Taliban governor of Helmand’s message to west: ‘Come back with money, not guns’

Talib Mawlawi, who spent years fighting the British, urges western nations to recognise Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate leaders

Helmand’s new Taliban governor, who spent years as a commander fighting the British in Sangin, welcomes visitors with an assault rifle lying on his desk. Yet he insists the time for fighting is over.

He has a message for the British, and the rest of Nato: recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate leaders and then come back, but with money not guns.

“We faced each other in battle, we didn’t get to know each other in normal times,” said Talib Mawlawi, a Helmand native who fought for the Taliban the first time the group controlled Afghanistan. “Now you can win our hearts and make us happy if you recognise this government.”

Now that the Taliban have taken control of Lashkar Gar, the capital of Helmand, the fighting has stopped for the first time in two decades. The vast majority of the 457 British soldiers who died in the long war perished here in this province, while fighting to keep the Taliban at bay.

Like most of Afghanistan, though, Helmand is hovering on the brink of economic collapse. And like Taliban officials all over the country, its governor is calling on foreign governments to help make up the gap.

“All those foreign countries invaded and killed our women and our children and our old people, and destroyed everything,” he said. Now the international community should help us with humanitarian aid and focus on developing education, business and trade.”

“The international community helps the countries that have the support of their civilians. We have brought security, and we have the support of our people, so they should help us and recognise our government.”

 

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