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The Last Leader Khalid Amiri and the Fight for a Peaceful Afghanistan
"The world that shouts about human rights and equal rights for all are just watching it happen. Now the only thing that stands against this terrorist manufacturing plant is our resistance. Just us."
Khalid Amiri, 35, is on the front lines of the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. A commander in the Northern Alliance, one of the main opposition groups founded by the late Ahmad Shah Masoud, Khalid is leading the charge against the Taliban in the Panjshir province. He has a wife and children who motivate him to persevere in the fight against extremism, in hopes that one day his home country will be Taliban-free and peaceful.
Faisal: When the Taliban took over the former republic, how did you feel? How are you doing?
Khalid: At that time, we were coming from Helmand province, fighting there, and we lost it so I came back to Kabul. I was there when the Taliban took over. That’s when we went to Kabul Airport and took a plane to Panjshir province. How did I feel? I fought for 20 years alongside the international community fighting against a terror group. We saw achievements such as human rights, equal rights for all, rights to education, the right to free elections, modernity, and equal rights for men and women. Not to mention the sacrifice and loss of life of our friends and family members and suddenly all of this disappears out of the blue.
Faisal: Did you feel betrayed by the Americans and the international community? Did you receive any warning that they would withdraw, were they clear in their communications?
Khalid: No. Since we were inside and lived among the people, the American and Taliban deal was only one small aspect of the whole collapse. We saw the corruption inside the Afghan government. There was corruption to its maximum level. A lack of leadership. There was no tolerance and unity towards each other inside Afghanistan. We have been expecting this future since 2014/2015 when we started arresting high-up officials in the Taliban and then they were mysteriously being released days later. The US betrayal is not the whole picture. The corruption inside the country was also a major player here.
Faisal: Do you think that the US made a mistake by trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan? Should they have instead worked with the northern alliance and made them leaders after the 2001 war?
Khalid: I believe both were fine, but the issue is that one ethnicity or ethnic group can never rule this country. Afghanistan is a major country with many ethnicities. There are no majorities here. It wouldn’t have been possible. The northern alliances wouldn’t have been able to control anything. Without democracy in a multi-ethnic country it was impossible to run this place by for example instating a king or something like that. The main issue was the administration, the government. There was too much power given to the president. What I really like and the system I am advocating for is a federalist nation. If the US had changed our government into a federalist government in the beginning we would not have all of these issues we are having right now. 20 years of democracy in this country and the issues are all a result of internal issues. It was only for the benefit of one ethnicity. That’s why it played a major role in the fall of Afghanistan.
Faisal: Do you think this option is still on the table of creating a federalist nation? Is that what you’re fighting for? What motivates you to keep fighting?
Khalid: Before we can talk about government style we have other issues to fix. That’s why we fight. Afghanistan is run by a terrorist group. My right to live in my own house was taken from me. My right to participate in government was taken from me. I am not allowed to participate in this government. People are killed and massacred because of their ethnicity. Human rights are taken away from our people. This is why we fight against the Taliban. I believe the Taliban will lose this fight.
Faisal: Can you win this war without outside help? If so, how?
Khalid: Without a doubt, without outside help… a fight cannot be won without financial and logistic support it’s impossible to win a war. However, in the meantime we cannot allow the enemy to do what they want with impunity while we sit back and watch. This connects back to all of the genocide and abuse that they have already perpetrated. There are multiple things going on in the region and I know the world is watching. Hopefully one day they will come to a conclusion that the only alternative to the Taliban is an alliance and the resistance.
Faisal: What if no one comes to that conclusion? What keeps you awake at night?
Khalid: We can’t foresee the future and we cannot say for sure if the west or the world will eventually come to this conclusion or not, but to the best of our ability we will continue to fight this war. If it’s out of our ability and we reach a point where we can’t fight anymore, then we won’t be here to talk about it anymore. The world needs to realize at some point that Afghanistan has become a battle ground and safe haven for international terrorists once again. We just saw that the leader of Al Qaeda was just killed here in Kabul. Right now this de facto regime is a threat to the world. Once they regroup and reorganize here people will see what they will do to the world. What keeps me awake at night is our poor people, people who are defenseless against a group of violent extremist terrorists.
Faisal: What gives you hope for the future of your country?
Khalid: What gives me hope is that we will fight and win against the Taliban. They are a very small extremist ethnic group which doesn’t have the majority support from the people of Afghanistan. They will not ever be recognized as legitimate leaders by any country in the world. Plus, I have proof and data that shows that the Taliban are beatable right now. A comparison of whether it was easier back then when they were a militia group fighting in the mountain ranges or now when they are pretending to run a government through a de facto regime inside Afghanistan. All of these things collectively give me hope for a better future.
