ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada has warned the United States of more deaths and misery in Afghanistan in his first recorded message since taking over command in May after the death of his predecessor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a drone hit.
In his ‘Eid message’ and a formal statement released on Saturday, the militant commander said the deaths of Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansoor had not weakened the insurgency.
New Taliban leader tells US to end Afghan 'occupation' in first message
Telling the US to end what he called the ‘occupation of Afghanistan’, he also condemned President Barack Obama’s recent decision to expand the US military role in authorising further airstrikes against militants, saying the Taliban would not be browbeaten through this policy. President Obama had approved the expanded role last month because of the recent spike in Taliban violence.
“We condemn this effort of prolonging this war and occupation and remind the Americans that the Afghan nation has bravely faced all your might over the past 15 years,” Haibatullah said. “We are waging sacred jihad against your invasion as a single nation, forget about the idea of ever subduing, defeating and forcing us to lay down our arms.”
Haibatullah said Washington would be mistaken if it believed the new policy would frighten the Taliban, as it would only result in more deaths of American troops and waste of resources. “You are facing not a group or faction but a nation. You are not going to be the winner,” he added.
The message clearly reflects the Taliban approach that they do not intend to show any change in policy under the new chief, who also mocked the standard of the US military training given to the Afghan forces.
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Haibatullah said nearly 500,000 police, army, intelligence personnel and militiamen trained by the US were “unable to combat the Mujahideen” and were suffering losses daily, retreating and fleeing and now begging Washington to fight alongside them.
“If you [Americans] begin to see Afghanistan as an equal country and recognise the Islamic Emirate as a military, political and peaceful force demanding its legitimate rights and also take into consideration the demands of this valiant nation, you shall be saved from a lot of expenditure and losses,” he stated.
On the prospects of peace talks, Haibatullah said the Taliban have “kept political doors open to the world”.
Taliban insiders say Haibatullah has succeeded to win the support of some senior dissident leaders, who had earlier not declared allegiance to Mullah Mansoor. However, the real military power is thought to be with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group’s deputy chief, and Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Mullah Omar who is also the second deputy chief and head of military affairs of 14 provinces out of 34 provinces in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2016.