Former Taliban eyes Afghan presidency

Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, former Taliban commander and would-be president of Afghanistan, admits he had a certain flare for firing rocket-propelled grenades on Soviet soldiers in his youth, reported AFP.

It was, after all, how he acquired his moniker -- Rocketi -- during the Afghan battle to drive out Soviet invaders in the 1980s.

"I could get into places to fire a rocket that other people couldn't," said the portly and turbaned 51-year-old Pashtun, who fired his first rocket when he was 21.

"People were calling me from everywhere to do this," he said.

More recently, people called on him to stand against President Hamid Karzai in the August 20 elections, he told AFP in an interview in a small office where he said he was confident of victory despite running against 40 other candidates.

His campaign may be dwarfed by the more sophisticated and better-funded ones of heavy hitters Karzai, and former ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, but Rocketi has no doubts about the outcome of the vote.

"I will win," he told AFP.
Political analyst Waheed Mujda is not quite so certain, classing Rocketi as one of a catalogue of no-hopers who dominate the ballot paper. But, he says, the inclusion of a former Taliban was a good thing.

"He is one of those who will not get a lot of votes but his presence is important for the show of democracy," Mujda told AFP.

Rocketi is perhaps best remembered as a senior commander in the 1996-2001 extremist Taliban regime and one of the first to surrender when it was toppled by the US-led invasion.

Only a handful of the top tier Islamist militia turned themselves in. Many others, including supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, went into hiding to lead a brutal uprising against Western troops and the new government.

Attacks have peaked this year and the insurgency, which many in Afghanistan believe is orchestrated by commanders protected by Pakistan in safe havens across the eastern border, will top the agenda of the next president.

"Pakistan is my enemy, the Taliban is my enemy. If I think about them, I will get a heart problem. But God has given me a heart that is never afraid," said Rocketi, who believes negotiations are the only way to stop bloodshed.

Talks would have to involve all of Afghan society, including the various militant factions, and be led by a "powerful" international mediator who could push the opposing sides out of their long-held positions, he said.

Karzai has already offered talks and an amnesty to militants who stop fighting and accept the democratic post-Taliban order.

The process has attracted hundreds of foot soldiers but few commanders, among them Rocketi who once served as the Taliban's top military man for the strategic Nangarhar province on the border with Pakistan.

A strong negotiator could win the confidence of the parties and persuade the government to offer more than its thin "come, do not fight anymore. Sit in your house, your life will be secured," Rocketi said.

And militants must be persuaded not to condition the start of talks on the withdrawal of international troops.

Last year he travelled to Saudi Arabia and met King Abdullah as part of a push by Karzai to persuade the respected Islamic leader to host peace talks.

Rocketi said his ties today with the Taliban are almost non-existent.

He was involved a few years ago in trying to negotiate the release of Taliban hostages -- having taken his own captives in Pakistan the 1990s.

But there has been little contact since he entered parliament in 2005. Rocketi said his place on the ballot paper may attract Taliban sympathisers but not the fighters.

"For them, every candidate is the same.... Whoever is working in government -- that is their opposition and they are standing against them."

He criticised Karzai for failing to profit from the enormous support he enjoyed after the Taliban regime was driven out.

"It is a pity he didn't use this huge power to punish big drug traffickers or thieves, or bring peace to disappointed tribes, or institutional reform."

If he had the same support, Rocketi said he would push peace talks, tackle corruption, unemployment and crime, and promote agricultural development.

But Mujda expects that any Taliban voter would choose Karzai rather than a Taliban defector, over perceptions that the incumbent has lost US support and would pressure international troops to set a date for their departure.

Also because Karzai has become an "expert" in presiding over a weak and corrupt government, which only boosts public support for the insurgency, Mujda said.

