Summary: Taliban annual statement hits usual themes, but looks lighter, more cautious and less confident than usual
On 25th July the Taliban released a statement greeting the people of Afghanistan on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. This has been a Taliban custom since their ejection in late 2001 from at least 2006. This year, the Taliban claimed the “military situation is in favour of the Mujahideen” and called upon Afghan security personnel and citizens to side with them. The statement noted progress beyond the battlefield in education, justice, culture and other matters, including “coordination of NGOs”, “prisoner’s affairs” and “civilian casualties”. They claimed a great success for Taliban political recognition as a result of the release of a US military prisoner in exchange for Taliban prisoners. There were standard rejections of the current Afghan electoral process, reaffirmation of Sharia as the guiding principle for any Taliban-based government and calls on Afghans to reject any extension of the international military force presence in the country. Exhortations were made for Taliban fighters to avoid civilian casualties (on pain of investigation and punishment) and “win their hearts and minds”.
Analysis and Outlook
My standard caveat at this stage is that we do not have any strong proof that these are in fact the words of Mullah Omar or that he might have been involved in drafting them. However, they are generally accepted by knowledgeable analysts as emanating from the Taliban and I myself am reasonably comfortable with this assumption, not least because they appear on the Taliban’s own website as an official statement and have done regularly. I will therefore analyse the statement on the basis that this is a genuine statement from within the Taliban leadership.
The major milestones of Taliban official communiques each year are at the beginning of Eid, the end of Eid and the start of the “Spring Offensive”. This statement is actually quite short and, well, dull, when compared to previous statements. It is broad, light and generalised. There is some good analysis from Geopolicraticus here. The word count clocks in at 2002 and compares against previous statements as follows:
Year Word count
Word count is not everything, of course, but this looks like some slow, cautious beginnings, reaching a confident peak around 2010/12 and now perhaps more caution (proclamations of victory haven’t worked in the past) and uncertainty regarding the future. For some time now, the Taliban have had to contemplate future battles mainly against Afghan Moslems vice international infidels, albeit still with a significant international military presence and financial commitment. The usual subjects are touched upon: military prowess, calls on Afghans to shun the Westerners, rejection of electoral/political engagement with a corrupt, Western-backed regime, and to avoid civilian casualties. But the detail is lacking. They seem to be running out of things to say and ways of saying them. And the results that they want – lower civilian casualties, more security force and government defections, greater recognition form the international community – still are not happening in any significant degree. Better, perhaps, to be a little bit more guarded in their utterances for the moment?
But there are nuances that poke out and perhaps the omission of particular subjects can give us some clues. There is less about military victory. There are less overt “reach-outs” to the international community, which might suggest a shrinking desire for political engagement. In fact, there is nothing on talks, negotiations or reconciliation other than to suggest that the Taliban managed a “spectacular achievement” in getting Guantanamo detainees released in exchange for a US captive soldier. There is virtually nothing on any form of future government – and certainly not any government power-sharing – merely references to Sharia as the defining principle for governance and the basis of determining rights for men and women. In the 2013 Eid ul Fitr statement, Mullah Omar declared “we do not think about monopolising power”. In 2014 if feels more like they plan on being the government but would allow other ethnic groups to be represented.
Having a department that now specifically addresses civilian casualties, combined with continued Mullah Omar reminders that Mujahideen must refrain from abusing the populace, shows that, despite their angry rejections of international evidence, they recognise at some level their attacks are killing more Afghans than they would like and that this is affecting the way in which they are perceived across the country and internationally. They are continuing to learn from, and adopt, Western approaches. I am not sure whether the translation that gives us “hearts and minds” in the statement is accurately reflecting the Taliban’s usage of terminology, but clearly they continue to struggle with this issue – probably due, in large part, to their employment of suicide bombing.
By way of conclusion, we should of course be wary of any “official government statement”, as the Taliban would clearly like this statement to be seen, But, from these 2,002 (presumably carefully honed) words, the Taliban still show real uncertainty about the future and offer little evidence that they have prepared any peaceful, inclusive, political, governmental sets of solutions for Afghanistan. At best they offer a “war economy” and a simplistic set of aspirations that do not (or cannot) recognise how far the Afghan people have travelled since 2001 and the extent to which their life aspirations (and the country’s potential) may go beyond strict Sharia enforcement and agriculture.
This statement confirms to me that the Taliban are running out of ideas, have little idea about “post-2014” beyond fighting and do not understand the complex demands and desires of the Afghan populace.
