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Afghan 1st vice president says negotiating with Taliban, still "shoulder-to-shoulder with al Qaeda," was a mistake

Afghan troops battle Taliban as U.S. draws down
Afghan first vice president welcomes U.S. drawdown, says country is ready to face Taliban 02:25

Kabul — Taliban fighters reportedly captured another district in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday. The siege was part of a wider offensive against Afghan security forces across the country, as U.S. troops pull out.

The second highest ranking political leader in the country told CBS News' Charlie D'Agata that some fundamental mistakes were behind America's decision to withdrawal forces from the country after 20 years of war.

The huge surge in violence across the country is evidence that Taliban militants were never really going to honor assurances given to the U.S. to rein in their attacks.

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh believes that was always self-evident.

"Taliban are terrorists. Simple," he told CBS News.

Afghan VP says U.S. "legitimized" Taliban and must "remain engaged" 02:47

He said he didn't trust the insurgents at all, and believes it was a mistake for the United States to negotiate with the Taliban in the first place.  

President Joe Biden's justification for going ahead with the withdrawal initiated by his predecessor was, in part, that the U.S. and its partners had "degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda" in Afghanistan.

But Saleh said that, too, was misguided thinking.

"The whole idea of coming to Afghanistan was to teach a lesson to terrorists and their allies: Don't do it again. Have we taught them that lesson? No," he said.  

Taliban militants parade down a road in Afghanistan's Laghman province in April 2021.  CBS

Afghan forces have killed or captured dozens of al Qaeda fighters in the last few days alone, the vice president said.  

"If we say the Taliban have separated themselves, decoupled themselves from terrorism, that is absolutely baseless," he told D'Agata. "The Taliban operate shoulder-to-shoulder with al Qaeda today."  

Saleh has survived several assassination attempts, including one in which a suicide bomber and gunmen killed 20 people in an attack on his office. Just last fall he was wounded in a roadside bombing in Kabul that killed 10 people. His young son was in the car, but also escaped unharmed.

Afghanistan women who fear extremist rule under Taliban when U.S. military departs speak out 03:07

With the withdrawal of U.S. forces and their NATO allies, Saleh knows Afghanistan is facing a dangerous few months, and that if there's any hope of peace, the Taliban need to stop waging war.

"The Taliban cannot subdue Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun," he told CBS News. "They can kill people. They are killing people every day. But if they are waiting for a moment of surrender from the Afghan people, it won't come."

The vice president said he was grateful to America, for the lives lost in his country and the vast amount of money spent, but he said Afghanistan needs the U.S. "to remain engaged diplomatically, economically, and strategically."

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