Taliban promise 'sacred jihad' if US forces remain in Afghanistan past 2014
The Taliban have vowed to continue their "sacred jihad" if the Afghan government agrees to allow the United States to keep forces in Afghanistan past 2014. The Taliban made the statement as the Afghan government is freeing hundreds of Taliban prisoners and the US government is debating the size of a residual force for post-2014.
The statement, which was released today on Voice of Jihad, the official website of the Afghan Taliban, is signed by "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
"If America wants peace in Afghanistan and the region as well as a way out for its people from this ongoing quagmire then it should immediately remove all its troops from Afghanistan and practically put an end to this futile war," the Taliban said.
The Taliban said "the American presence in Afghanistan" is the cause of "all this turmoil and anarchy in the region."
"Therefore if America wants to leave a small or large number of its troops for whatever length of time then it means war and destruction will continue in the region for that same length and it shall only be America that shall suffer the most," the statement continued.
The Taliban rejected any security agreement between the US and the Afghan government as "a personal deal between Karzai and America," and said "it shall hold no legal credibility."
"The Islamic Emirate shall continue its sacred Jihad against it just as it has for the past eleven years," if a "even a single American soldier" remains in country, the Taliban stated.
Over the years, the Taliban have consistently stated that a key condition for any peace negotiations with the Afghan government must include the full withdrawal of US and NATO forces. The Taliban have also insisted that the Taliban's Islamic Emirate be restored; that sharia, or Islamic law, be enforced; and that any prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and other US facilities be released. In addition, the Taliban have refused to denounce al Qaeda, but despite this, the Obama administration has been eager to conduct negotiations.
The Obama administration is currently debating the size of the stay-behind force after US and NATO combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014. The administration is expected to settle on a rump advisory force of between 6,000 to 9,000 troops, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The bombastic Taliban statement occurs as the US, NATO, and the Afghan government have been upbeat about the prospects for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. The Afghan government has freed more than 250 Taliban prisoners and plans on releasing an additional 150 this week. Additionally, Pakistan has been allowing Taliban leaders who have been detained to return to Afghanistan. The Afghan government has not been able to track the freed prisoners, and some are thought to be returning to the battlefield.