It’s a ‘religious duty’ to oppose Afghan elections, Taliban says

In a series of statements this week, the Taliban has rejected Afghanistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections on religious grounds, while also calling for operations to disrupt them. The US is currently attempting to negotiate an end to the 17-year-old war, believing that the Taliban needs to reconcile with the Afghan government. But the Taliban rejects both President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the elections as illegitimate.

The Taliban argues that the elections are un-Islamic and that it is a “religious duty” to oppose them.

The Taliban’s Voice of Jihad website posted statements threatening to disrupt the elections on three consecutive days, from Oct. 17 to 19. The statements are attributed to three different commissions within the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is operating as a shadow government throughout much of the country.

On Oct. 17, the Taliban released a “special message” addressed to “teachers and directors of universities, madaris, schools and educational institutes regarding elections.”

“In the end we must emphasize that the election process has no Islamic or Afghan essence but is a foreign plot to prolong occupation, mask military invasion and deceive the common mindset,” the Taliban argued. “Hence, it is the duty of every true Muslim and Afghan to nip this plot in the bud so that the invaders are disappointed in their plans and forced to withdraw from our homeland.”

The group warned “educational institutes” that they shouldn’t allow the government to use their facilities as polling places, saying that they don’t want to kill ordinary Afghans, so civilians should stay away from the voting sites.

The warning, which was portrayed as one of the group’s “orders,” was credited to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Commission for Teaching, Learning and Higher Education.” The Taliban seeks to resurrect its Islamic Emirate throughout Afghanistan, and the aforementioned commission is likely part of its parallel governance structure.

On Oct. 18, the Taliban addressed another “special message” to the “noble scholars, preachers, tribal elders and prayer leaders regarding elections.” The jihadists again rejected the elections as a “foreign plot,” saying they have “no Islamic or Afghan essence” and the West is manipulating them to “appoint their hand-groomed stooges as members of parliament and use them for their malicious objectives.”

The group called on religious and tribal leaders to “prevent” election “activities,” including “media campaigns” and the establishment of “polling stations,” while raising “public awareness” about how “participation” is “unlawful.”

The Oct. 18 message was attributed to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Preaching and Guidance Commission,” which is another body within the Taliban’s parallel regime.

Then, earlier today (Oct. 19), the Taliban reiterated that participation in the elections is “unlawful religiously,” because it supposedly provides aid to “the invaders…helping them in the implementation of their plots.”

Civilians were again warned that they should not allow the government to use their homes or facilities for this “vile process.” The jihadists added an Orwellian twist, saying that the Islamic Emirate’s “intelligence teams…will be closely monitoring all developments.” The implication is that the Taliban’s totalitarian Islamic Emirate will know which Afghans defy its anti-election orders.

The Oct. 19 message was attributed to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Commission for Military Affairs,” which is yet another board within the Taliban’s governance hierarchy.

All Afghans should “strictly boycott this American process,” the Taliban said, alleging that the elections are “an American project from start to finish, because the common Afghans do not have any confidence in the process and have no desire of participation.”

“The Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate intend to close all major and minor roads of the country during election day hence all countrymen should remain indoors and desist from bringing out any means of transport,” the Oct. 19 statement reads.

Earlier this month, the group said anyone providing security for the election locales should be “targeted.”

“[N]o stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure of this malicious American conspiracy,” an Oct. 8 statement reads. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban calls for attacks to disrupt Afghan elections.]

The jihadists’ actions have already disrupted the election process.

A Taliban attack yesterday has reportedly forced the government to delay voting in Kandahar for one week. The Taliban assassinated two senior officials: General Abdul Raziq (a powerbroker in southern Afghanistan who served as the chief of police in Kandahar) and another official who served as the head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kandahar. Zalmai Wessa, the governor of Kandahar province, was wounded in the shooting. The attack took place as General Austin Miller, the most senior American commander in country, was meeting with the Afghans.

The Taliban also took credit yesterday for assassinating a parliamentary candidate by placing a bomb in his office in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand. At least nine parliamentary candidates have been assassinated since July 1, according to TOLONews. Last week, the Taliban killed 22 people in a bombing that targeted a political rally in Takhar province.

The Taliban is attacking Afghanistan’s election process even as the US is desperately attempting to negotiate a peace agreement with the group. US and Taliban officials met on Oct. 12 in Doha, Qatar. The “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” represented the Taliban, which said the meeting was “a discussion about ending occupation and working towards finding a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.”

The US government’s current policy in Afghanistan is to negotiate a political settlement, but the Taliban has repeatedly rejected the Afghan government as an illegitimate “stooge” of the West. The Taliban has refused to directly negotiate with the Afghan government and also said it will not share power with it.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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