Massoud son 'really worried' for Afghanistan despite Taliban talks

Ahmad Massoud, son of Afghan commander Ahmad Massoud, in Paris on March 22 2021

The son of anti-Islamist Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, killed by Al-Qaeda days before the September 11 attacks, said he was "really worried" about the future of this country and is sceptical if Doha-based peace talks with the Taliban can work.

Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik, led the resistance in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and then against the Taliban when the Sunni Muslim fundamentalists ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

His son Ahmad Massoud, 31, is in Paris for the inauguration on Saturday of a pathway in the Champs-Elysees gardens named after his father.

Ahmad Shah Massoud had visited France 20 years ago in March 2001 on his first and only trip to the West.

Massoud junior's trip comes as the Afghan government and Taliban seek to negotiate a peace plan and hammer out an agreement on how the country should be ruled in talks in the Qatar capital Doha.

But the discussions have made little headway, despite a deal for the United States to withdraw the last of its troops by May 1.

The Taliban Wednesday rejected a proposal by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to hold elections later this year.

"I was one of the very few who was very sceptical of the talks in Doha," Massoud told AFP in an interview.

"From the very beginning I was pretty sure it was a complete mistake and it was not going to work," he said, adding that a "rushed decision" for the deal between the US and Taliban had "destroyed the balance of negotiation".

- 'Hugs and laughter' -

"The peace talks and laughter, and hugs and handshakes between Americans and the Taliban, it doesn't mean that it is peace for Afghanistan," he said.

"Those handshakes, those hugs and laughter must be between Afghans as well" as violence perpetrated by the Taliban continues to rage in parts of Afghanistan including targeted killings of judges, doctors and journalists, he said.

Ahmad Massoud welcomed attempts by regional powers to break the deadlock, with Moscow hosting mediators this month and Turkey planning peace talks of its own in April.

"I welcome any sort of regional power entering the peace process of Afghanistan, because the Afghanistan war has different dimensions and aspects. One aspect is the regional rivalries," he said.

Ahmad Shah Massoud was killed by Al-Qaeda two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks which prompted Washington to launch a massive military operation in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban from power.

He was elevated to the rank of national hero in Afghanistan in 2019 by presidential decree, even if many Kabul residents have mixed memories over the behaviour of his troops.

Educated at the French Lycee in Kabul, he remains regarded in the West as a symbol of the fight of moderate Islam against extremism.

The city of Paris said with the ceremony on Saturday it wants to "honour this fighter for peace who fought for the freedom of Afghanistan and against obscurantism".

- 'Like our fathers' -

His son Ahmad Massoud, who returned to his home country in 2016 after years in exile first in Iran then the UK, divides his time between the family's ancestral region of the Panjshir valley and Kabul, despite the security risks.

For the last two years he has led his own political movement Front for Resistance which garners support from ethnic Tajiks and around his father's former northern strongholds.

He said that the number one problem for Afghanistan to solve was its "centralised government", noting this was what had prompted the Taliban to take up arms.

Massoud expressed concern that with the Americans leaving in the spring, Afghans would rearm themselves and resume civil conflict.

Afghans fear "America is going to just leave and it's going to be us and the Taliban," he said.

"I'm really worried and I hope that the Taliban show the decency, show that they are going to respect any sort of peaceful and political settlement and agreement."

If a group were to seek to impose its will by force "we are going to stand and we are going to fight against it just like our fathers did," he said.

Massoud said it was "sad and tragic" that so many Afghans had left their country for Europe in two decades since 2001 that saw a lost "golden opportunity" for Afghanistan.

"I believe the immigrants will go back to their country. For now, I would like to ask for compassion from the host countries and understanding from the migrants," he said.