Sparse and Opaque? The Taliban speak on the occasion of Eid ul Adha
By Tim Foxley
Summary: The Taliban’s traditional message on the occasion of Eid ul Adha offers little new to mull over beyond increased exhortations to maintain infiltration of the “Green on Blue” sort. Their discourse on Afghanistan’s political future and the prospects of dialogue remain characteristically sparse and opaque.
In keeping with past practise, the Taliban released a statement celebrating the occasion of Eid ul Adha, which purports to come from the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. The statement heralds the approaching victory of the “mujahideen” fighters of the Taliban against the forces of the Afghan government and the international military coalition. It calls upon its followers to avoid civilian casualties where possible, exhibit unity and coherence, raise their “level of knowledge” and continue efforts to infiltrate Afghan security forces with the intention of striking targets from the inside:
“Increase your efforts to expand the area of infiltration in the ranks of the enemy…Jihadic activities inside the circle of the State militias are the most effective stratagem…I urge every brave Afghan on the ranks of the foreign forces and their Afghan hirelings who may find an opportunity to utilize this opportunity effectively…”.
The statement reiterates some general information regarding Taliban thoughts on what a future Afghan regime should look like and also on the issue of efforts “to reach understanding with the foreigners”. Comment, and the urging of protest, is also made on the recent film produced in the United States which caused insult to Moslems.
Analysis and Outlook
A few caveats: it is not possible to know with absolute confidence whether this statement (as with all the other key statements attributed to the Taliban leadership) genuinely originates from the Taliban, let alone Mullah Omar. I would guess there are four main possibilities regarding the issue of responsibility for these statements:
a) It is produced by Mullah Omar (improbable)
b) It is produced by a Taliban media committee of some sort with some input by Omar and approved by him (Probable)
c) It is produced by a Taliban/ISI combination (Unlikely)
d) It is produced essentially by ISI with limited or no input from the Taliban (Unlikely)
As you can see, my own personal judgement is that it probably does come from the Taliban, albeit probably drafted primarily by a media group with the Taliban leadership. I have given the word count for each of the last five Eid ul Adha statements. This serves to give a minor reference point in terms of the relative weight in comparison to other statements over the years and perhaps some indication to the growing importance, or otherwise, of Eid as a means of communicating but it is not, of course, a major analytical tool. The overall themes that I’ve picked from this statement (word count of 2,433) are;
- Victory is coming;
- the mujahideen must hold together;
- avoid civilian casualties;
- Mujahideen must continue to infiltrate the Afghan government and attack from within
- A future Taliban political regime would be based on Sharia
- On talks with the US are necessary and open
- Protest the anti-Moslem film
- Look after the families of dead and wounded fighters
This compares with last year’s Eid ul Adha statement (word count 1,895);
- The losses of the enemy
- Enemy propaganda
- Calling on the population to join with the Taliban
- The enemy should leave
- Avoid civilian casualties (“painful for everyone”)
- Detailed instructions to the fighters to avoid civilian casualties
There isn’t much ground in here that hasn’t already been covered in previous Eid statements and other commentary from the Taliban, although the theme of infiltration of the enemy (of which “Green on Blue” is a part) appears to have been bumped up the list of issues for emphasis. The two important “political” issues – the regime’s political future in Afghanistan and talks – are touched upon only briefly, with little new to offer. But these are issues that have generally been noted more by the little they have to say. In the case of the former, I suspect this reflects a lack of thinking and ideas beyond generalities and in the latter, it is almost certainly quite a tricky and controversial angle for the Taliban. For many Mujahideen, even the thought of talks is anathema and the leadership will continue to play this very cautiously to avoid fragmenting (or further fragmentation?). But their thoughts on the future and their ideas about political dialogue remain two of the most important areas for the Taliban and we should continue to keep a close eye on the signals – however minimal and nuanced – that they may give off in these key note – and therefore most likely very carefully scripted – announcements.
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