The leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan Ahmad Massoud has called on the international community to help deliver a new future for his country, saying there is now a unique opportunity to bring about change.
Massoud, the son of famed resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, says the Taliban movement is weakened by internal divisions and its inability to govern effectively. And he says the absence of foreign troops in the country has created a chance for Afghanistan to a new beginning.
“Countries, which were against the presence of American international forces in Afghanistan, and for that reason supported the Taliban, are not doing so now,” he told Euronews correspondent Anelise Borges in the Global Conversation. “So, therefore, this is an opportunity that can lead to success.”
He said in the interview in Vienna that the world “must stand firm against the Taliban” by engaging with all parties in Afghanistan.
“Above all, the people, the new generation, and especially women, they don’t want the situation to continue,” he said. “So we will prevail, we will succeed, but we need the world’s attention and support now, before it becomes too late.”
INTERVIEW IN FULL
ANELISE BORGES, Euronews: As we speak today, your country has gone through seismic changes – after 20 years of foreign troops’ presence, Afghanistan is now once again in the hands of the Taliban. Your life has been upended: your province, Panjshir, has officially been taken by the Taliban. Do you remember where you were on August 15, 2021? What were you doing that day?
AHMAD MASSOUD, Leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan: I was in Kabul. I stayed in Kabul until the very last moments. I stayed in Kabul and many people stayed in Kabul with one hope: despite everything, we were hoping for a peaceful transition. A peaceful transition from the Republic of Afghanistan: slowly, slowly to a peaceful transition to a situation for an interim government which would provide a situation for peace and dialogue and then, maybe another election or a new government – that the Taliban could be a part of – and so on. However, unfortunately, the collapse of the government, the miscalculation, and the intention of the Taliban not to solve the problem of Afghanistan through peace and dialogue, to waste time, and to take it through the barrel of a gun – ended in that catastrophe.
ANELISE BORGES: I believe you tried to negotiate with the Taliban… much like your father did in the past. And I understand they offered you a position in their government. Can you tell us more about that?
AHMAD MASSOUD: When I went to Panjshir Valley, one thing was very clear. The Taliban was advertising and saying that “Mr (Ashraf) Ghani did not want peace”. Even to the opposition of Mr Ghani of which we were part – and I was not happy with the way Mr Ghani was governing, and I knew his way of governing would result in the collapse, which we all saw it was true – I thought maybe it’s Ghani’s fault that the peace negotiations aren’t working. So now that the opportunity came to us, that we could represent our own people, then I started the path for dialogue, negotiation and talk first. In this matter, we made a few efforts.
First and foremost, I thought that maybe – because the Taliban speak of sharia, of Islam, they speak of religion… – that the scholars of Afghanistan could be good ambassadors and mediators. And I asked them – the scholars – to be ambassadors to be mediators. And they tried their hardest. But unfortunately, the Taliban didn’t listen to them. Second, I thought maybe the scholars weren’t very diplomatic, weren’t very effective. A delegation, a political delegation was sent to them. No result, they refused. And then I thought maybe I should do it myself directly. I spoke with different people from the Taliban so that maybe I can find a way to stop the violence and start peace.
ANELISE BORGES: Who did you speak to? Can you share that with us?
AHMAD MASSOUD: I spoke with Mr. Muttaqi (Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs), I spoke to Shahabuddin Delaware (acting Minister of Minerals and Petroleum), I spoke with Mr Khias, I spoke with Mr Anas Haqqani (senior Taliban leader), I spoke with Mr Khalil Haqqani (acting Minister of Refugees).
Because one thing that I know is that there are divisions within the Taliban. So sometimes when I used to talk with one side they were saying: “No it is not us, this is the other group.” When I used to talk to the other group they would say: “No it is not us fighting, it’s the other group.” But, unfortunately, this hypocrisy was always within it.
The need for collective action
ANELISE BORGES: A couple of days after the fall of Kabul, from Panjshir, you penned an op-ed for the Washington Post and I quote: “I am ready to follow in my father’s footsteps. Mujahideen fighters are prepared to once again take on the Taliban, we have stores of ammunition and arms that we have collected since my father’s time…” What happened to that pledge, to that fight? Today, where does the resistance stand as we speak today?
AHMAD MASSOUD: As we are speaking, the resistance is something that the Taliban has denied time after time. We see that we managed to capture them, we managed to even take down their helicopters, we managed to survive the harsh winters of Hindu Kush, we managed to survive with zero help from outside.
ANELISE BORGES: is that a choice? Or is the international community simply not paying attention to your cause?
AHMAD MASSOUD: No sane mind would say: “No, we don’t need anything”. Of course, we need support. Of course, we need help. But the thing is that I still strongly believe that we need to come, all of us – as a collective team: the international community, alongside the Afghan elites who are not happy with the current situation – to truly find a path to the future Afghanistan.
ANELISE BORGES: So you’re basically seeking an Afghan solution for Afghanistan…
AHMAD MASSOUD: Absolutely, yes.
ANELISE BORGES: The United States said they wanted to “end its endless war”, but that war, the war against terror, is far from over. We have seen what’s happening in the region. You have warned about the dangers of the return of the Taliban with regards to that aspect, you have mentioned before that al-Qaeda is operating in your country and that perhaps other groups are being harboured in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Why do you think the world is simply not listening to that? Why is nobody doing anything?
AHMAD MASSOUD: Well, I think there are two reasons for it. We’re not living in the same world as in 2001. We are living in a world where national interest right now is far more important than global interests, which used to be important in 2001. People used to think long term rather than short term. And I believe a few things truly changed.
