PESHAWAR – Ahmad Faiz, a soft-spoken young man, is the Afghan vice-consul and official spokesman in Peshawar. In this capacity he is one of the few Taliban diplomats – or Taliban, for that matter – with a window to the outside world: the Taliban, the most isolated regime on the planet, are left nowadays with just an embassy in Islamabad, and two consulates – in Peshawar and Karachi.

It was Faiz who revealed to Asia Times Online early last Friday that commander Abdul Haq had been captured by the Taliban (although at the time he did not know that Haq would be executed). Faiz is not exactly keen on disclosing a lot of information: he says he is “from Afghanistan” – but as he speaks Dari, not Pashto, it is fair to assume he may be from Kabul. He says he “studied in Afghanistan” – which means he does not hail from the network of Pakistani madrassas which contributed most of the Taliban leadership.

Faiz comes across not as a hardliner, but not as a “moderate” Taliban either: the Taliban themselves have been trying hard to demonstrate to the world lately that a moderate Taliban is a dead Taliban. As infuriating as interviews with Taliban officials can be – and considering many overtones that are lost in translation – Faiz’s words and silences can be a useful barometer of the Taliban mindset as the relentless bombing campaign reaches its fourth week.

On a post-Taliban coalition government including “moderate” Taliban:

“In the name of Allah, many people are saying something about an adventure in our country that has not happened yet. They object to our government. And some of them made some government against us – they want to send them here as government. And some say we are pulling out. I don’t know who has given this authority to them. Our present and future time is in the hands of only one God.”

On what is the Taliban strategy from now on – compared to the American strategy of destroying the Taliban:

“The American strategy is clearly understood, it is to trouble the people, with aggression over the freedom of other peoples. I think Americans are taking pleasure in killing innocent people. Our strategy is very clear: we will do the same as we did to the past aggressors of our country.”

On the Taliban strategy to counter various plans to capture Kabul:

“Up to now they didn’t take Kabul. They have failed. And they will never take Kabul. And even if they take Kabul, they will never be able to keep it. The people who took Kabul in the past, at first they were very proud. But whenever they were escaping, they could never find their way out.”

On the willingness of the Taliban to talk to the UN envoy Lakdar Brahimi:

“He hasn’t come yet.”

On Iran and Russia saying the Taliban cannot be part of a future Afghan government:

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s government is a government made by the people of Afghanistan. Destroying such a government is not easy because the people won’t let them. The people who are coming with the airplanes of America will not be accepted by the Afghan people. The Russians created many problems, they destroyed our country. How can they say such words?”

On what’s the situation inside Afghanistan, and how many civilians have been killed:

“The people have not healed from the suffering during the war against the Russians. Now another powerful country attacks us, which is a criminal action against human beings. The people clearly understand what the world does to them. But we are not nervous or frightened – as the American union is so nervous killing the people. We will resist against this crime. They are bombing hospitals, common living places, killing children, women. Where are these organizations which claimed in favour of human rights to question these cruel people?”

On the use of cluster bombs and maybe chemical weapons by American forces:

“For three weeks crimes have been committed against our people. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference to send a delegation into Afghanistan to see what is happening to civilian life. Again I ask organizations who take care of human rights: why they are so quiet now?”

Once again, on how many civilians have been killed:

“The crimes of America have no limitations. They say by themselves that in one strike more than a hundred aircraft take part. They don’t understand what is human rights. As they are failing, everything else they try will fail in the future. The protests against their crimes are increasing day by day in the world.”

On how public opinion in the West cannot fully measure the suffering of the Afghan civilian population – because information disclosed by the Taliban is always so vague:

“Americans always try to trick and deceive other people in the world. In their actions they are not standing on truth. So why is the press hiding what is happening? Basic circles of the press are in the hands of America. I wish the press could have freedom. This is why we called the OIC to send an envoy to Afghanistan.”

On freedom of the press:

“Some press organizations are not showing the reality, the real pictures, they are just explaining the opinions of the American government. Why does the press not object to these media organizations? Our policy is clear for real journalists. Many people coming to Afghanistan introduce themselves as journalists. We deal with them as journalists. If there is any delay now for travelling to Afghanistan, that is because we respect the security of the journalists. When the American bullets are killing innocent people, these are blind bullets – they don’t see if somebody is a journalist, a child, a woman. We are winning this war. When we finally win, then we will let people in to see what happened to the Americans.”

On the remote possibility of allowing the media into Afghanistan:

“We may consider that, taking into account the fact that any real journalist has to be independent. But Bush or Blair will have no place on the soil of Afghanistan.”

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