The Afghan Taliban have said they are committed to peace talks and want a “genuine Islamic system” in Afghanistan that would make provisions for women’s rights in line with cultural traditions and religious rules.
The statement came amid slow progress in the talks between the hardline Islamic group and Afghan government representatives in Qatar, Reuters is reporting.
Government officials have raised concerns over the stalling negotiations and have said the Taliban has not yet submitted a written peace proposal that could be used as a starting point for substantive talks.
“We understand that the world and Afghans have queries and questions about the form of the system to be established following withdrawal of foreign troops,” said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office, in the statement, adding these issues were best addressed during negotiations in Doha.
“A genuine Islamic system is the best means for solution of all issues of the Afghans,” he said. “Our very participation in the negotiations and its support on our part indicates openly that we believe in resolving issues through mutual understanding.”
He added that women and minorities would be protected and diplomats and NGO workers would be able to work securely.
“We take it on ourselves as a commitment to accommodate all rights of citizens of our country, whether they are male or female, in the light of the rules of the glorious religion of Islam and the noble traditions of the Afghan society,” he said, adding that “facilities would be provided” for women to work and be educated.
The statement did not make it clear whether the Taliban would allow women to carry out public roles or whether workplaces and schools would be segregated by gender.
The group’s spokesman did not respond to request for comment by Reuters.
In May, US intelligence analysts released an assessment that the Taliban “will roll back much” of the progress made in Afghan women’s rights if the Islamist extremists regain national power.
Before being ousted by the 2001 US-led invasion, the Taliban imposed a harsh version of Islamic rule that included barring girls from school, and forbidding women from working outside their homes and prohibiting them from being in public without a male relative.
Now, violence is escalating dramatically around the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign forces by Sept 11.
On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani replaced his defence and interior ministers and the army chief of staff amid rising casualties among Afghanistan’s security forces in sharply increased fighting with the Taliban.
The changes, announced late on Saturday by the presidential palace, come as Afghan security forces battle the Taliban in 28 of 34 provinces in the country, with the hardline Islamic group claiming more territory in recent weeks.
On Friday, 24 members Afghan special forces soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded during a fight to retake a district captured by the Taliban in northern Faryab province, security officials said.
The Taliban has staged a months-long campaign to expand its influence across the country as the US has been withdrawing troops from May 1 and closed some bases and handed them over to the Afghan government.
Since the US announced plans in April to pull out all of its troops by Sept 11, at least 30 districts have been seized by the Taliban.
A security official speaking on condition of anonymity said there have been extremely high casualties among Afghan security forces and civilians in recent weeks as intense fighting rages on.
The Taliban have predicted that: “When the Americans leave the government forces won’t survive even for five days.”