The Taliban vowed to create “a graveyard for the American Empire” with “lofty spirits” after President Trump didn’t heed their lobbying for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In unveiling an Afghanistan strategy at Fort Myer outside D.C. on Monday night, Trump said that “perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” a continuation of the Obama-era policy that kept the door open to negotiations with the terror group and categorized them as armed insurgents.
The Taliban killed two U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing earlier this month and claimed responsibility for the death of a U.S. soldier in July. They also claimed an Afghan military recruit who killed three U.S. soldiers in June was one of their fighters who had infiltrated security forces.
“America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field,” Trump said. “Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”
Trump noted that “the American people are weary of war without victory” and said that despite his “original instinct” to pull out his advisers convinced him that “the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.”
In a statement from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid released in print and on video, the Taliban said, “It seems America is not yet ready to end the longest war in its history. Instead of trying to understand ground realities, they still arrogantly believe in their force and might.”
“So long as a single American soldier remains in our homeland and American leaders continue treading the path of war, we shall also sustain our jihad against them with lofty spirits, absolute determination and additional firmness,” Mujahid vowed, calling it “our religious obligation and national duty — we shall remain true to this duty so long as souls remain in our bodies.”
“America should have thought about withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan instead of continuing the war,” he added. “As Trump stated ‘Americans are weary of the long war in Afghanistan’, we shall cast further worry into them and force American officials to accept realities. The Afghan Mujahid nation is neither tired nor will it ever get tired in pursuit of winning their freedom and establishing an Islamic system. If America does not withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the day will not be far when Afghanistan shall transform into a graveyard for the American Empire and the American leaders can understand this concept.”
Ahead of last Friday’s Camp David meeting at which Trump discuss Afghanistan strategy with his team, the Taliban issued an open letter to Trump telling him that if the U.S. military hasn’t won the peace so far “you shall never be able to win it with mercenaries, notorious contractor firms and immoral stooges.”
The Taliban, stalwart al-Qaeda allies who publicly began reaching out to Trump right after Election Day, encouraged the president not to listen to “a number of warmongering congressmen and generals… you must also not hand over the Afghan issue to warmongering generals but must make a decision where history shall remember you as an advocate of peace.”
“You have understood through your experience in the Middle East that kindling the fire of war is not in the interest of any country around the world,” they added. “Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might therefore it would be wise if you adopt the strategy of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan instead of a troops increase.”
Trump did not mention troop levels in his address, but reports have indicated the administration plans on sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan.