KABUL: The Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Omar has issued a bellicose Eid message claiming victories on the battlefield against Nato but also defending initial contacts, now suspended, with the US.
In an apparent move to allay fears among some Taliban factions, Omar said in a seven-page statement posted on the group’s website 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.
The rare statement by the Islamic militants’ one-eyed leader, said by the Afghan government to be based in neighbouring Pakistan, came on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Omar said 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, was a sign of defeat.
And he 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”.