Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani, currently in charge of security for Kabul, has echoed the group’s claims that “all Afghans” should feel safe under their Islamic Emirate and that a “general amnesty” has been granted across the nation’s 34 provinces.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Haqqani, whose associates are also taking a leading role in establishing security in the capital, said the Taliban is working to restore order and safety to a nation that has seen more than four decades of war.
“If we can defeat superpowers, surely we can provide safety to the Afghan people,” Haqqani, who is also a veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war, said.
Haqqani insists that people should not be afraid of the Taliban.
“Our hostility was with the occupation. There was a superpower that came from the outside to divide us. They forced a war unto us. We have no hostility with anyone; we are all Afghans,” he said.
Now that foreign forces are less than ten days from a complete withdrawal, Haqqani and the Taliban say they see no enemy on Afghan soil and instead want to work with as many people as possible to bring order to the nation.
Haqqani points to recent meetings with former President Karzai, as well as Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the resistance against the Taliban’s initial rule in the 1990s, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the former minister of borders and tribal affairs, as proof that the group is willing to embrace all Afghans.
“Karzai was in conflict with us for 13 years, but in the end, we assured even him of his safety,” Haqqani said about the years Karzai spent as the head of the Western-backed Afghan government, which the Taliban often referred to as a “puppet” or “stooge” administration.
“All of those people who left this country, we will assure them of their safety. You’re all welcome back in Afghanistan,” he said.
Meanwhile, giant supermarkets remain closed across the capital; stores see minimal foot traffic and popular restaurants, cafes, and shisha bars struggle to make ends meet with only a fraction of their former customer base.
Haqqani said the Taliban is working hard to try and keep other Afghans from fleeing, but that the circulation of what he says are unsubstantiated reports of abuse and violence is making it much more difficult.
He says “the whole world” is trying to “deceive” the people of Afghanistan with claims that the Taliban will eventually revert to the strict, brutal rule of the 1990s, which he vehemently denies.
He says the educated people fleeing should work to serve their country rather than going to the airport, where they will face violence, humiliation and “disgrace”.
“We cannot build Afghanistan from the outside,” he said to those who are either waiting to leave or have already left.
He also referred to the last 20 years of foreign intervention that saw foreigners and Afghans coming from abroad to work in the country.
“Outsiders can’t build the nation for us. All they’ve done is destroy it.”
Since Kabul’s capture, Taliban leaders have sought to show a more moderate face and have begun talks on forming a government.
However, Afghans are skeptical of the claims made by the leader of the Haqqani Network, known to be the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban, especially as reports of house-to-house searches and violence allegedly committed by the Taliban continue to pour in.
Haqqani is labelled a “global terrorist” by the United States, with a $5m bounty for him issued by the US Treasury Department in February 2011. He remains on a United Nations terrorist list.
Haqqani’s statement also comes as thousands of people continue to try to get into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Since last Sunday, there have been near-daily reports of violence, injuries, stampedes and deaths.
Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says that references to security and order can pave the way to a police state too often.
“Law and order are not the same as the rule of law. What we need to see is whether they will address concerns about searches of journalists’ and activists’ homes and accountability for killings of former government personnel and media workers,” Gossman told Al Jazeera.