Taliban leader rejects Karzai call for talks

Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban militia, on Wednesday rejected a call from President Hamid Karzai for peace talks, in a statement issued ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Karzai was inaugurated last week after winning a fraud-tainted August poll and used a speech to again call for the Taliban to rejoin the political process in Afghanistan, where about 100 000 United States and Nato troops are stationed.

“The people of Afghanistan will not agree to negotiation which prolongs and legitimises the invader’s military presence in our beloved country. Afghanistan is our home,” a Taliban statement quoted Omar as saying.

The elusive leader of the Islamist militia, which were unseated in the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, accused foreign powers of seeking negotiations to “prolong their evil process of colonization and occupation”.

“The cunning enemy wants to attack people’s crowded places such as mosques and other similar places in order to malign the Mujahideen,” Omar said.

US President Barack Obama is expected to announce early next week his decision on requests from senior commanders in Afghanistan to boost American troop strength by up to 40 000 in a bid to counter the Taliban insurgency.

The one-eyed militant commander called on his fighters to “guard against these activities of the enemy and fully avoid carrying out any similar activity. The well-being and prosperity of the people should be your priority.”

The US and Britain—which have the most troops in Afghanistan—have also opened the door for talks with militants they call “moderate Taliban”, or those who do not have links to al-Qaeda.

Omar is a founder of the Taliban and is often referred to as its “supreme commander” or spiritual leader.
Many analysts and diplomats believe he is hiding out in Pakistan, although Islamabad denies his presence.

His last public statement was in September, to coincide with Eid al-Fitr, in which he also rejected Karzai’s calls to the Taliban to come to the peace table and referred to “huge casualties and sagging morale” among foreign forces.

Despite a boost in foreign troop numbers this year, the Taliban have been resurgent, adapting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to the increasingly fortified vehicles used by Nato and US forces.

So far this year almost 500 foreign troops have been killed, making it the deadliest year since the invasion on October 7, 2001.

Civilian casualties are also high, caused by forces on both sides of the conflict. No definitive figures are available, but Taliban suicide bombs kill indiscriminately, with at least 100 civilian victims in Kabul in four months.

Perhaps in response to rising disgust with Taliban tactics, Omar called on “every believing man to avoid causing casualties among the common people”.

“There is no justification under Sharia law for the murder and injury of common people, nor is there any room for such deed in our sacred religion,” the statement said.

“Pay heed to the protection of public and national property during the conduct of military operations, particularly during martyrdom-seeking operations,” he said, referring to suicide bombings.

“Focus on the invaders and their lackeys and other important targets.”

The statement also had a message for the “freedom-loving people of the West”, who opinion polls show are increasing opposed their governments’ commitment to Afghanistan.

“Every day our youths, old men, women and children are martyred by your bombs and mortars,” it said.

“Countering these atrocities and this aggression… is our legitimate and national right. We will use this right of ours with all our resources and sacrifices,” the statement said.—AFP

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