The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha falls on Sunday this year — the 15th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s history-changing attack on the United States — and the Taliban’s new leader called on Muslims to recommit to jihad while claiming the terror group wants “to have relations with the world.”
A May drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, who was quickly replaced by a deputy, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Akhundzada is a spiritual leader instead of a battlefield veteran, holding considerable sway over madrasas in Balochistan, the Pakistani region where Mansour was killed, and serving as administrative assistant to previous Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged fidelity with Akhundzada in June.
President Obama said after Mansour’s assassination that he didn’t expect a “liberal democrat” to be elected to lead the Taliban, but stressed he hoped “there comes a point at which the Taliban recognizes that they are not going to simply be able to overrun the country and that what they need to be doing is to enter into serious reconciliation talks that are led by Afghans.”
The Tailban plunged ahead with their Operation Omari offensive, trying to take new territory and launching increasingly gruesome attacks — including this week’s truck bomb and gunfire attack on a charity in Kabul, CARE International, because the Taliban claimed foreign spies operated out of the compound.
In a lengthy Eid eve message released by the Taliban today, Akhundzada lauded “the recent victories which the Almighty Allah has bestowed on the formations of Jihad because of His special blessing and the help and the sacrifices of the Mujahideen and the help of the people, notwithstanding the use of heavy force by the enemy; the influx of foreign troops and the bombardment of different bombers.”
Akhundzada said in the first years after 9/11 “our obligation was to combat against the enemy but now as we have control over many areas of the country, it is the time that we should reap the fruit of the 15 years-long jihad and implement objectives of jihad, which are implementation of the Divine Sharia on the land of Allah; to establish justice; maintain stability and security; to protect frontiers and defend life, property, honor and all other God-given rights of the countrymen.”
According to a running analysis by The Long War Journal, the Taliban control or contest more than 80 of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts. Tolo News reported today that Afghan security forces have been trying to hold back a Taliban push on the city of Trinkot in Uruzgan province.
The mullah claimed that Taliban leadership would bring “bright, happy, sufficient and prosperous life under the shadow of the sovereignty of Sharia,” allowing residents to “take a breath of relief in an atmosphere of peace.”
“The Mujahid brothers should exclusively focus on purging their ranks and files” of fighters who don’t have “intention purely for Allah,” Akhundzada ordered. “…In addition to military training, train Mujahideen how to behave well with people, prevent civilian casualties, maintain justice and win hearts and minds of people; instruct them from time to time about people’s rights and dignity.”
He directed that a PR offensive also be directed at those who haven’t joined the ranks of the Taliban or al-Qaeda: “Disseminate messages for those who are in the ranks of the enemy so that they understand the veracity and success of the ranks of jihad and become aware of their Islamic and valorous history and know the ills of subjugation and perceive that further remaining in the ranks of the invaders is but a harmful and destructive act.”
“Availing myself of this opportunity of the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, I call on all Afghans who work in the military and civilian sectors of the foreign invaders to ponder over their stance for a moment and figure out for themselves that the invasion of Afghanistan by America and her Allies is part and parcel of the global war of non-believers against the Islamic Ummah,” he said. “Its aim is to dismantle real Islamic systems and help its trained surrogates reach the corridors of power; to spread anti-Islamic laws, thoughts, and dogmas and customs in this Islamic land. Therefore, they should ponder deeply over their jeopardizing position of their being in the ranks of the invaders.”
Akhundzada said the Taliban’s fight is not a “rebellion for unlawful objectives nor a mere expression of emotions without any pillar of Islamic ruling.”
“An Islamic system and independence of our country is our human and religious right. The Islamic countries and the freedom-loving people of the world should support our just cause as per their obligation and perform their due responsibility by supporting our oppressed people,” he said. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has been continuing to make diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the issue of Afghanistan alongside its military approach… We want to have relations with the world and answer their questions and mitigate their concerns so that we will save our country from further harm in the future and that others will also not be harmed from our country.”
The White House has repeatedly pushed a “reconciliation process” with the Taliban even after the terror group’s bloody attacks.
The administration has also refused to designate the Taliban as terrorists.
“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in January 2015, justifying the swap of five Taliban commanders for Bowe Bergdahl.