Tajik Opposition Head Recalls Meeting With Taliban Leader
Northern Alliance units entered Kabul on November 13 after Taliban troops abandoned their defensive positions in a strategic withdrawal to strongholds in southern Afghanistan. US officials portray the situation in the Afghan capital as "fluid." The flight of the Taliban is prompting the international community to refocus attention on building a post-Taliban order. EurasiaNet spoke recently to Said Abdullah Nouri, a leader of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), about the Taliban, and the prospects for peace in Afghanistan. Tajikistan is still struggling to recover from a 1992-97 civil war. However, Nouri held out hope that the experience of the Tajik peace process could help Afghanistan recover from decades of warfare. The Tajik peace accords signed in 1997 called for the integration of leaders of the United Tajik Opposition, which included the IRP, into government structures. Over time, erstwhile enemies have learned to cooperate.Nouri gave this interview to EurasiaNet before the start of the Northern Alliance offensive, but his comments remain pertinent.
EurasiaNet: Some people in the United States suggest that moderate Taliban leaders could be incorporated into future governmental structures in Afghanistan. Have you met Taliban representatives who you view as moderate?Nouri: We don't know the Taliban. We had only one meeting with Mullah [Mohammed] Omar. We don't have any other relationship with them, and we don't know any moderate or non-moderate representatives of them.
EurasiaNet: Can you tell us about that meeting?Nouri: In 1997, a group of [Tajik] parliamentarians was on a UN's plane that took off from Mashad [in Iran] to Tahor [province in Afghanistan]. When we were over Afghan territory, Taliban military planes forced us to land in Shindan military airport [in southwestern Afghanistan]. We were taken to Kandahar, where we met Mullah Omar, and even became his guests for one night.
EurasiaNet: What did you discuss with Mullah Omar?Nouri: My meeting with Mullah Omar had three parts. The first part was an introduction. They wanted to find out what we were, i.e. did we belong to Islam or not. If we were Muslims, were we then Sunni or Shi'ia? If we were Sunni, which particular school we belonged to? In short, those long discussions we had all together, and they had separately with each of us. [They] clarified that we were Sunnis and belonged to Hanafi school. The second part was on the aims of the Islamic Renaissance Party. We said that our aims are to gain a healthy belief, freedom and independence for our country.