The EU special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson said he sees no clear indication of a fundamental change in the Taliban based on considering what they say compared to what they do in the peace process and efforts for a political settlement to end the conflict in the country.
Talking to TOLOnews, Niklasson said that taking power by force will lead to international isolation and the establishment of a so-called Islamic emirate will lead to isolation.
He said that the choice for the Taliban now is either to negotiate, to find a settlement, or decide if they want an isolated Afghanistan, as in the past.
He added that this choice must be made clear.
The EU special envoy said that the Taliban at least formally committed to returning to the negotiating table and said they are not interested in taking Kabul by force, but they should put these two together and return to the talks in a meaningful way.
For the moment, the Taliban largely want to pursue a military campaign, whether that is to take power by force or strengthen their negotiating position.
“I think they are honest and earnest, they want peace, but they may well want peace from a position of strength and they may want peace on their conditions and as long as they still see the possibility which I think isn’t there but as long as they think there is a possibility of taking power by force, or as long as they think that they can still strengthen their negotiating position further by advancing, they will continue to do so,” he said.
He said that Taliban will pay more attention to the final result rather than to the means.
He said that there is “no clear indication” that the Taliban has fundamentally changed.
“I have to base it on what I see and what I hear,” he said in response to a question whether the Taliban has changed. “I hear commitments to change but I must also look at very seriously the behavior we see in districts taken by the Taliban in recent weeks and months where we see repeated, frequent and widespread violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights to which Afghanistan has signed up. We see girls being prevented from going to schools, we see hands being cut off as a former punishment after rudimentary judicial processes if any, we see looting of civilian property, we see destruction of public property.”
“This is something I have to take into account when I try to form my own opinion on whether they have changed,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything put on the table that explains a different outlook on what Afghanistan under Taliban rule would look like on which I could form a different opinion.”
The EU special envoy said that public uprising forces are an understandable phenomenon and he hopes they play a positive role. But he added that it is accompanied by some risks.
He said that Pakistan should make a choice about whether it wants a stable Afghanistan or an isolated Afghanistan that is governed by a regime over which Pakistan believes it has some influence.