Now that President Trump has put a stop to negotiations with the Taliban, leaving the Afghanistan peace process in limbo, the Taliban have a message for the leader of the free world: "We can do this for one hundred years."
At least that's what the group's lead negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, told RT during a recent interview. Trump shut down the nearly year-long talks after a Taliban car bombing killed an American soldier stationed in Kabul. The two sides were set to meet at Camp David, where they were reportedly on the cusp of signing a major agreement.
Taliban representatives insist their bombings are justified by the ongoing attacks by American and Afghan forces on Taliban-held territory, and that they are simply defending their land from a hostile occupier.
Stanikzai said he's skeptical of Trump's reasons for halting the talks, arguing that it conflicted with a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, during a TV appearance the following day, bragged that the US had killed "over 1,000 Taliban" over the previous ten days, even as negotiations progressed.
Pompeo on Meet The Press: "You should know, in the last 10 days we've killed over 1,000 Taliban. And while this is not a war of attrition, I want the American people to know that President Trump is taking it to the Taliban." pic.twitter.com/dXxQwzrYkD— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 8, 2019
If the Taliban could keep negotiating even as American troops gunned down their men, Stanikzai wondered, why couldn't the Americans?
"If they can kill a thousand of us, why can we not kill one or two of them?" Stanikzai asked. "This is our right. We have to defend ourselves and defend our people."
He added: "The war was imposed on us. It is American soldiers who are in Afghanistan. It’s not our mujahedeen in Washington."
The Taliban rep also criticized President Trump for failing to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Barack Obama, who also pursued peace talks with the Taliban before pulling out at the last minute. Stanikzai said he doubts Washington's commitment to ending the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan, a war that has cost US taxpayers $877 billion.
Stanikzai spoke to an RT reporter during a visit by the Taliban delegation to Moscow this past week that was part of regular meetings scheduled with Russian officials. These have continued in parallel to the American talks with the militant group, which were brokered by Qatar.
Watch Stanikzai and other members of the Taliban delegation speak to RT:
Still, a formal agreement must be signed, and American troops must depart Afghanistan, before the Taliban can settle its differences with the US-backed government in Kabul.