DOHA, Qatar, June 20 (UPI) -- Afghanistan can begin the process of charting an independent political course once international forces leave the country, a Taliban spokesman said.
International forces are preparing to shift from a combat role to an advisory role in Afghanistan. NATO announced this week Afghan forces were in charge of security in the country.
The Taliban said it opened a political liaison office in Doha this week ahead of the transition. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty the country will not be able to chart an independent course as long as international forces are present.
"Despite calling it a transition to Afghan security forces, the foreign forces conduct military operations on their own," he said in an interview published Wednesday. "As long as foreign forces are there, we cannot call it the end of occupation."
The Taliban controlled Afghanistan before U.S.-led forces helped overthrow the regime in 2001. Naeem said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was now serving as a puppet for the Western powers supporting the international intervention.
Karzai suspended talks with the United States over a bilateral security agreement because of issues related to the Taliban's political office.
Naeem said his conservative movement does not view Karzai as the sovereign power in Afghanistan.
"We have seen that despite all their resources and the international political backing and military aid, [his administration has] failed to serve our people in a significant manner," he said.