Multimedia presentation of the senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Click to view.
The Taliban have seized on what US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described as “defeatist” comments made by Western officials on the ability to succeed in Afghanistan to score a propaganda victory.
In a press release issued on Oct. 10 at Voice of Jehad, the Taliban’s official website, the group described the recent statements that that war in Afghanistan is unwinnable as “a hue and cry” and reiterated their terms of peace are complete and unconditional withdrawal.
“The Islamic Emirate wants to make it clear that the only solution and the most successful path for resolving the Afghanistan problem is for the foreign forces to leave Afghanistan unconditionally and to respect Afghanistan’s national independence and Islamic faith,” the statement, issued in English, read. “Surely it is only then that peace, stability and prosperity would return to Afghanistan, otherwise all hue and cry and slogans will be empty, fruitless and ineffective.”
“If the Americans, British, and at their behest the United Nations wish to keep the invading forces of 38 countries in Afghanistan, and at the same time ensure peace and reconciliation to their liking, they are dreaming an immature and empty fantasy.”
The Taliban said the al Qaeda-linked group is “on the verge of victory” while the West is engaged in “a series of artificial gestures and a hue and cry about talks.”
The Taliban issued three prior statements on the reports of negotiations between the Taliban and Western and Afghan officials. The statements derided the negotiations and said the Taliban would only settle for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces. One of the statements was issued by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
The first statement, issued by the Taliban on Sept. 28, rejected any idea of a peace agreement. “The Shura Council of the Islamic Emriate of Afghanistan considers such baseless rumors as part of the failed efforts by our enemies to create distrust and doubts among Afghans, other nations, and the mujahideed,” the statement read. “No official member of the Taliban–now or in the past–has ever negotiated with the US or the puppet Afghan government… A handful of former Taliban officials who are under house arrest or who have surrendered do not represent the Islamic Emirate.”
The second statement, signed by Mullah Omar on Sept. 30, made it clear the Taliban believed it was close to victory. Omar offered the West harsh terms for peace. “If you demonstrate an intention of withdrawing your forces, we once again will demonstrate our principles by giving you the right of safe passage, in order to show that we never harm anyone maliciously,” Omar said.
The third statement was made by Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar on Oct. 3. “We reject an offer for negotiation by the Afghan’s puppet and slave President Hamid Karzai,” Baradar said. “[Karzai] only says and does what he is told by America.”
Over the last week, several senior Western officials have said the International Security Assistance Forces could not win the war militarily and that negotiations with the Taliban were necessary to secure the peace. Brigadier General Richard Blanchette, a Canadian officer who serves as the spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said no military solution was possible in Afghanistan.
Kai Eide, the United Nation’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, echoed Blanchette’s statements. “I’ve always said to those that talk about the military surge … what we need most of all is a political surge, more political energy,” Eide said on Oct. 6. “We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means. That means political engagement.”
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the outgoing commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said winning the war was “neither feasible nor supportable” and the West should work to reduce the level of violence in the country.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described these comments as “defeatist” during a recent interview with the press. “While we face significant challenges in Afghanistan, there certainly is no reason to be defeatist or to underestimate the opportunities to be successful in the long run,” Gates said on Oct. 7.
Western officials, led by Britain, have pushed for negotiations with the Taliban in recent weeks after the violence in Afghanistan has reached a seven-year high. Some officials claim Mullah Omar and the Taliban have split from al Qaeda, but US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal they see no evidence of such a split.
Correction: Brigadier General Richard Blanchette is a Canadian officer, not a Briitsh officer, and has not advocated negotiations with the Taliban.