Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen was invited onto the BBC to discuss the group’s future plans in Afghanistan following weeks of conflict and power struggles across the country. In a rare insight into the group, Mr Shaheen attempted to calm the nerves of the international community and those living in Afghanistan, pleading for those trying to evacuate to stay and said the Taliban are “servants of the people”.
BBC journalist Yalda Hakim interrogated Mr Shaheen after he rang her mobile phone, leaving her to desperately scramble to try and get him heard on a microphone as she ad-libbed questions for as long as she could while she had him on air.
Ms Hakim asked: “Mr Shaheen can you hear me?” and a faint “yes” can be heard before quick-thinking Ms Hakim grabs a microphone, saying: “OK we’ve just got you on the phone so we’re just going to see if we can put you on speaker. Can our viewers hear that? Can you speak sir, can you just introduce yourself?”
She then looked to producers to check the microphone was picking up the sound, before looking directly into the camera to ask: “Is that fine? Can our viewers hear that?”
Speaking on BBC News, Mr Shaheen was grilled over the Taliban’s goals in the first public communication the group has had with the UK since the violence erupted in Afghanistan in recent weeks.
Ms Hakim simply asked what would be the next steps for the Taliban as world powers begin to slowly accept the reality they will take control of Afghanistan once again.
Ms Hakin added there were reports of atrocities being committed in Afghanistan provinces that mirrored their rule in the 1990s and wondered what had changed for the group despite Mr Shaheen calling for a “peaceful transfer of power”.
Mr Shaheen explained ground forces have been instructed not to storm Kabul and said civilians would not be harmed.
He said: “What I’m saying is the policy, I explained our policy to you, clearly, and this policy will be implemented.”
However, while “peaceful transfers of power” have been touted as their goals, many doubt the legitimacy of the Taliban’s claims after many remember the history of the group’s rule.
Mr Shaheen explained fighters who are carrying out atrocities on the ground will be punished when the new courts and laws are put in place.
Ms Hakim asked whether that would include public beatings or executions to which the spokesperson stuttered and said that would be down to whatever the court decides once power is taken.
Mr Shaheen added: “Over the next few days, we want a peaceful transfer of power.
“Secondly, people will be able to resume their normal [lives]
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“Thirdly, there is no revenge on all those who are working with the Kabul administration or with the foreign forces.
“We want all embassies to continue their work, there will be no risk to diplomats or to anyone.
“All should continue as if they were continuing in the past.”
Mr Shaheen was also grilled over the future of women in the country as many feared a call back to oppressive rules over them.
Reports suggest many women have been raped during the Taliban’s conquest with the subjugation of their rights expected to be implemented once the Taliban gain power.
But Mr Shaheen denied these reports, claiming women would be able to go into education and schools unimpeded and would be able to live their lives as normal.
However, when asked if women would be able to join the courts and law-making institutions, Mr Shaheen fell short of saying women would be able to do so.
When presented with reports of brutality leaving thousands of civilians displaced, Mr Shaheen claimed the fighters responsible would be “punished” in accordance to the policy and law after the group regained power.
He added over the next few days would be a “new chapter” for Afghanistan as he once again urged people to stay and not evacuate from Kabul or the rest of the country.
Mr Shaheen also stated reports of violence and brutality at the hands of the Taliban were “fake” and “rumour” which were dreamt up by their opponents.
Taliban forces are moving onto Kabul in a final push to gain control
US forces have been slowly withdrawing from Afghanistan since April thanks to a deal negotiated with the Taliban in February 2020.
The deal, led by the Trump administration, would see all US forces withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 as long as the Taliban did not harbour extremist groups like Al-Qaeda.
President Joe Biden reviewed the deal when he took office and pushed the date back to September 11, something the Taliban were not pleased with.
Since the withdrawal, the Taliban have ramped up their efforts to take over parts of the country with the capital Kabul being the last stronghold for western forces.
The US has sent over 5,000 additional troops to help with the evacuation of delegates and other foreign nationals.
Mr Biden is currently away at Camp David and will remain there until Wednesday.
Parliament has been recalled from its summer recess following the escalating situation in Afghanistan.