Unfortunately – and I defy any Afghan analyst to say otherwise – they are still in with a chance to spoil things (ie pull everyone down to another mindless, brutal and fragmenting civil war) because no one really knows what is going to happen over the next couple of years. There is a great risk that the Afghan government (whatever it finally turns out to look like) will implode, be rendered inactive or grind to a rapid halt through the usual corruption, incompetencies and incoherencies.
The Taliban statement is given in full here:
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Sustainer of (all) Creations, (Whose Way is to) help Mujahideen and humiliate the tyrants and arrogants. Peace be on our Master and Prophet, Mohammad, the Leader of the White- faced and footed (persons on the Day of Judgment) and (peace be on) his all descendants and companions.
The Almighty Allah says:” Allah is with those who keep from evil and those who do good.”
Muaaz bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) has reported that the Holy Messenger of Allah said, “The head of the matter (religion) is Islam and its pillar is prayer and its peak jihad.” quoted by Termizi.
(My) Muslim Brothers and Mujahid Nation:
I extend my felicitation to you all on this occasion of Eid-ul-fitr, a day filled with joy and blessings. May Allah (SwT) accept, in His Sight, your fast, worships, charities, invoking, jihad and all good deeds.
It is a matter of joy and gratitude that Allah, the Almighty , has bestowed on us this day in a time that we are witness to consecutive victories and achievements on the ground of Jihad. Praise be to Allah (SwT), the military situation is in favor of Mujahideen at the country’s level. The blanket of invasion has rolled back from vast areas, thanks to the help of Allah (SwT) and the unparallel sacrifices of the Mujahideen and people. Vital centers of the enemy have come under successful attacks in cities. Writ and administration of the Islamic Emirate has become stronger comparatively. Ranks of Mujahideen are now more well-organized, active and unified in contrast with the past. However, it is a pity that the enemy uses some non-aware and non-informed sons of the nation as an instrument for obtainment of their wicked objectives. They, themselves, are retreating from the ground of the battle while sending them forward (to the front of battles).
I call on all soldiers, police and generally, on the very Opposition, not to destroy yourselves for the goals of the invaders and against your own people. Come and wage jihad alongside with your own people and together with the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate against the common enemy in order to gain the bliss of the two worlds.
I urge religious scholars, tribal elders and the influential to convince these non-aware (youngsters) who are being used by the enemy and I call on their parents and relatives to strive to prevent their children from facing a loss of this world and the world to come.
As per the policy of the Islamic Emirate, Mujahideen should have a conduct of sympathy with those who leave ranks of the enemy. Give them (a warm) welcome. Appreciate and reward heroism of the committed Afghans who launch attacks on the enemy and then join the ranks of Jihad.
Praise be to Allah (SwT), the level of cooperation and trust of the people with Mujahideen has growingly enhanced. I thank, therefore, my faithful and patriotic people on behalf of the Mujahideen. I ask Allah (SwT) to grant them success, prosperity and happiness of the two worlds for the honest support.
Parallel to the battle ground, activities of the Islamic Emirate are forging ahead with initiatives in other sectors as well. Great services have been rendered in sectors of education, economy, adjudication and justice, call and guidance, cultural activities, martyrs, the handicapped, coordination and management of NGOs, prisoner’s affairs and civilian casualties. While asking Allah (SwT) to generously reward superiors and subordinates of these sectors for their efforts, in the mean time, I hope that more progress be made and effective activity carried out in the said areas.
Due to the efforts of the Political Office which performs its task under our instructions, Islamic Emirate has gained a political facade at world’s and internal levels. Many entities that used to oppose us now have come around to accept the Islamic Emirate as a reality. Exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement.
The invaders- installed Administration has failed entirely, to the extent that it has lost trust of its domestic supporters and those who are funding it. It holds top position in corruption, usurpation of lands and public properties, plundering and lootings.
The current fake process under the name of elections has plunged the Kabul Administration and Western democracy into disrepute. In fact, the invaders and their internal allies wanted through the said process, to show to the Afghans that a (tangible) change has taken place. But the Afghans had realized their ambitions from the beginning. That is why majority of the people boycotted the process. Now all have come around to see that election and the ballots of the people were mere slogans to deceive people; sow racial, geographical and lingual and other hatred among the people. We all now see that the American game under the name of elections proved, as in the past, to be selections. So we had predicted. The power is in the hands of the invaders. What they say is compulsory on their internal allies to obey without taking into account interests of their country and people.
We want to tell American and European governments who have troops in Afghanistan or are intending to maintain political influence or military bases in Afghanistan, let the Afghans establish an independent Islamic government on the basis of their religious and national aspirations. If you want to deprive them of their right to form a government, it will be not only a tyranny and violation of human norms but also will result in the self-same consequences that you have seen in the past thirteen years. You might have realized that the Afghan people, whose history is full of struggles for the cause of Islam and independence, are not willing to accept governments installed by foreign hands.
