Taliban Leader Promises More Afghan War

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
January 5, 2007
By Ismail Khan and Carlotta Gall
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 4 — In what appears to be the first exchange with a journalist since going into hiding five years ago, the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, said that he had not seen Al Qaeda’s chief, Osama bin Laden, in five years and that he would never negotiate with the United States-backed government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. He also threatened to continue the war until foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
The statements were made in written response to questions sent by e-mail to the Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Hanif, who often speaks to journalists by telephone from an undisclosed location. Mr. Hanif said that Mullah Omar had written the replies himself and that a courier had returned the answers on a USB computer drive.
Though it was impossible to verify those claims, the statements, if authentic, would be Mullah Omar’s first exchange with a journalist since he was driven from power in 2001 by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. The fugitive Taliban leader, who claims to be at large in Afghanistan, is widely thought to have taken up sanctuary in Pakistan.
Since fleeing his last stronghold in the southern city of Kandahar in December 2001, Mullah Omar said that he had not seen or tried to contact Mr. bin Laden, and that although his movement did not have a specific alliance with Al Qaeda, they were fighting for the same goals.
“I have neither seen him nor have made any effort to do so, but I pray for his health and safety,” he said of Mr. bin Laden. “We have never felt the need for a permanent relationship in the present circumstances. But they have set jihad as their goal, whereas we have set the expulsion of American troops from Afghanistan as our target. This is the common goal of all the Muslims.”
Asked about the suicide bombers who have carried out over 100 attacks in Afghanistan in the last year, he said they were acting on religious orders from the Taliban. “The mujahedeen do not take any action without a fatwa,” he said, meaning an Islamic edict. “They seek fatwas before they take any action in their self-defense.”
He denied receiving any outside assistance, and dismissed as Western propaganda that Pakistan was providing assistance and a safe haven to his movement. “We have not received any assistance so far, nor can anybody prove that,” he said. “The leadership, resistance and shura are all based here in Afghanistan.”
He dismissed Mr. Karzai’s effort to convene a grand assembly between Afghan and Pakistani elders and leading representatives to try to forge peace between the nations as a conspiracy by American intelligence agencies. “Only those people who have sold out to foreign forces will participate,” he said. “Our participation is absolutely out of question.”
“First of all, foreign troops should leave Afghanistan and then the institutions they have created should be dismantled,” he said. “Unless that happens, the war will heat up further. It will not decrease.”
“The people themselves have risen up to fight the Americans,” the statement continued. “Nobody can tolerate this kind of subjugation and sacrilege of their culture and religion. It would be humiliating for anybody to think that the nation does not want to evict American forces. No nation can accept the dictates of a handful of dollar-greedy and treacherous people.”
In his replies, he showed himself unrepentant for his refusal to give up Mr. bin Laden to the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and for blowing up the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001.
“Our stand to grant refuge to Osama bin Laden was based on principles,” he said. “If there were people who were opposed to us giving refuge to him, they should have done so with logic and reason, and not using bullying or threats,” he said. The council of clerics, which was the highest authority of the Taliban government, asked Mr. bin Laden to leave, but never had any intention to force him out, he said. “The clerics had declared jihad against the United States in total opposition to his surrender to the Americans,” he said.
Asked if the Buddhas’ destruction was a mistake in retrospect, he said: “Shariah is Shariah. There is no distinction on whether a certain thing is difficult or easy. A certain number of Muslims have been influenced by other civilizations, and that’s why they seem to find Islamic injunctions too difficult.” Shariah is the legal code of Islam based on the Koran.
He repeated the same justification that his government had used previously for its harsh strictures that closed girls’ schools and forbade women to work, namely that his government was still fighting a war and could not do everything at once.
“Girls’ schools were either too few or were nonexistent before we took over,” he said. “We were preparing a strategy for girls’ education in accordance with the Shariah.”
He blamed the anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance and international sanctions for preventing his government from achieving its aims.
“We could have formed a real government had we achieved full and total control over the whole country, and we did manage to run the government in an organized manner with the blessing of Shariah and divine laws,” he said. “But if there were problems, those were largely because of the conspiracies of the infidels and foreign enemies, for instance, the impositions of sanctions on Taliban, organizing anti-Taliban forces and preparing them to fight the mujahedeen.”
Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Carlotta Gall from Kabul, Afghanistan.