Taliban leader says elections a ‘waste of time’
Mullah Omar attacks western view that Afghanistan is seeing steady progress
A customer hands a mobile phone to a man operating a phone-charging station in Kabul, Afghanistan. A smooth US exit from Afghanistan will depend on, among other things, Pakistan’s co-operation with the logistical pullout. Photograph: Victor J Blue/Bloomberg
The Taliban has attacked the West’s view that Afghanistan is seeing steady if fragile progress, in an annual statement from its leader that also sought to position the group as a viable political force that could lead the country.
The online statement published yesterday was ostensibly a congratulatory message from the leader, Mullah Omar, to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which falls this week. But the publication of such statements has evolved into an annual assertion by the insurgent group of its political manifesto.
This year the message condemned as an encroachment on the country’s independence Nato plans to keep a small military training and support mission in Afghanistan after combat forces leave in 2014, and described a presidential election set for April as a “waste of time”.
Western politicians and military commanders say the exit of most foreign troops will remove one of the insurgency’s main recruiting tools, the presence of soldiers the Taliban calls “infidel invaders”.
But Nato and the US have pledged to leave behind training personnel for the still fragile Afghan army and police, as well as support in key areas ranging from air transport to bomb disposal.
They are also expected to keep some elite special forces teams to track down groups linked to al-Qaeda.
The Taliban says the difference in numbers and roles means nothing if any foreign forces remain on Afghan soil. The group has often accused the US of seeking permanent Afghan bases, a charge Washington rejects.
The Afghans consider the presence of a small number of invading troops as an encroachment on their independence as they are not willing to accept the presence of thousands of foreign troops, the statement said. “The occupying countries should learn from the bitter experiences of the past 12 years. They should not try their fate once more by prolonging the occupation or by establishing permanent bases.”
The statement also dismissed as a “deceiving drama” the Afghan presidential election due next year. The election has been hailed by the West as a potentially transformative political moment because if successful it will give the country its first peaceful transfer of power since 1901.
The statement also said: “Our pious and mujahid people know that selection, de facto, takes place in Washington. These nominal rulers are not elected through the ballots of the people. Rather they are selected as per the discretion of Washington! Participation in such elections is only a waste of time, nothing more.”
In a clear effort to position themselves as potential political leaders of Afghanistan, the group rejected any partition of the country along ethnic lines and said if the Taliban gained power it would be at the head of an “Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles”.
‘Common principles ’
“When the occupation ends, reaching an understanding with the Afghans will not be a hard task because, by adhering to and having common principles and culture, the Afghans understand each other better,” said the statement.
There was also a promise of no retribution attacks if the group achieved political power, even though the Taliban runs a campaign of intimidation and assassination of people linked with the Kabul government and foreign forces. “I assure all, no personal revenge will be taken on any one following the end of occupation because our struggle is neither for achievement of personal gains nor personal power,” the statement said.
Omar has not been seen by anyone outside a small inner circle since his 2001 ousting by US-backed forces. Nor has he produced any audio or video recordings, leading some to question whether he is still in charge.
However, the message for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, has become accepted as an annual communication from the group’s senior leadership.
The statement this year also repeated a previous call for Taliban fighters to minimise civilian casualties, and indirectly attacked as distorted a UN report that blamed insurgents for three-quarters of the deaths and injuries to noncombatants in the first six months of the year.
With civilian killings on the rise, that rang hollow for many Afghans. Shortly before the Taliban statement was released, a bomb, reportedly aimed at a police vehicle, exploded in a square in Jalalabad city, killing a child and marking the third consecutive day of deadly violence there.
– (Guardian service)