On August 11, 2021, the London-based news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat published an article titled "Afghans See Khalilzad as Responsible for Current War, Says Female Leader, Former MP." The article reports on an interview with Shukria Barakzai, a former member of Afghan parliament representing Kabul and former Afghan ambassador to Norway. Barakzai was the target of an assassination attempt by car bomb in Kabul in 2014 and was part of a women-led delegation that negotiated with the Taliban in Oslo in 2015.
Barakzai said in the interview that the February 2020 Doha agreement "didn't help the peace process. The violence didn't recede and the political process in Afghanistan failed." She lists groups fighting alongside the Taliban, including "ISIS, Chechen fighters, militants of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and allied groups, [and] Al-Qaeda" of whom she says that the "Taliban won't be able to control them in future." She said that after 20 years of war, Afghanistan "is seemingly going back to square one."
Of Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, Barakzai said: "I don't believe Mr. Khalilzad had the stature to solve Afghan problems... I believe he, as the US envoy to Afghanistan, committed a historically unforgivable mistake toward the Afghanistan and its people." On Khalilzad's disruption of Afghan-U.S. relations, she said: "Mr. Khalilzad had a key role in disrupting nation-to-nation, legislature-to-legislature, politician-to-politician and government-to-government interactions."
Barakzai further said that "His track-record on war and peace issues of Afghanistan was also incredibly weak... none of what Khalilzad and the US promised the Afghan people went on to actually happen." On Khalilzad's role in the Doha agreement, she said: "On grand issues, like severing ties between Taliban with Al-Qaeda and ISIS and the fight against other extremist groups in Afghanistan, nothing was done... For the Afghan public opinion, Mr. Khalilzad is the person primarily responsible for the war."
Regarding the participation of Pakistani and Iranian soldiers in the Afghan war, she cited a UNSC report, saying: "Official soldiers of Pakistan's government, army and intelligence organizations were fighting in Afghanistan for their strategic interests... Afghanistan today is fighting not only the Taliban but Pakistan's official forces. We also can't ignore or underestimate Iran. In the Province of Nimruz, I have very reliable contacts who tell me there are Baluch and Iranians fighters there and that some of Taliban's weapons there are Iranian-made."
Following is the text of the Asharq Al-Awsat article:
Groups Fighting Alongside Taliban Include: "ISIS, Chechen Fighters, Militants Of Islamic Movement Of Uzbekistan And Allied Groups, Al-Qaeda" – "Taliban Won't Be Able To Control Them In Future"
"A leading Afghan female leader says Zalmay Khalilzad, Pakistan, Iran and Russia share blames for Afghanistan's dire straits.
"Shukria Barakzai is a former Kabul MP, who also served as Afghanistan's ambassador to Norway. Among the progressive Afghan women, she has also had the experience of negotiating with Taliban as part of the Afghan women-led delegation that met the insurgent group in Oslo in summer of 2015. This was an unprecedented event since Taliban had refused to meet with leading women personalities before.
"The Oslo meeting was also attended by two members of Afghanistan's High Peace Council. Based on what was published about the meeting, Taliban was supposed to have accepted to respect democratic values and women's rights.
"Six years after that historic meeting, peace is yet to come to Afghanistan. Taliban's violation of human rights continues ever more. Afghanistan's democratic achievements are under assault by the group. The dream of peace and calm seems ever more unattainable.
"In a conversation with Independent Persian's Editor-in-Chief, Camelia Entekhabifard, Barakzai spoke of Afghanistan's current events, especially the role of US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in creating an opportunity for Taliban, the group's crimes against people, the Doha agreement and the US role in developments of her country. She also talked about Pakistani government's collaboration with Taliban in its war against the Afghan people and government and the presence of Iranian arms and Iranian-made weapons in the battle for Nimruz.
"Commenting on US withdrawal, Barakzai said: 'After 20 years, Afghanistan is in a more dangerous place from a political, social and economic point of view which was truly unpredictable. It is hard to think about all the bloody events that the people of Afghanistan will have to bear even before the US withdrawal is complete. Politically speaking, Afghanistan's place, as a state and a nation, was really undermined when the Doha agreement was signed between the United States and Taliban on equal footings.'
"Speaking on the Afghan-Taliban peace process, the former member of parliament said: 'The articles of the agreement didn't help the peace process. The violence didn't recede and the political process in Afghanistan failed.'
"'We've seen crimes and atrocities, further destruction of government sites and harming of women, violation of their rights and an assault on democracy. It's a human catastrophe. The political future of Afghanistan has been put in doubt. Many groups which are fighting alongside Taliban today don't even aim at capturing political power. This includes ISIS, Chechen fighters, militants of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and allied groups, Al-Qaeda, etc...