Faisal: In your war against the Taliban, how exactly are you fighting them? Is it primarily through force/resistance, or are you also using education and campaigns geared toward the people living in regions that are controlled by the Taliban?
Khalid: Currently we don’t need to introduce the Taliban to propaganda or campaigns. At the end of the 20th century and currently, everyone sees them for what they are: their ideology, governance, the people inside the administration, where they were jailed and imprisoned. It was apparent and known to everyone. We obviously have to eventually fight the ideological fight but right now it is most important to have a military resistance. There are no other alternatives. We have to continue the military and force resistance.
Faisal: The reason I ask is because I often speak with people from all different kinds of backgrounds: military officials, government officials, and non-profit organizations. What do you think people from these various backgrounds can do to help you in this fight?
Khalid: In terms of NGOs and people outside of the military sphere, we hope that they will show the real face of the Taliban. The face that was shown during the supposed peace talks between the US government and the Taliban. The idea that the Taliban has somehow changed is incorrect. We have documented pictures and videos and real life proof of their continued atrocities and violence committed against our people and specifically against certain ethnicities. These images need to be broadcasted and shown to the world. It will show people that they are still the same violent extremists they were 20 years ago. This will fuel protests and make people rise up– specifically women, our brave women. People will rise up and start pouring into the streets and shouting against the regime. We expect our people both outside and inside the country to come together and shout in protest against what is really only one small group.
Faisal: What do you think the response has been from the Arab states? Are there things that countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and even Qatar, which have been helping in the negotiation process, can do to help moderate or reduce the Taliban’s power?
Khalid: It’s important for all countries to put pressure on the Taliban. The Taliban at its roots, origins, and core structure are against any change. They are against democracy. They are against any change to the emirates. They are against the change that has been made over the last 20 years. Because they believe they have fought for their values for 20 years, so they hold them very close. Unless they are fought with, anything else won’t make any difference. Unless the Taliban agrees on a government and holds elections no one else will join them, and be in a sense a slave to Sharia law.
Faisal: How would you describe your own personal ideology?
Khalid: I am a moderate Muslim and I am against extremist Taliban values. I have fought against them for almost 15 years now.
Faisal: Do you worry about the women in your family?
Khalid: Obviously I am worried about the rights of women in Afghanistan and the rights of women under any Islamic regulations. The right to work, the right to education, the right to vote.
Faisal: Do you have a message you would like everyone to know?
Khalid: What happened during the peace talks cannot change the nature of terrorism. Currently, the Afghan people are being held hostage by a terrorist group. Every day these hostages are being killed. The Taliban believes that Afghan’s citizens are their property. That they are entitled to their possessions and personal wealth. Afghanistan has turned into a very unfortunate place. The world that shouts about human rights and equal rights for all are just watching it happen. The USA who fought from 9/11 onward with over 50,000 killed people and billions of dollars spent on the war on terror, they still pay the Taliban and give them an opportunity. We are worried that as long as this de facto regime lasts, that an entire future generation in Afghanistan will become terrorists. The USA, by providing this opportunity to the Taliban, will ensure for a fact that this next generation will be trained as terrorists. Afghanistan will just become another terrorist mill. Now the only thing that stands against this terrorist manufacturing plant, whose damage will be felt not just in Afghanistan but all over the world, is our resistance. Just us. International terrorists are regrouping here in Afghanistan. This is a huge threat to the world. The more time we waste, the damage will become more significant. The world is currently paying ransom to this regime. What did the Taliban do to make the world more sympathetic towards them? Why are they paying this regime? We don’t expect the US or the world to start from zero here in Afghanistan again like they did in 2001. But we do expect them to listen to the resistance and stop paying them and start sanctioning them. Once they stop this, we might be able to finish them off once and for all. We need to learn from the past so that they will never be able to come back again. We ask that the outside world stop paying them, start sanctioning them, and start supporting the resistance. That’s what I believe in. This will continue until the Taliban sees that war is not the solution, that they cannot win. Then they might agree to peace talks and to finding a solution to these conflicts together.
Faisal: How do you find happiness or joy?
Khalid: In Afghanistan, there is nothing that could make me happy. What keeps me going and what brings me joy is the support we get from our people. From the resistance groups that are shaping and forming in other provinces, from ex-military people and ex-police officers, men and women, inside and outside the country, those who pray for us and call us and show support for us online and offline. That is the only thing that makes me happy during these times.
Faisal: Would you ever consider leaving if things got worse, or will you always stay and fight?
Khalid: Only time will tell.
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