Says Taliban Movement Dead, Noncriminal Members Can Return
By John D. Banusiewicz
– The Taliban is dead as a movement or a military factor in Afghanistan,
the country’s president said here Feb. 26, and former Taliban
leaders seeking to return home will be allowed back if they don’t
have criminal records.
Hamid Karzai held a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld after they met in Afghanistan’s presidential
palace. He challenged the implications of a question posed by
a correspondent from the Arab satellite television network al
Jazeera that implied al Qaeda and the Taliban were becoming increasingly
active in the country.
that happens in Afghanistan is not terrorist-related," Karzai
said. "Lack of security at times is not Taliban-related or
security-related. There is banditry too. There is theft too. There
is armed robbery too." He said ascribing crimes common in
any country and any major city to the Taliban because it happens
in Afghanistan is vastly overstating the case.
believe, with evidence, that they are defeated. They’re gone,"
Karzai said, referring to the Taliban. For example, he said, a
terrorist who recently killed 19 children in Kandahar tried to
hide in a house, but the woman living there delivered him to the
police. Citizens have turned in terrorists in four or five other
cases in recent months, he noted.
Karzai’s assessment of the Taliban. "I’ve not seen any indication
that the Taliban pose a military threat to Afghanistan,"
see a resurgence of the Taliban," Karzai said. "The
Taliban as a movement does not exist anymore. You’d be surprised,
gentleman from al Jazeera, if I disclosed to you as to how many
approaches we have from the Taliban on a daily basis – individuals
(and) groups coming to talk to us to let them back into the country."
that terrorist incidents and even some Taliban-related activities
still occur, but repeated that most crime in the country is "normal
leaders contacting Afghan officials "recognize that Afghanistan
is now a better place for all of us to live in" and would
like to return and benefit from that. Karzai said all Taliban
who do not have criminal records and were not involved with al
Qaeda or terrorism "are free to return to their country and
live a normal life."