The Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Omar has issued a bellicose Eid statement that was swiftly denounced by the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan Friday as a message of hate from a deranged man.
The rare statement by the Islamic militants’ one-eyed leader claims victories on the battlefield against NATO and defends as tactical the Taliban’s initial contacts, now suspended, with the United States.
General John Allen pilloried the statement as “an unmistakable message of death, hate and hopelessness for the Afghan people” on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Calling Omar a “deranged man” using “insane language”, Allen scoffs at his call on Taliban militants to avoid killing civilians, pointing to the deaths of dozens of civilians in a series of suicide and bomb attacks this week.
“Either Omar is lying, or his henchmen are not listening to him, but it is clear that innocent Afghan civilians are paying the price for his corrupt leadership,” Allen said in a statement.
In an apparent move to allay fears among some Taliban factions, Omar said in his seven-page statement that initial talks with the United States “had not meant submission or abandoning our goals”.
Instead they had been aimed at initiating an exchange of prisoners, opening a political office and to “reach our goals”, he said, noting that the Taliban had suspended the talks earlier this year.
He called the “so-called transition”, under which NATO is handing increasing responsibility for the war to Afghan security forces ahead of the exit of some 130,000 foreign troops by the end of 2014, a sign of defeat.
And Omar, said by the Afghan government to be based in neighbouring Pakistan, warned the war would continue after their departure.
“The Afghan people will wage jihad (holy war) against the foreign invasion until complete independence of the country, though the invasion may ensconce itself in the garb of peace-keeping forces or strategic cooperation,” he said.
The United States has signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the government of President Hamid Karzai pledging support after the departure of combat troops and is expected to leave a residual force behind.
The Taliban has always refused to negotiate directly with Karzai’s government, labelling it a puppet of Washington, and Omar dismissed it in his statement as “corrupt, collapsing and ill”.
But, he said in his message, which mixed belligerence with promises of future “unity and harmony”, the Taliban “will make efforts to reach an understanding with the Afghan factions in due time following (the) pull-out of the invaders”.
On the war itself, Omar claimed that the “unique distinction” of this year’s summer offensive by the Taliban was that it had reached all areas of the country and forced NATO and Afghan government into defensive positions.
NATO has acknowledged a spike in attacks this summer over the same period last year.
Omar also claimed that a spate of green-on-blue attacks, in which Afghan forces turn their weapons against NATO personnel, was the result of Taliban infiltrating local security units.
NATO says most of the incidents, in which 39 foreign soldiers have been killed this year, are motivated by cultural differences between troops and plays down the role of Taliban infiltration.
The Taliban, led by Omar, were in power from 1996 until being ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 for harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.