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. This is because none can tolerate invading forces in one’s soil. Similarly, we would like to tell those who are contemplating to sign a security treaty with the invaders to desist from acts which add to prolongation of the invasion and to causes of the war. The presence of the invaders in our country is not in the interest of anyone. The continuation of war aggravates security of the region and the country, particularly; it is a hurdle in the way of establishment of an Islamic regime and political independence; negates territorial integrity; gives rise to expansion of cultural invasion and bring about causes for ruining the coming generations.
We assure the world and the neighbors as we assured them in the past that our struggles are aimed only at forming an independent Islamic regime and obtaining independence of our country. We are not intending to interfere in the (internal) affairs of the region and the countries of the world, nor do we want to harm them. Similarly, we don’t tolerate their role to harm us and urge them to have reciprocal stance. I call on all Mujahideen in the frontier areas to protect their borders and maintain good relations with neighboring countries on the basis of mutual respect.
Concerning events and developments of the Middle East, I want to say that the global powers should leave people of the region to reach their legitimate aspirations. This is not justifiable to blame people’s uprising as terrorism and then rain down bombs on them or make prisons full with them. Such conduct will not break determination of a people.
We condemn, in strongest terms, the Israeli brutal action of martyring, injuring and driving from homes of hundreds of Palestinians. We call on the world, particularly, on the Islamic world that their remaining tight-lipped versus these brutalities is injustice and harms all. Practical and swift steps should be taken to prevent these gruesome brutalities, so that the security of the region and the world may not aggravate further.
Brave Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate:
It is your religious and national duty to try for the prosperity of the people and win their hearts and minds. Shun arrogance, vanity. To use weapon and force without justification allowed by Sharia rules; to threaten, harass and oppress people or harm their life, property and honor is a great crime. You will not be able to escape accountability in this world and the world to come for committing that. Your conduct with people should be nothing but tolerance, humility, forbearance, selflessness and mutual respect. Remember, God does not look at (judge) our outward image but look at our hearts and deeds that how we behave with people.
Mujahideen should make honest efforts to maintain justice and security in areas under the rule of the Islamic Emirate. They should clear (the areas from) thieves, highway robbers and saboteur elements and procure a conducive atmosphere of security and well-being for people.
Every caution should be taken to protect life and property of the public during Jihadic operations, so that, God forbid, someone is harmed. The Department of Prevention of Civilian Casualties should seriously pay attention to its task to prevent civilian casualties. Mujahideen should always remember that our steadfastness and success against the global invaders is the result of our holding the rope (religion) of Allah. So Mujahideen should, within the framework of obedience, follow the injunctions of Allah (SwT); the (traditions) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and obey their superiors. Avoid hypocrisy, disagreements and discrimination. Strengthen the thread of unity, brotherhood and internal trust. Keep the rank of Jihad against the enemy as unbreakable as a cemented wall.
Our country is at the threshold of independence and freedom. We believe that the Almighty Allah (SwT) will bestow the blessing of a prosperous and self-reliant Islamic regime on the Afghans like the glory of defeating the invasion and tyranny. Afghanistan is a shared home of All the Afghans. They have right to serve this home. Islamic Emirate wants to establish a regime in which all ethnicities, tribes and groups of the Afghan society will see themselves. None will feel being alien.
As to the economic sector, Islamic Emirate will focus on agriculture, husbandry, and extraction of mines, infrastructures, developmental and technical systems with the help of the world’s assistance. (It will be) a regime which is servant of the society and will render service to the country and people in the light of justice and transparency, in the field of moral upbringing, educational, cultural, social, constructional and developmental sectors.
The Islamic Emirate believes implementation of an Islamic system guarantees well-being (of people) in this world and the world to come. Likely, it believes that science, technology, humanities sciences, incorporation and dissemination of new and positive (scientific) breakthroughs is a vital need for a strong and powerful nation to strengthen, stabilize and enrich itself and stand on its own feet. Therefore, we strongly reject the propaganda against the Islamic Emirate or the allegations that it is against education. Islamic Emirate believes getting knowledge (education) is a religious obligation.
The Islamic Emirate admits and totally believes in the rights given to men and women in the framework of Sharia which the holy religion of Islam has granted them and is committed to implementation of those rights.
To end, I extend you my felicitation on the occasion of Eid-ul-fitr and ask Allah, the Almighty to enable you to help the miserable and bereaved families in these holy days of felicity; to show compassion towards the orphans; to help the families of the martyrs, prisoners and refugees; to visit prisoners and the injured, serve them and admire them. Peace is on you all.
Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid
Amirul Momineen, Servant of Islam