In a new statement, the Taliban claims America has been militarily defeated in Afghanistan, demands the withdrawal of American forces and criticizes religious gatherings for ruling that the conflict is a civil war between Afghans.
The Taliban also denounces the Afghan government as a “corrupt regime” that is “based in Kabul and forced upon the Afghan people at the expense of [a] huge American military” effort.
The message is attributed to the Taliban’s emir, Hibatullah Akhundzada, who became the leader of the group in 2016.*
There is no hint in Akhundzada’s message that the Taliban’s senior leadership is seriously considering the prospect of reconciling with the Afghan government — a central goal of the current American-led war effort.
Instead, Akhundzada predicts that officials in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s totalitarian government, will be ruling over more of the country in the near future as their enemies have lost the will to fight.
The Taliban’s “Jihadi struggle against the American occupation is on the threshold of victory due to the help of Allah Almighty,” Akhundzada claims. “The infidel invading forces have lost all will of combat, their strategy has failed, advanced technology and military equipment rendered useless…and the arrogant American generals have been compelled to bow to the [Jihadi] greatness of the Afghan nation.”
Direct talks contingent on American withdrawal
Akhundzada says that “peace and security” are “among the highest priorities of the Islamic Emirate, but peace will remain elusive during an occupation and neither is salvation possible without the establishment of an Islamic authority.”
“Our nation has given unprecedented sacrifices for the establishment of an Islamic system and independence of our homeland and under no circumstance is compromising on these lofty principles ever possible nor should anyone hope for such,” the Taliban’s chieftain emphasizes.
In other words, there cannot be “peace” unless the US withdraws its forces, which of course would only allow the Taliban-led insurgency to make even further gains. And the “Islamic authority” mentioned by Akhundzada is the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, which the Taliban’s men are seeking to restore.
Akhundzada does mention the prospect of talks with the Americans, but the context of his words, so often ignored by US officials and commentators, makes it clear that such negotiations would only be part of an American retreat.
For example, Akhundzada says the “Islamic Emirate continues to call America towards understanding and sound logic instead of force and points them towards options that can guarantee the secession and end of this long war, and that lone option is to end the occupation of Afghanistan and nothing more.” (emphasis added)
The Taliban emir accuses the US of attempting to negotiate in bad faith by avoiding “responsibility for this war,” while proposing “options other than constructive negotiations that are neither rational nor practical” and only “prolong this war for America.” He encourages America to engage in “direct dialogue,” but only if the US accepts the “ground realities of Afghanistan” and deals with the “core issue,” meaning the inevitability of Taliban rule.
“We reassure our people and all the Muslims that during negotiations, only those decisions will be satisfactory and acceptable to us that preserve our Islamic goals, sovereignty of our homeland and [ensure] an end to the war,” Akhundzada says.
The Taliban’s “Islamic goals” do not include compromising with the current Afghan government.
Blasts President Ashraf Ghani and his government
It is no surprise that the Taliban is willing to talk directly with the Americans, as the group has extracted various concessions in the past. Direct talks would also cut out the Afghan government, thereby undermining its sovereignty and legitimacy — a central goal for the Taliban.
“The regime based in Kabul and forced upon the Afghan people at the expense of huge American military, financial and human loss has disappointed American officials and they have lost all trust in the regime due to corruption, incompetency, impotence and failure,” Akhundzada says.
Akhundzada blasts President Ghani as “a figure who has spent all his time in power squabbling with officials of his government, battling his chief executive, battling his deputy, battling his cabinet and even battling his governors.” And the Taliban honcho claims that upcoming elections are “marred by so much scandal and corruption that even the officials of this corrupt regime themselves believe its implementation to be impossible.”
This is completely inconsistent with the idea that the Taliban’s senior leadership is willing to reconcile with the Afghan government.
No mention of the Taliban’s decades-long relationship with al Qaeda
American officials have repeatedly said that the Taliban needs to renounce al Qaeda. Akhundzada does not mention al Qaeda. Ayman al Zawahiri swore allegiance to Akhundzada after he was named the Taliban’s honcho in 2016. Al Qaeda and its newest branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, have continued to back the Taliban on the ground since then.
Instead of renouncing the Taliban’s decades-long relationship with Zawahiri’s group, Akhundzada says that “even if America were to end the occupation of Afghanistan today, tomorrow we would be ready to assure everyone including America about halting disorder, establishing security and with the Help of Allah (SwT), preventing any complications from taking root.” He does not explain what “complications” he has in mind, and his wording is deliberate ambiguous.
Akhundzada claims his Islamic Emirate has already “won on the battlefield militarily” and “possesses full control over the political and organizational structure of the resistance and has even managed to reassure its neighboring and regional countries.”
During a recent short-lived ceasefire, the Taliban’s hierarchy did demonstrate command and control over jihadists fighting all over Afghanistan, as they paused their operations before launching fierce attacks in Ghazni and elsewhere. Only the Islamic State’s loyalists, who reject the Taliban, were unrestrained during the ceasefire. The Taliban has also been holding talks with “neighboring and regional countries” as part of its diplomatic effort to portray its Islamic Emirate as the only legitimate authority.
Akhundzada exaggerates when he claims that his men “have control over half of Afghanistan.” In reality, approximately half of the country is contested with another 10 percent or so under Taliban control. This is bad enough, but the US and NATO have not admitted that the Taliban rules half the country, as Akhundzada claims.
Tells Taliban officials to be “true models of Islamic governance”
Akhundzada says the Americans have employed various “military, political and social pressures” on the Taliban in order to prolong the war and “their tyrannical occupation of Afghanistan.” He criticizes the “convening” of various “religious conferences” in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, adding that some “naïve people” have been deceived by the “slogans of peace movements.”
The Taliban leader claims that a statement issued by religious authorities in Kabul concerning the “current Afghan jihad” is “completely in conflict with clear-cut texts of the Holy Quran.” He argues that the scholars’ rulings are “due to material necessities,” and not well-grounded in religious texts.
In Akhundzada’s view, the Taliban’s jihad is not only religiously justified, his men are destined to rule over Afghanistan.
“As more areas of the country fall under the control of the Islamic Emirate, the larger the responsibility of Mujahideen becomes,” he says. “All the military and civilian officials must become true models of Islamic governance, must observe all rights of the servants of Allah (SwT), must safeguard themselves from oppression, transgression and misbehavior, withhold the hands of the oppressor, and not hold back from any sacrifice in protecting the lives, wealth, honor and every other right of the Muslim nation.”
The Taliban leader’s message is clear: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will rise once again.
BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | August 18, 2018
*In the past, the Taliban released statements in the name of its founder, Mullah Omar, even after Omar had passed away. Obviously, it is impossible to verify who wrote the latest statement, but Akhundzada is currently thought to be alive.