent their thoughts and ideas on the issues such as the definition of success, government, peace, post settlement regime, development, and Afghan security institutions.
Success: The Statement shows that the Taliban have concluded that they are inches away from total success. They relate their imminent success to the selfless sacrifices of their foot soldiers, the unity in their ranks, and the obedience of their commanders. It also shows that they are concerned about potential divisions among the group. Their leaders do not rule out setbacks in their path toward establishing their government, therefore, calling on their members to show humility and be grateful to their God, and most importantly that they have to remain steady and united.
Government: Taliban believes that the only legitimate government in Afghanistan is the Taliban’s Emirate. They are the custodian of this Emirate and will reinstate a “Pure” Islamic Government. They repeatedly use the word “Pure” Islamic to convey that the current government is neither Islamic nor close to what the Taliban define as an Islamic government. It is also clear that they believe that their aspiration for this so-called “Pure Islamic Government” is nonnegotiable.
Peace: It comes out pretty clear from the statement that for Taliban the peace framework is what they have agreed with the United States in Doha. They do not buy in any other framework and so far have not given up on their agreement with the Americans. However, they are considering plan B if they conclude that the Americans are not adhering to the framework. They believe that a small group with self-interest, referring to the governing elites, are the main hurdle for the full implementation of the framework. The Taliban see the intra-Afghan negotiations as a mechanism for a relatively peaceful transfer of power to the Islamic Emirate.
Post Settlement Regime: The Taliban try to assure all ethnic groups that they will be represented in their future pure Islamic Government. Their definition of inclusivity is that everyone having piety from all ethnic groups will be part of their regime, and their definition of piety is someone who is “doing what Allah has enjoined and avoiding that which he has forbidden”. This primarily means people who do not have any issues with their ideology.
Development: They do expect the continuity of humanitarian and development assistance and that they will be willing to oversee its implementation with a promise of lesser waste and corruption. They believe that currently aid is wasted because of the widespread corruption by the political elites and the Taliban will not tolerate such inefficiency under their regime. They also try to reassure everyone that education and health services will continue under their regime.
Afghan Security Institutions: Taliban call them the opposing fighters as if it is a military disobedience of the Islamic Emirate and paid missionaries. It is obvious from their statement that they do not accept the ASF as a national security force. They will dismantle it and may integrate some of them into their own forces. They also believe if they are sparing the life of the Afghanistan security forces it is because of the compassion and leniency of Taliban.
This interpretation of the Taliban statement may help the ones who think Taliban have changed. It is obvious that they have neither changed nor willing to give up on their aspiration for reinstating their Emirate under the banner of a “Pure Islamic Government”. Their inclusivity means that Islamic scholars from all provinces and ethnicities can be part of their government. The politicians who will show their allegiance to the Islamic Emirate will be spared of punishment. The intra-Afghan negotiation for Taliban is a process of agreement on a mechanism of peaceful transfer of power to the Taliban after the international forces leave Afghanistan. When Taliban have such a strong feeling of imminent success and believe they will reinstate their regimen and the Afghan Government thinks that they will bring Taliban through a power sharing arrangement, the gap between the two sides looks huge and the outcome of intra-Afghan negotiations extremely uncertain. It makes it even more fragile when you have an organized and well-structured group on one side and a loose coalition of individuals on the other. The Taliban’s stubbornness over the last two years in their negotiations with the Americans showed that they only believe in position-based negotiation. Their position is a Pure Islamic Government and they define the purity based on their interpretation of Islam which is obviously in total contradiction with the so-called democratic values and the achievements of the last 20 years if any.