Taliban want an ‘inclusive’ Afghanistan, British army chief claims

Militant group will be judged on ‘actions not words’, says Boris Johnson

Rory Sullivan
Wednesday 18 August 2021 15:17 BST
Taliban want an ‘inclusive’ Afghanistan, British army chief claims

The Taliban want an Afghanistan that is “inclusive” for all, the head of the British army has claimed.

General Nick Carter, Britain’s chief of defence staff, made the comment after the militant group promised to respect women’s rights under its rule.

However, the Taliban’s charm offensive appears to be at odds with reports on the ground, which suggest some women have been beaten by Taliban fighters who disapproved of the clothes they were wearing.

Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, General Carter suggested, despite evidence to the contrary, that the Taliban wanted an “inclusive” Afghanistan. He added that “you have to be very careful using the word enemy” when referring to the group.

He also told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the international community should be patient, and give the Taliban time “to show their credentials”.

"It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s,” he said, in reference to a time when women’s lives in Afghanistan were heavily restricted.

"We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation - the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan.”

His view is not shared by some army veterans. Charlie Herbert, who served as a general in Afghanistan and also worked for NATO, said people should not be “seduced” by the Taliban’s rhetoric.

The former senior NATO adviser told Sky News that the new regime needed international recognition, which it is seeking to court through “smooth words”.

His appraisal of the situation was less sanguine than General Carter’s. "They are waiting, they are biding their time until we leave Kabul and then the bloodletting will start when there are no journalists and no internationals to see it,” he said.

Boris Johnson also struck a note of caution while speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, saying the Taliban would be judged by its “actions rather than by its words”.

Since the Taliban captured Kabul on Sunday, the group has granted an amnesty to government workers and has spoken - in vague terms - of its “commitment to the rights of women under the system of Sharia”.

But despite talk of moderation, there is still a deep sense of trepidation among Afghans, particularly women. Such fear will not be eased by reports of people being rounded up at night by the Taliban.

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