Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been in day-to-day command of the Afghan insurgency ever since the Taliban's founder and leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, disappeared from view roughly three years ago. NEWSWEEK hand-delivered a list of questions for Baradar to a senior Taliban source. Within days, the Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, telephoned NEWSWEEK asking for an e-mail copy of the questions. A few weeks later Mujahid e-mailed to NEWSWEEK what he said were Baradar's answers in Pashto. Excerpts:
How would you describe the Taliban's current position on the ground in Afghanistan?
Our losses are very few. It has become transparent to all Afghans that foreigners have come to our country as invaders and not for the welfare of Afghans. In every nook and corner of the country, a spirit for jihad is raging.
What is your reaction to the large increase in U.S. forces this year?
Statements about the increase in troops do not affect the mujahedin at all. In fact, Americans are demoralized in Afghanistan, and they don't know what to do. [The Taliban] want to inflict maximum losses on the Americans, which is possible only when the Americans are present here in large numbers and come out of their fortified places.
How long are you prepared to fight?
The history of Afghanistan shows that Afghans never get tired of struggling until they have freed their country. We shall continue our jihad till the expulsion of our enemy from our land.
Who is leading the Taliban movement?
Respected Amir-ul-Momineen [leader of the faithful] Mullah Mohammed Omar. We are acting on his instructions.
Are you in direct contact with Mullah Omar?
Continuous contacts are not risk-free because of the situation. [But we] get his advice on important topics.
What about his health?
He is hale and healthy and is not only taking part in, but currently leading, the jihad.
The United States and Afghan president Hamid Karzai say you and your commanders are largely operating from Quetta in Pakistan. Is that true?
This is baseless propaganda. The Shura's area of operations is inside Afghanistan.
Are some Taliban involved in secret talks with the Karzai government?
Not a single member of the Taliban is involved in talks.
Would you support talks at some time?
What would be the topic of the talks and what would be the result? Our basic problem with the Americans is that they have attacked our country. They are offering talks, hoping that the mujahedin surrender before them. We see no benefit for the country and Islam in such kind of talks.
What would be your conditions for talks if they were to take place?
The basic condition is the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
If breaking ties with Al Qaeda were a condition of a peace accord, would you do that?
Our decisions are made on the basis of our national interests.
Is Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency giving you support or advice?
This is venomous propaganda that has no facts behind it.
What about reports that Pakistani intelligence is advising you not to enter into peace talks at this time?
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is independent and sovereign in its decisions and agreements. It is not taking any dictation from any group or government.
Do you fear that Pakistan would stop you from using its soil?
They have not given us permission to use their land even now.