Taliban leader urges Afghans to plant more trees
In unusual message, cleric in hiding calls for tree plantings for ‘beautification of Earth’
An Afghan man in Kabul: People were urged to plant trees for “the benefit of almighty Allah’s creations”. Photograph: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail
The Taliban group in Afghanistan has used a rare public statement in the name of its leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, to call on Afghans to plant more trees for worldly and other-worldly good.
Official Taliban outlets on Sunday released the “special message” under Akhundzada’s name, an uncommon move for the group that has recently published unsigned statements on a range of issues, including civilian casualties, upcoming military operations, and the anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the 1980s.
Akhundzada, a cleric, is believed to have been in hiding since becoming Taliban leader in May 2016 following the death of his predecessor in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
In the statement, he urged Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters to “plant one or several fruit or nonfruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah’s creations.”
Ousted in ’01
Since the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops in 2014, the Taliban has made slow but steady gains. It now controls or contests more than 40 per cent of Afghanistan.
While the Taliban is mostly known for its insurgent attacks, it has political aspirations and has often worked to provide basic services in communities in areas it controls.
Akhundzada, who was reported to have spent 15 years teaching at a mosque in Pakistan, interpreted verses of the Koran in his call for more trees in the arid country.
“Planting trees and agriculture are considered actions which hold both worldly good and benefit as well as immense rewards in the hereafter,” he said in the statement.