Afghanistan: Former army general vows new war against Taliban

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Former Afghan Lt Gen Sami Sadat vows to “continue to fight” to liberate Afghanistan

An ex-general in the Afghan army says he and many other former soldiers and politicians are preparing to launch a new war against the Taliban.

Lt Gen Sami Sadat said that eight months of Taliban rule has convinced many Afghans that military action is the only way forward.

He said operations could begin next month after the Islamic Eid festival, when he plans to return to Afghanistan.

The Taliban took control of the country in a rapid offensive last August.

The hard-line Islamists swept across the country in just 10 days, as the last US-led Nato forces left following a 20-year military campaign.

Speaking for the first time about the plans, Lt Gen Sadat told the BBC he and others would “do anything and everything in our powers to make sure Afghanistan is freed from the Taliban and a democratic system is re-established”.

“Until we get our freedom, until we get our free will, we will continue to fight,” he said, while refusing to be drawn on a specific timeline.

The general underscored how the Taliban had been reintroducing increasingly harsh rule – including severe restrictions on the rights of women and girls – and it was time to stop their authoritarian order and start a new chapter.

“What we see in Afghanistan in eight months of Taliban rule has been nothing but more religious restrictions, misquotation, misinterpretation and misuse of the scripts from the Holy Koran for political purposes.”

He initially planned to give the Taliban 12 months to see if they would change, he said. “Unfortunately, every day you wake up the Taliban have had something new to do – torturing people, killing, disappearances, food shortages, child malnutrition.”

He said he received hundreds of messages daily from Afghans asking him what he was going to do about it.

But in a country shredded by more than 40 years of conflict, many Afghans are weary of war, desperate to leave, or struggling to survive in the midst of a deepening economic crisis. The UN speaks of a country marked by “combat fatigue” with millions on the brink of starvation.

Many in rural areas which bore the brunt of Nato’s war against the Taliban have welcomed the relative calm now that US and Afghan warplanes have left the skies and Taliban attacks have ended.

Lt Gen Sadat, who commanded Afghan government forces in the southern province of Helmand in the last months of the Taliban offensive, is also accused of ordering attacks which killed civilians. When questioned about the charges he denied them.

In August last year he was appointed to head the Afghan special forces and arrived in Kabul the day the Taliban swept in and his commander-in-chief President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Asked whether there was any alternative to another war, Lt Gen Sadat said he hoped that moderate Taliban, known to be uncomfortable with a growing raft of restrictions reminiscent of draconian Taliban rule in 1990’s, could be part of a new government.

“We are not against the Taliban,” he said, just against their current “textbook,” describing an Afghanistan where “everyone fits in, not a country only for Taliban.”

In recent weeks, an audio message in which the general speaks about an armed fight against the Taliban with the aim of “re-liberating” Afghanistan was leaked to the media.

In the past, armed groups including the Taliban won Afghan wars with the support of neighbouring countries, a foothold in the country, and foreign funding.

A Taliban member stands guard at a checkpoint in Kandahar

It is not clear that Lt Gen Sadat’s allies, as well as the many other armed groups which have been forming, have any of these assets.

Multiple groups are now united by their goal of ousting the Taliban but they’re also divided along ethnic lines, and loyal to rival commanders.

Lt Gen Sadat said he was in touch with one of the most prominent groups known as the National Resistance Front (NRF) whose leading figure is Ahmad Massoud, son of the late legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.—BBC NEWA

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