Armenia admits loss of 11 more servicemen
Armenia admits loss of 11 more servicemen
Military uniform price in Armenia increase
Military uniform price in Armenia increase
Georgia reports 1 928 new coronavirus cases, 604 recoveries
Georgia reports 1 928 new coronavirus cases, 604 recoveries
Loading Bars
Spain announces new state of emergency as COVID infections soar
Samsung affiliates' shares rise after death of Samsung Elec Chairman Lee
Israel to start COVID-19 vaccine human trials on Nov. 1
Kuwait retail co-ops remove French products over Prophet cartoon
We will drive enemy away to very end, will restore our territorial integrity! - President of Azerbaijan
I want to assure people of Azerbaijan today that we will not turn back from right path - President of Azerbaijan
Our military operations must be conducted without wasting time - President Ilham Aliyev
No-one can stand in front of Azerbaijan, says President Ilham Aliyev
We are fighting alone, on our own - President Ilham Aliyev
Countries that patronize Armenia should put pressure on Armenia - President of Azerbaijan
I want our servicemen and citizens to know that there is very serious struggle – both on frontline and in political arena - President Aliyev
All mediators are concerned about now is how to get Armenia out of this situation, says President Aliyev
We have seen again that Armenia does not intend to leave our lands of its own accord - President Aliyev
Armenian state responsible for these crimes and will be held accountable for them, says Azerbaijani president
Today, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers are teaching enemy lesson on battlefield - President Aliyev
Parts of Fuzuli, Hadrut, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Kalbajar and Gubadli districts liberated from occupiers - President Aliyev
OSCE MG Co-Chairs, FMs of Azerbaijan and Armenia agree to discuss steps necessary to achieve a peaceful settlement of Karabakh conflict
Ankara extends Oruç Reis' exploration work in East Med until Nov. 4
Gubadli city freed from occupation - President Ilham Aliyev
Bulgarian PM Borissov tests positive for coronavirus
Armenian troops' military equipment, ammunition destroyed (VİDEO) (VİDEO)
Operational meeting was held under leadership of President, Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev at Central Command Post of Ministry of Defense (PHOTO)
Ethnic Russian soldier dies in battle to liberate Azerbaijani lands from Armenian occupation
Commanders of Armenian armed forces hold meetings at kindergarden (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani army destroying Armenian armed forces on ground and in air - Anar Eyvazov
Azerbaijani army neutralizes high-ranking Armenian soldier
Armenian armed forces forced to retreat, suffering losses (VIDEO)
Footage from Azerbaijani Jabrayil and Zangilan regions liberated from occupation unveiled (VIDEO)
Armenian terrorist killed in Nagorno-Karabakh
Iran’s NICICO enhances its sales value
Weapon emplacements of Armenian Armed Forces destroyed, says Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Tesla recalls 48,442 vehicles in China
Azerbaijani NGOs apply to relevant int'l structures regarding Armenia's involvement of children in military operations
Islamabad condemns killing of Azerbaijani civilians by Armenian Armed Forces (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Armenia admits loss of 11 more servicemen
Israeli cabinet approves Bahrain normalization accord
Iran boosts pickup manufacturing
Azerbaijan confirms 228 more COVID-19 recoveries
Liberation of Azerbaijani lands from occupation - gratifying – Iranian General
Canadian Azerbaijanis protest against Armenian attacks on Ganja (PHOTOS)
US too knows Armenia is terrorist state, MP
Military uniform price in Armenia increase
Russia’s coronavirus case tally exceeds 1.5 mln
Azerbaijani army destroying military equipment, in background of which Pashinyan took selfie (PHOTO)
554 streets disinfected in Baku (PHOTOS)
Footage about Armenia's missile attack on Ganja prepared (VIDEO)
Funeral service for 13-year-old Arthur, who died due to Armenian terror, being held in church in Ganja (PHOTOS)
Iran assigns lands to develop Pardis Technology Park
Will Iran export water?
Iran to increase in detergents and sanitizers price
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for October 25
US Azerbaijanis hold protest in San Francisco against Armenian terror (PHOTOS)
Azerbaijani army heroically fighting for liberation of native lands from Armenian occupation (VIDEO)
Names of foreign mercenaries fighting in Karabakh within Armenian army revealed
Armenia must be held accountable for using children in battles, Azerbaijani expert
Azerbaijan announces recent statistics on COVID-19 cases across country
Armenian doctor who issued fake COVID-19 certificates to evade conscription arrested
Iran’s CBI announces volume of funds allocated for imports of essential products
Assistant to Azerbaijani president gives interview to leading Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram
Footage from Azerbaijani Gubadli region liberated from occupation unveiled (VIDEO)
Armenian military attacks against Azerbaijan along bordering regions - acts of aggression as enshrined in UN Charter, says Azerbaijani top official
Armenian Armed Forces shelling Azerbaijani Aghdam, Tartar and Agjabedi regions - MoD
Azerbaijani president's aide comments on French delegation's visit to Armenia
Volume of loans attracted for purchase of agricultural machinery in Iran revealed
Azerbaijan Army uses precision weapons against Armenian Armed Forces (VIDEO)
Iranian gov't to impose strict limitations to fight COVID-19
Production of home appliances in Iran increases
Export of agricultural products from Iran's Kurdistan region increases
Georgia reports 1 928 new coronavirus cases, 604 recoveries
President Ilham Aliyev gave interview to US Fox News TV channel (PHOTO)
Iran strongly condemns disrespect for Prophet of Islam in France
Iran unveils amount of loans issued to services sector
Bahar Azadi gold coin price falling in Iran
Statement made following investigation of Armenia's shelling of civilians in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan close to military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - Russian analyst
Armenia's hopes that Russia to help it fight against Azerbaijan doomed to fail - expert
New refrigeration unit commissioned in Georgia
U.S. Vice President Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19
Azerbaijan forces Armenian troops to retreat in Gubadli direction - MoD
Significant amount of Armenian Armed Forces’ manpower, equipment destroyed - MoD
Azerbaijani troops advance new positions in Khojavend, Gubadli, Lachin directions of front
Over 150 new COVID-19 cases reported in Kazakhstan
Volume of loans issued to trade sector in Iran disclosed
WHO reports record increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases of over 465,000 in 24 hours
Samsung chief Lee dies
5.4-magnitude quake hits 74 km off Kawalu, Indonesia
Turkey reports 2,091 COVID-19 patients
Yemen's Houthis targeted two airports and a base in Saudi Arabia
Brazil reports another 432 COVID-19 deaths
Moscow's death toll from confirmed COVID-19 cases rises by 68
Afghan forces kill senior al Qaeda leader al-Masri who was on FBI most wanted list
UK records another 23,012 coronavirus cases with 174 deaths
Helpless on battlefield Armenia spreads false, provocative information - Azerbaijani MoD
Hikmet Hajiyev: Using children under 15 as soldiers is a war crime
8 killed, 4 injured in road accident in Pakistan's Punjab province
Necessary conditions will be created to extradite Armenian prisoners of war and civilians to third countries - MoD
Armenian army's combat equipment destroyed (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry calls on civilians in occupied territories to stay away from military facilities
Ministry of Defense: Armenian Armed Forces resort to provocations to prevent operations of Azerbaijani army
Iran declares amount of loans issued to housing & construction sector
All news