July 25, 2014
In a blow to hopes for peace talks, the Taliban’s reclusive leader warned Friday that a bilateral security pact allowing thousands of U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year will mean more fighting. Mullah Mohammad Omar called on the candidates not to sign the agreement.
“We believe the war in Afghanistan will come to an end when all foreign invaders pull out of Afghanistan and a holy Islamic and independent regime prevails here. Presence of limited number of troops under whatever title it may be will mean continuation of occupation and the war,” he said in a message issued ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The message was translated into Dari, Arabic, English and Pashto.
Mullah Omar’s comments come as international forces already have largely moved to the background and let Afghan forces take the lead in the fighting, making it harder for the Taliban to argue that they are waging war against a foreign occupying force. Deadly attacks targeting Afghan policemen, soldiers and civilians have increased.
The Taliban’s one-eyed chief reiterated his support for assaults on government officials and troops who are cooperating with the U.S.-led coalition, but he called on followers to take measures to prevent civilian casualties and to be friendly toward ordinary people “to win their hearts and minds.”