Islamabad -- A spokesman for the Taliban said Wednesday that the group is not seeking a monopoly on power in a future administration in Afghanistan but rather looking for ways to co-exist with Afghan institutions. The remarks by Shaheen Suhail were the most conciliatory comments to date from the Islamic militant group. He provided them to The Associated Press in an audio message from Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office.
Suhail said that once U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban want to live with other Afghans, "tolerate one another and start life like brothers."
"We believe in an inclusive Afghan world, where all Afghans can see themselves in it," he told the AP.
Suhail's remarks came after the U.S. envoy tasked with resolving Afghanistan's 17-year war reported earlier this week that there had been significant. Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said his team had agreed on the "draft of a framework" for a peace plan with the militant group, but stressed that key points -- include the time table for a U.S. withdrawal and ceasefire arrangements -- still needed to be hammered out.
The Taliban has steadfastly refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, which the group considers a U.S. puppet regime. Khalilzad has been adamant that "the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks."
Warning from a veteran U.S. diplomat
Ryan Crocker, who has served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, wrote in a column for The Washington Post this week that the U.S. even sitting down for direct talks with the Taliban was in itselft "surrendering," and he warned against trusting the deeply entrenched insurgent group.
"By acceding to this Taliban demand (for talks without the Afghan government), we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support," Crocker wrote. "It was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender. The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them."
Crocker also said he hoped President Trump would learn from President Barack Obama's mistake of withdrawing forces from Iraq in 2011, which precipitated the rise of ISIS in the region.
"In Afghanistan, President Trump has a choice. He can follow Obama's example and leave the country to the Taliban, or he can make clear that the United States has interests, values and allies, and will stand behind them," Crocker wrote.
CBS News national security contributor Michael Morell, a former acting director of the CIA, also warned against trusting the Taliban this week, saying that the withdrawal of U.S. troops could enablein the country, and abroad.