First, at that time the generation who was closer to the experience of or to the era of post-World War II, remembered and understood the importance of fighting for freedom and democracy. And they really didn’t take freedom, democracy and the modern world for granted. They knew the blood that had been spilt, the blood we sacrificed for having this. That’s why the world stood with the people of Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the world stood with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism.
The past 20 years, especially the new generations, I believe, and the new phases, brought a little change, especially in Europe. We took everything for granted: life, democracy, freedom. And we forgot the evil that we all, as humanity, sacrifice a lot to defeat. So that’s one thing. And it’s my personal experience, living in Europe for many, many years.
The second thing was the past 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The world put all their efforts in the past 20 years to do something, but they failed. And now they think there is no hope. However, Afghanistan is still saveable, but not for long.
The absence of international forces is an opportunity
ANELISE BORGES: How does one save Afghanistan? What needs to happen to save your country?
AHMAD MASSOUD: Well, I believe the world must stand firm against the Taliban and the Taliban demands. And the world as a collective group needs to, together, not individually engaging with the Taliban, collectively engage with Afghanistan – all sides of it, all parties of it, all types and sectors of it – to truly find a solution for Afghanistan: a political solution or a process to prepare the situation of Afghanistan for a legitimate government.
Why it will work now? Because of a few reasons.
First, the Taliban, after one year of them being in power, they truly showed that they are not able to govern.
Secondly, the people realize…. At the beginning there were a lot of people hopeful – they even called them Taliban 2.0, moderate Taliban – but we saw it was all fake. They are the same.
Thirdly, there are some internal divisions within the Taliban, there are some groups that are not happy with the situation. But they are in the minority.
And lastly the thing about it is, some of the other countries, which were against the presence of American international forces in Afghanistan, and for that reason supported the Taliban, are not doing so now. So, therefore, this is an opportunity that can lead to success.
Why did my father when he came to France in 2001, strongly suggest support for the Afghan government at that time and fighting against terrorism without the presence of international forces? Because he knew that the presence of international forces in Afghanistan would make Afghanistan a sort of battleground for other rivals. Because we all know that a lot of superpowers, they don’t like each other, they have their own games and their agendas. So when they are present in one country, the other country will do anything in their power against their enemies… to do something against it.
Now the international forces’ presence in Afghanistan is zero, therefore the opportunity is there for an effort together and to create maximum pressure for it. And above all, the people, the new generation, and especially women, they don’t want the situation to continue. So we will prevail, we will succeed, but we need the world’s attention and support now, before it becomes too late.
A people that is worth dying for
ANELISE BORGES: You mentioned your father, who remains an extraordinary symbol of a fight on behalf of values that – you said it yourself – your country shares with the West. Do you think that if he was alive today, things would be different?
AHMAD MASSOUD: Absolutely. If he was alive… First and foremost, at his time with his capability, and his capacity and everything that he had, he was a legitimate government, and he was a military genius person. He knew at the very latest stage of his life and his struggle against the Taliban… In different meetings, especially with the press and also when he had a trip to Europe, he mentioned that the Taliban no longer had the capacity and capability to defeat us militarily. So in that last year of his life, he knew that militarily he would not be defeated.
That’s why his visit to Europe was to open a new phase, for a new era, a new sort of process – just like as I am speaking, for all sides to come together to form a new government in Afghanistan. He did not want to go and capture Kabul and to establish his own government. He was not after that. He was resisting, basically, until all the diaspora of Afghanistan were ready to get together and be part of a process of establishing a government that all can accept and all can agree on.
And this is what he was doing and he was able to sustain it. But the Taliban knew it, Al-Qaeda knew it, and others: that if he was alive, “we will not be successful”. And Al-Qaeda knew that “if he is alive, we won’t even be able to harm the West or any other countries”. So they eliminated him and then they attacked the Twin Towers. If Ahmed Shah Massoud had not being eliminated and assassinated, the tragedy of 9/11 would not have happened and we would not be in this situation at all.
ANELISE BORGES: What kind of father was Ahmad Shah Massoud? What do you remember of him?
AHMAD MASSOUD: I remember his kindness. I remember him being a very strict teacher and teaching me art, teaching me poetry and teaching me literature. He loved Persian literature, he loved Sufism poetry… And he was a very strong man. And he had that sort of charisma in him… He had that atmosphere around him that when you were with him, you would feel calm, “Oh nothing is going to happen, he is here”.
I remember very hard times came and Panjshir was completely surrounded by the Taliban. They came and they wanted to capture and it was a very, very difficult time. But the people in Panjshir were happy, they were smiling. And I was like: “Why?” And they had an expression in Dari which means “He’s here!”. Like, “Oh, he’s here! He’ll sort it out! If he managed to defeat the Russians, surely he can withstand all this pressure!.”
He was like that. He was a beacon of hope. He was a beacon of love and he was very kind and he was very moderate.
ANELISE BORGES: You were 12 when you lost your dad. Your family has suffered immensely, I imagine. Your life has nothing of an ordinary man of your age. Why do you still do this? Is this still worth fighting?
AHMAD MASSOUD: Before our interview, you mentioned something about Afghanistan: that you fell in love with Afghanistan instantly. Well, I’m from that land. And I have been blessed, some people they call it cursed, but I truly feel it blessed, to be born in that land, to be born with that people. And truly the people, they deserve dying for.