The Taliban rejects “peace talks” with the West and advertises its continuing alliance with al Qaeda in a newly released video entitled, “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen.”
The video was produced by Manba’ al-Jihad Media for Production, which has long been affiliated with the Haqqani Network and was folded into the Taliban’s media arm years ago. The production was disseminated on the Taliban’s websites and social media, including on accounts affiliated with the group’s spokesman.
The video is also attributed to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Commission for Cultural Affairs. Until late 2001, the Taliban ruled over its own emirate inside Afghanistan and it has retained that name to this day, as the jihadists hope to resurrect their nation.
The propaganda film opens with clips of Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama discussing the prospect of a peace deal with the Taliban.
The Taliban responds with an old audio message from Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was named the emir of the Taliban in 2015 after the organization was forced to admit that Mullah Omar had passed away two years earlier. Mansour was killed in an American airstrike in May.
Mansour described the “peace and reconciliation process” as “mere claims of the enemy.” The Taliban’s foes have tried to “weaken” the jihad with “money, media and deviant scholars,” and they tried “to eradicate [the] unity of the Mujahideen.” But they failed, according to Mansour. “We should not listen to these propagandas [sic] neither these ‘Peace Talks,’” Mansour said. “And this jihad will continue until the Word of Allah and Shariah is implemented.“
Taliban officials often claim that they seek negotiations with the West. But the Taliban has used such talks to extract concessions, without giving up anything of substance. And these negotiations are different from true “peace talks,” which the Taliban’s senior leadership rejects in the video.
The production includes a translation of an Islamic text that is intended to underscore the bond between native Afghans and those who migrate for the sake of jihad. The Koranic passage is used to emphasize the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda. An image (seen above) of Taliban figures, Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders, such as Nasir al Wuhayshi (the emir of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until his death last year), is shown as the following text is scrolls across the screen:
“But those who have believed and emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided — it is they who are the believers, truly. For them is forgiveness and noble provision. [Al-Anfal: 74]”
An excerpt from a speech previously recorded by Siraj Haqqani (seen above), one of the Taliban’s top deputy leaders, is also featured. Haqqani has long been closely allied with al Qaeda. These ties are documented in Osama bin Laden’s files and can be seen in other evidence as well.
Haqqani praises the founding of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, saying it was not established for “fame,” or because people wanted to increase their “position,” but to implement Allah’s Sharia (Islamic law) “upon this land.”
Haqqani says that it is “possible” some disagreements may occur between the mujahideen, but these differences should not be exacerbated “to a level that it affects our overall struggles in this path.” Haqqani claims that Muslims “both inside and outside [of Afghanistan] are following us in our claim that we have made,” meaning the jihadists’ quest to build and then rebuild the Taliban’s emirate. He argues that “Muslims both inside and outside [of Afghanistan] have accepted our methodology without any objections,” which “indicates that our officials and representatives have effectively and efficiently performed their duties.”
A clip from Sheikh Khalid Batarfi (seen above), a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is also included. Batarfi is an al Qaeda veteran who was trained and fought in Afghanistan during the 1990s. The Long War Journal assesses that he is likely part of al Qaeda’s global management team. Other AQAP leaders with similar dossiers served dual roles as both regional officials in al Qaeda’s network and as members of the organization’s senior management.
“Muslim brothers! Our beloved Afghan brothers who greatly supported [the] religion of Allah are indeed an excellent example for you,” Batarfi says. “The entire world saw how Amir-ul-Mumineen [“Emir of the Faithful”] Mullah Omar, [the] Taliban and all the Afghan people bravely stood and [are] still standing alongside their Mujahid brothers and Arab and non-Arab migrants.”
On top of these jihadi migrants was “our Sheikh and Imam al Mujahid Osama bin Laden (may Allah accept his martyrdom),” Batarfi says, referring to the fact that the Taliban did not break with bin Laden even after the 9/11 hijackings. Batarfi heaps praise on the Taliban and says that Afghanistan’s jihadists will “destroy” the US.
“Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi says. The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was sacrificed and even vanished in support of our sacred religion, but they (the Taliban) did not trade off their religion.” Batarfi says that the jihadists can finally “see [the] light of victory,” as governance according to the “rule of Sharia” law is “even stronger in Afghanistan than before.”
In yet another audio clip, Hibatullah Akhundzada, the current emir of the Taliban, explains that the “mujahideen must be very lenient towards the Muslims and very forceful towards the disbelievers.” He advocates for a more forgiving version, even if only slightly, of the jihadists’ strict ideology. Akhundzada believes that Muslims should be given a chance to repent and see the supposed errors of their ways if they do not worship and live as the Taliban does.
Another ideologue, Sheikh Neda Muhammad Nadeem, speaks in this same vein, advocating for a populist version of jihadism. “We all, whether Mujahideen or the general public, must understand that the general public cannot be successful without the help and support of the Mujahideen and similarly [the] Mujahideen cannot be successful without the help and support of the general public,” Nadeem says. Therefore, “Mujahideen must deal [with] the general public with love, good behavior and tolerance.”
The Taliban’s desire to win popular support is consistent with their role as insurgents, as guerrilla fighters often depend on the citizenry’s goodwill to accomplish their goals. This has often forced the Taliban, as well as al Qaeda and other like-minded extremists, to walk a fine line between imposing their draconian laws and alienating the people.
The alleged virtues of Taliban-style sharia rule are advocated throughout the lengthy propaganda film. The video includes scenes of Taliban members handing out candy to children, providing security in rural areas, and gently chastising a shopkeeper who was selling “immoral” CDs and other paraphernalia. In what was likely a staged scene, the store owner quickly agrees to hand over his offending material, which is then burned to chants of “Death to America!”
The “muhajideen want to completely eliminate democracy,” one speaker says. In another clip, leaflets written in Uzbek are distributed.
Even while marketing itself as a benign force, the Taliban cannot hide its misogyny. One member criticizes Afghans who do not join the jihad, arguing that if the West can bring its women into the war, then young Muslim males have no excuse for failing to fight.
The Taliban’s anti-Americanism is on full display. And while the group is often described in local or nationalist terms, some scenes make its global ideas quite clear. The Taliban speaks of the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims, and the jihadists’ desire to reclaim all lost Muslim lands.
The text at the bottom of one scene reads: “Mujahideen are the hope of Muslims for reviving back the honor of the Muslim Ummah!…A hope for taking back the Islamic lands! A hope for not repeating defeats and tragedies of the last century!”
But America stands in their way. The Taliban claims that the US wants to create distance between Muslims and their religion. But the mujahideen will make America pay, the Taliban claims.
“Allah will shake the White House [with] your [the Mujahideen’s] religious zeal by the permission of Allah,” the Taliban threatens.
The Taliban also makes an argument that is very similar to the one adopted by al Qaeda in the 1990s. Al Qaeda became infamous for alleging that the US was propping up Muslim dictators who stood in the way of jihadi rule.
“While the cheapest and degraded people forcibly and tyrannically rule over the Muslim lands, still the Muslim Ummah does not attach their hopes to these robbers, who are enforced upon the Muslim lands by Europe and America,” a Taliban narrator says, as images of Secretary Kerry and President Obama are shown. “And these foolish [Muslim rulers] lack confidence and trust [among the Muslim Ummah].” This is why, according to the Taliban, “sincere Muslims consider jihad to be the glory of the greatest Islamic history and all of their hopes are attached towards the Mujahideen.”
In case there was any doubt about what the Taliban believes, the video makes it clear that the Taliban’s version of Islam is, in their eyes, the only true one. And it is the same version of Islam as al Qaeda’s.
One speaker says: “Islam is not the religion of the Taliban alone! Neither of al Qaeda! Rather, Islam is the religion of all the Muslims!”