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What The Afghanistan Ambassador To U.N. Says He's Heard From Taliban Leadership

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the attack in Kabul yesterday. The five permanent members of the council will meet on Monday. Ghulam Isaczai is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations. He was appointed by Afghanistan's former president, Ashraf Ghani, and I asked him who he reports to now.

GHULAM ISACZAI: I still work for Afghanistan. We have a state. We have a constitution. We have people who need to be represented at the United Nations.

CORNISH: And we started our conversation with the ambassador offering his condolences for yesterday's attack to the U.S. and Afghan people.

ISACZAI: It was clearly committed to deter Afghans from leaving or perhaps even create further pain and suffering for the Americans, who are now doing a very important job of evacuating their own nationals and other human rights defenders and journalists and other people of interest or those who are at risk. So we - I still hold my judgment on who did it. Despite the statements that came out attributing it to ISIS or ISIL, I think it's too early to judge.

CORNISH: Can you talk about why you believe that? You said it's too early to judge. U.S. leadership and others have pointed to the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. Why do you believe differently?

ISACZAI: As I said, I think, you know, it's also difficult to understand the relationship between the Taliban and all these other extremist and terrorist group. It's one thing that some group just claimed responsibility. It's another thing to really establish whether this was just a facade or some sort of a cover. Or was it really something that group did commit?

CORNISH: But this is a significant point that you're making because one of the terms of the agreements that the Taliban sort of had signed on to is that they would not harbor or support terrorists operating in Afghanistan. They would not provide safe haven. They would do their best to prevent attacks on the U.S. and, in particular, in terms of the agreement with the U.S. Are you indicating that there could be a violation here? Are you saying that the Taliban could be involved or affiliated with the suicide bombers of yesterday?

ISACZAI: I'm not suggesting anything. At this point, I say I don't think we can be so categorical to say that this came from ISIL. There are too many groups operating in Afghanistan, including al-Qaida. And therefore, I think it has to be further investigated, and the links have to be established. With regard to Taliban's promises, they have made too many promises in the past, and I'm not sure that they have delivered, including the fact that under the agreement with the U.S. that they would not attack cities, that they will decrease violence. But the opposite - they did this. And also, they made promises recently about women's rights, about freedom of movement, about the fact that they will be more lenient in their approach to governing, and I don't think we've seen much of that. So I don't know how much to trust and believe what they're saying.

CORNISH: What are your concerns about Afghanistan moving into civil war or some other, as we saw with the explosions yesterday, more fighting?

ISACZAI: I think that's a real concern. And we have - you know, I also mentioned that in my statement to the Security Council a few weeks ago, unless Taliban form an inclusive government where every Afghan, every ethnic group, every part of the society and - including women, see themselves in it, we do risk going into a civil war. And that - of course, a civil war will become a breeding ground for foreign terrorists and other international criminal networks. And I think it all now rests with the Taliban to ensure that they take into account the grievances, the differences of all Afghans. Part of the discussion should also be how we maintain or how we safeguard the gains we've made in the past 20 years, including on human rights, women's rights, media, freedom of expression - all of that - because some Afghans feel alienated if the Taliban do not respect that. And that's why we have an exodus out of Afghanistan because many people do not see their future under a government or a regime that is going to deprive people of their basic rights.

CORNISH: Ghulam Isaczai, thank you so much for speaking with us.

ISACZAI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.