"'But these groups are very active inside Afghanistan and amongst the Taliban,' she added. 'Taliban won't be able to control them in future and this will be a problem both for Afghanistan and for the international community. It will create a safe haven for them.'"
After 20 Years Of War, Afghanistan Is "Seemingly Going Back To Square One"
"Speaking on the country's future, Barakzai said: 'Afghanistan is currently recognized as an independent and sovereign state with diplomatic relations. But if Taliban come to power, Afghanistan will be marginalized again.'
"Twenty years of struggle and sacrifice, by Afghans and their allies, is now 'unfortunately,' squandered as the country 'is seemingly going back to square one,' she remarked.
"'This is truly painful,' Barakzai added. 'Twenty years ago, a new generation was able to rise up in Afghanistan, have demands, hopes and dreams. Afghanistan's people could dream of a better future. But today it's hard to think about progress and future. This new generation, young people in their twenties; can they help decide the political, social and military future of Afghanistan?'
"When asked to predict the future of the country, Barakzai replied: 'We are in a situation which makes prediction based on political theories impossible. Only with a grand consensus and an extraordinary popular uprising, coordinated and led by Afghans with the support of international community, could we rid ourselves of this war.'
"Barakzai also commented on the role of US envoy Khalilzad."
Khalilzad "Committed A Historically Unforgivable Mistake Toward The Afghanistan And Its People... For The Afghan Public Opinion, Mr. Khalilzad Is The Person Primarily Responsible For The War"
"'I don't believe Mr. Khalilzad had the stature to solve Afghan problems,' she said. 'I believe he, as the US envoy to Afghanistan, committed a historically unforgivable mistake toward the Afghanistan and its people. This wasn't his first mistake and maybe it won't be the last.'
"'Maybe it wasn't all up to the State Department but as diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and the US were strained, the voice of the Afghan people and Afghan truth couldn't even reach the US Congress, US government or even their media. Mr. Khalilzad had a key role in disrupting nation-to-nation, legislature-to-legislature, politician-to-politician and government-to-government interactions.'
"She added: 'They decided who should be talked to and who should be promoted and who should be thrown out. His track-record on war and peace issues of Afghanistan was also incredibly weak. When you read the text of Doha agreement, which took 18 months and so many trips by the US secretary of state, you'll see that none of what Khalilzad and the US promised the Afghan people went on to actually happen.'
"Speaking on his achievements for Afghanistan, she said: 'The only achievement Mr. Khalilzad had during the peace talks was that Taliban didn't attack US and foreign forces. This is the only one. But on grand issues, like severing ties between Taliban with Al-Qaeda and ISIS and the fight against other extremist groups in Afghanistan, nothing was done. Taliban must have come to the negotiating table with Kabul, start the peace process and reduce the violence. This is what the Doha deal promised but it never happened. For the Afghan public opinion, Mr. Khalilzad is the person primarily responsible for the war.'"
"Afghanistan Today Is Fighting Not Only The Taliban But Pakistan's Official Forces... In The Province Of Nimruz, I Have Very Reliable Contacts Who Tell Me There Are Baluch And Iranians Fighters There And That Some Of Taliban's Weapons There Are Iranian-Made"
"She also spoke on US-Afghan ties and the commitments of the US government to the people and government of Afghanistan.
"'During all bilateral meetings between US and Afghan presidents, even in the latest statements by the White House, President Joe Biden and all their cabinet ministers said their priority was to defend Afghan security forces; and that Taliban's assault, especially on big cities, was a crime. Based on an agreement that lasts till 2024 and is much more credible than the Doha statement, from a legal and international point of view, the US has certain obligations. That's why the US air strikes and aid to Afghan security forces (financial and technical) are continuing.'
"Barakzai also spoke about Afghanistan's neighbors and said: 'Afghanistan's neighbors are also intervening and attacking. The US, unfortunately, has not acted very well in this regard. The United Nations Security Council's documents show that official soldiers of Pakistan's government, army and intelligence organizations were fighting in Afghanistan for their strategic interests. This means a violation of Afghan territory. But US's silence and denial are seriously questionable.'
"Commenting on the reasons for Taliban's advances, Barakzai said Kabul had relied on peace talks actually working.
"'Withdrawal of foreign, US and NATO forces – all simultaneously – gave a wrong message to the Afghan people,' she noted. 'It seemed as if the US and NATO want the Taliban to come to power.'
"Speaking once more on the role of Afghanistan's neighbors, Barakzai stressed: 'Afghanistan today is fighting not only the Taliban but Pakistan's official forces. We also can't ignore or underestimate Iran. In the Province of Nimruz, I have very reliable contacts who tell me there are Baluch and Iranians fighters there and that some of Taliban's weapons there are Iranian-made. There is also the Russian political support for Taliban and the diplomatic opportunities they created for them that can't be forgotten.'"