Kabul: Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has said that there is no proof that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was involved in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US.
In an interview with NBC News, Mujahid also termed “propaganda” reports of women and girls being picked up by the Taliban men for forced marriage or rape.
Asked by Richard Engel of NBC if he can guarantee that Afghanistan would never again be a base for terrorism as the war was started when Osama bin Laden, who was a guest of the Taliban, started the 9/11 attacks, Mujahid said, “When Osama bin Laden became an issue for the Americans he was in Afghanistan, although there was no proof that he was involved.”
He added that the Taliban have given a promise that Afghanistan’s soil “will not be used against anyone”.
When the interviewer persisted, asking: “You don’t think Osama bin Laden carried out 9/11?”
The Taliban spokesperson reiterated, without batting an eyelid,: “There is no evidence, even after 20 years of war— we have no proof that he was involved.”
The interviewer remarked, “It sounds as if after all this you are accepting no responsibility”.
“There was no justification for this war; it was an excuse for war,” said Mujahid.
Asked how the Taliban were feeling after 20 years with the Americans leaving the country, he said, “The withdrawal is almost finished, these are the happiest moments.”
He also said that he wants to “start a new chapter of relations with the US, with Taliban exchanging diplomats and opening embassies”.
Asked what his message would be to the women and girls of Afghanistan, who are “terrified” with the Taliban takeover of the country, Mujahid said, “They are our sisters, we must show them respect.”
“They must not be frightened. The Taliban are humans and from this country. They have fought for the country and women should be proud of them, not scared.”
Asked to react to reports of women and girls being forcibly taken away, married, and raped, he said, “This is all propaganda, we’ve no evidence of a single case.”
On the thousands of Afghans flocking Kabul airport to flee the country, Mujahid said that the Taliban don’t want Afghans to go to the US.
“We don’t want our countrymen to go to America; whatever they’ve done in the past we’ve given them amnesty. We need young educated professionals for our nation, but if they want to leave it’s their choice.”
When the US identified Osama bin Laden as responsible for the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the Al Qaeda leader was in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban, who had been in power since 1996.
When the Taliban refused to hand him over, the US intervened militarily in October 2001. A US-led coalition bombed Taliban and Al-Qaeda facilities in Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
In the 9/11 attacks, four commercial airliners were hijacked, of which two were flown into the World Trade Centre in New York, which collapsed. One hit the Pentagon building in Washington, and one crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.