KABUL , Afghanistan, July 21 (UPI) -- A senior Taliban leader said militants in Afghanistan lack the support they would need to take over the country after NATO troops depart.
"Now the world supports the Afghan National Army and the government, while the Taliban do not enjoy support among the Afghans. In the past, the people of Afghanistan supported the Taliban because they were fed up with the warlords," Agha Jan Motasim told the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune in an interview.
He added the withdrawal of coalition troops would delegitimize the Taliban insurgency, and called for a negotiated settlement between his organization and the Afghan government.
His surprisingly moderate outlook comes as an Afghan presidential election recount is underway, and as Taliban violence has increased.
In the interview Motasim noted conditions are different from 1996, when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. He was a finance minister in the Taliban government, and was shot in 2010 for his pro-negotiation stance, which angered hardliners in the government. He currently claims to have influence over the less-radical elements of the movement.
"The Taliban could justify their war against foreign forces as they had invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban had to defend their country and their faith. But if the Taliban want to continue the war after the withdrawal of NATO forces it would amount to anti-Islam action," he added.