Mullah Zaeef, a prominent pro-Taliban figure, recently conducted an interview with Shamshad News Agency, where his profound concern for the survival of the Taliban emirate became evident. During the 26th minute of the interview, the reporter inquired about the most troubling deficiency within the Taliban Emirate. Without hesitation, Mullah Zaeef declared, “The survival and strength of the system.”
He expressed his concern discreetly, avoiding any overt display of emotions or discomfort. Mullah Zaeef elaborated by stating, “The desire for the system’s survival and strength is shared by every compassionate Afghan; this is no coincidence.”
It appeared that Mullah Zaeef had uttered this sentence spontaneously, his tone carrying a certain intensity. He, himself, recognized the bluntness of his words and made an effort to restrain his emotions, employing diplomatic language to explain why he found the concern about the Taliban Emirate’s survival and strength offensive. In his search for more palatable terms, he diverged from the main topic, turning to prayer, praise, and the expression of his ideals. Mullah Zaeef conveyed his plea to God for the system’s endurance and the people’s attainment of peace, meaningful employment, and a prosperous life.
Despite the reporter’s persistent probing, the discussion likely became prolonged and intriguing. When the interview resumed, the reporter asked Mullah Zaeef if he was troubled by the threats to the emirate’s survival and strength. Mullah Zaeef admitted that it deeply troubled him.
However, while identifying himself as an Emirati and one of the founders of the Taliban group, Mullah Zaeef had a clear preference for spending his remaining years in tranquility, immersed in books, exploring new places, and free from suffering. He understood that excessive talking could disrupt this serenity. Thus, he sought alternative ways to convey his contentment. Once again, he turned to Allah, acknowledging that the opportunities provided by the Almighty far exceeded expectations. In Pashto, he extended his hands, consistently emphasizing the word “very” to underscore the magnitude of these opportunities.
In that interview, Mullah Zaeef’s statement included praises for the late Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban group, and the Emirates. However, due to his connections, he possessed some knowledge about the inner workings of the Taliban. He harbored numerous concerns, and his anxieties ran deep. Despite the profuse praise, admiration, and prayer, his apprehensions eventually surfaced, leading him to candidly explain the source of his fears.
He outlined three primary threats to the survival of the Taliban:
1) Nation-building: Mullah Zaeef expressed concern over the country’s population fleeing and increasing divisions within the nation. He believed this situation could invite foreign intervention and potentially dismantle the Taliban emirate. He suggested, in a suggestive tone given his position, that the emirate should extend its umbrella of protection to include all Afghans, even those who were its political adversaries.
2) Legality: He also worried about the lack of legal structure under the guise of Sharia law. Mullah Zaeef stressed that while Sharia served as a model, laws should be crafted in accordance with it to provide a framework for determining people’s fates and futures. He emphasized the need for clearly defined competencies and responsibilities for ministers and administrative officials and the establishment of rules for engaging with the international community.
3) Lack of Political Strategy: Mullah Zaeef emphasized the necessity of a strategic approach for the Taliban emirate. He urged them to consider their own interests and those of others while striking a balance to prevent tension with foreign powers and safeguard their own interests. He acknowledged the limitations of the Taliban in this regard, suggesting that their empire was teetering on the brink as a result.
4) Treatment of Women: Mullah Zaeef highlighted another peril threatening the survival and strength of the Taliban emirate: the status of women, particularly their access to education. He endeavored to convey the importance of educating and empowering women for the group’s survival using accessible language. He argued that when Afghan girls and women pursued education and employment opportunities abroad, it posed a greater risk to the “dignity” of Afghans than if these opportunities were available within Afghanistan. He stressed the necessity of women’s participation in the healthcare and education sectors, advocating for girls’ attendance at schools, colleges, and universities. He also pointed out the strong public interest in women’s education. He, along with many other Taliban leaders, recognized that their stance contradicted the desires of the people and the needs of the contemporary era. They felt the constant pressure from these opposing forces, which rightly fueled their concerns about the emirate’s survival.
During this interview, Mullah Zaeef, acknowledging his role as one of the founders of the Taliban group, hoped that his advice would be heeded and result in a “reform” of the policies and conduct of the Taliban Emirate’s officials. However, his speeches hinted at a lack of optimism regarding this reform, prompting him to invoke God’s blessings in the hope that his fears would not materialize.
Amidst the urgency of the Taliban Emirate, some of the Taliban’s longstanding and current officials appear more assured than certain opportunistic non-Taliban individuals. They recognize the limited political, human, and administrative capacity of the Taliban Emirate and understand their reliance on the vacuum created by international compromises. They are acutely aware that any alteration in the current dynamics could spell the end of their opportunity.
On the other hand, there are numerous educated individuals, business leaders, influencers, and politicians who, instead of actively striving to free the nation from this state of limbo, await the benevolence of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada and anticipate the reform and transformation of the emirate according to their desires.
Non-Taliban actors should also take their apprehensions seriously. What will the aftermath of the collapse of the Taliban emirate look like? How prepared are non-Taliban groups to govern the nation and establish a stable system? How many politicians are actively engaged in working toward a post-Taliban Afghanistan, rather than solely contemplating engagement with the Taliban?