Rabbani: Afghans Are Tired Of War, They Want Peace

Reporting from Afghanistan, Morning Edition's Renee Montagne talks to Salahuddin Rabbani. President Hamid Karzai recently appointed him chairman of the High Peace Council, which is tasked with negotiating with the Taliban. Rabbani replaced his father who was assassinated last year by a suspected Taliban member.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The big debate in Afghanistan is how and when to bring the Taliban into the political process. U.S. efforts appear to be stalled. In Kabul, Renee Montagne sat down with the man charged with leading the Afghan effort.

RENEE MONTAGNE, BYLINE: Salahuddin Rabbani is the new head of the High Peace Council. Its members are drawn from Afghanistan's various ethnic and political groups, many of which have fought each other. He steps into a job last held by his own father. Burhanuddin Rabbani was a former president of Afghanistan. He was assassinated last fall by a supposed Taliban envoy who was actually concealing a bomb in his turban. Salahuddin Rabbani heard the news while serving as ambassador to Turkey.

SALAHUDDIN RABBANI: It was Tuesday, and I was in a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Turkey. And my brother Sujal(ph) called me, and he told me that a suicide bomber has blown up himself in our house. He has assassinated my father.

I knew that it was a big blow to the peace process, because the amount of trust and confidence that my father had and the respect that he enjoyed among different communities in Afghanistan, I couldn't see anyone to replace him at that time. So it was a huge setback for the peace process.

MONTAGNE: Who was it, or what group assassinated your father?

RABBANI: So far, no has claimed responsibility. At the beginning, a group of Taliban said that they have carried out, but then later on they denied it. But if you see how this person came, who brought him, it all shows that, of course, that it was planned outside of Afghanistan. The device was very sophisticated device and, of course, the person who was who brought him, he is in the Afghan custody. He has said that the suicide bombers came from Quetta.

MONTAGNE: Quetta is the base for Mullah Omar and the top Taliban leadership.

RABBANI: Yes. They are based in Quetta, in Pakistan.

MONTAGNE: Clearly someone wanted these peace talks to fail. Clearly someone wanted to hurt the High Peace Council quite badly and they did that with the death of your father. But at this point in time, what efforts, what actual outreach efforts are being made to the leadership of the Taliban? Is that door just closed to the High Peace Council at this point?

RABBANI: I don't think so. On the national level, of course, we are reaching out to the people in the provinces through provincial peace committees. They are inviting those opponents to come and join the peace process. On the, of course, regional level we have to talk to our neighbors so that they could also support the peace process.

MONTAGNE: And your neighbors being Iran, and especially, Pakistan.

RABBANI: Especially Pakistan. Yes. I'm glad to say that they have invited me to come to Islamabad to discuss the peace process and the reconciliation.

MONTAGNE: You can't get positive results unless they do support it - Pakistan does support the peace process.

RABBANI: Well, they, the leadership of Taliban are believed to be based in Pakistan. If Pakistan convinces those groups who are based in their territory to join the peace process that there is a possibility, a high possibility that they will join the peace process.

MONTAGNE: When you were appointed to replace your father, in some sense it's dynastic, the child of the man who was the only person it seemed who could head up the High Peace Council. Is there something to that?

RABBANI: When the president told me that it would be for the sake of national unity, so that the people in Afghanistan, different communities in Afghanistan, don't see the peace process as something that they're not involved in and that it's something between a specific ethnic group. And, of course, I joined this High Peace Council knowing all the dangers and risks involved in this. But because it's a continuation of my father's vision and mission, it's a national need and it's a religious obligation to work for peace.

MONTAGNE: Although your father, having come from another era, I mean he was a leader in the resistance against the Soviets, he was also a political heavyweight, and he functioned in the toughest of all possible political environments. I mean his opponents were armed. Have times changed enough for a Western-educated, relatively young diplomat - that being yourself - to succeed in bringing about what is really a difficult challenge, and some say maybe even an impossible one, and that's peace?

RABBANI: Yes, it has.

MONTAGNE: Times have changed?

RABBANI: Many people, of course, the young generation and Afghans are tired of war. They want peace. And now there are people with pen in their hands. And not as (unintelligible) has said, for a man with a hammer in his hand all the problems look like a nail. Now we have pen in our hand and we want to solve the problems in a different way.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for having us here.

RABBANI: Thank you very much for coming. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Salahuddin Rabbani, the new head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council.

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GREENE: That's Renee Montagne in Afghanistan. And we will be hearing much more of her reporting next week.

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GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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