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Taliban Eid address – no surprises?

September 25, 2015

Summary: The new Taliban leader’s Eid address was probably produced by the same team that produced the old leader’s words. It unsurprisingly continues the themes of previous addresses: the nearness of the (now 14 year) jihad to victory, multiple calls for unity, the importance of avoiding civilian casualties and the removal of foreign forces as a precondition for talks. Mullah Mansour looks to be emphasising continuity as he attempts to placate and incorporate Taliban unhappy with his appointment.

Taliban flag

Mansour's Eid address, September 2015

Mansour’s Eid address, September 2015

The new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mansour, has given his first official address on the Taliban’s official website, congratulating Muslims on the occasion of Eid ul Adha.

A 2,950-word statement, twice as long as last year’s address, begins by sending condolences on the death of his predecessor, Mullah Omar.  It talks of the struggles of the fourteen year jihad under Omar and stresses that he, Mansour, will struggle with the burden of leadership unless he receives help and cooperation.

Mansour describes the Taliban’s “jihad” as “nearing its victory” but cautions that the enemy is trying to sow “dischord and

Taliban leader: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour

Taliban leader: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour

distrust among the Mujahideen by utilizing propaganda stratagems” by a variety of means. He warns of “baseless rumors”.
Mansour accuses the Kabul government of harassing the Afghan populace and reminds his own fighters not to cause civilian casualties and to show the population respect:

“Mujahideen are not allowed, under any circumstance, to resort to activities based on their own discretion that are contrary to sharia or you have in mind some goals which do not coincide with the pleasure of the Almighty Allah but which only pleases the intrinsic whims of your souls.”

The Taliban’s Political Office is described as “the only exclusive” means of engaging in talks and it is made clear that intra-Afghan talks, with the Afghan government renouncing treaties with “invaders” is the only way to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

The address dismisses international construction work in Afghanistan as “short-terms and are of low quality and spurious” and warns of the rise of militias, warlords and ethnic clashes.

The style, tone and themes employed here are not significantly different to previous Eid addresses attributed to Mullah Omar and we should not expect them to be. Earlier statements had been produced under Mullah Omar’s name when he was – we have now established – already dead. It is likely that the statements are joint efforts from within a group inside the Taliban’s core “Quetta Shura” Leadership Council. It may well be that Mullah Mansour played a key role in directing previous statements.

Eid address attributed to Mullah Omar, October 2014

Eid address attributed to Mullah Omar, October 2014

Mansour seemingly acknowledges the struggles he still has to convince all Taliban supporters that he is now the legitimate head of the Taliban. He refers to the need for support for him and unity for the movement. Beyond the calls for unity – which we noted with increasing regularity in earlier “Mullah Omar” addresses – come other familiar themes:

  •  the Jihad is very close to victory
  • beware the enemy attempts to create divisions in the Taliban through propaganda and the spreading of rumours
  • The population are being mistreated by the Afghan regime – the Taliban must treat the people well and do all that is possible to avoid civilian casualties
  • The only way ahead for talks is for the Afghan regime to renounce all treaties and engagement with the international community and settle the conflict Afghan to Afghan
  • Warnings of inter-ethnic tensions and the rise of militias and warlords

The Islamic Emirate believes if the country is not under occupation, the problem of the Afghans can be resolved through intra-Afghan understanding. Any foreign pressure under the pretext of resolving the Afghan problem, is not going to resolve the problem but will rather create other problems.

If the Kabul Administration wants to end the war and establish peace in the country, it is possible through ending the occupation and revoking all military and security treaties with the invaders.

Analysis and Outlook

The sense from this address is that the new Mullah Mansour era wants to present a united front and “business as usual” vice any new ideas or initiatives. This is perhaps unsurprising given the power struggles and challenges to his legitimacy that have been revealed through the late summer and autumn.  Mansour has, in the past, been seen more as a political and pro-talks animal than an out and out fighting jihadi.  However, while Mansour is attempting to consolidate, he is unlikely to want to lurch in any new directions, even if he does have new ideas.

Perhaps Mansour wants to make it through the winter. Fighting will inevitably subside as the weather worsens. This might allow a breathing space in which he can develop support, plans and consider any new strategies. We might have to wait until the Spring of 2016 to see the fruits of these deliberations.  However, there is no guarantee that new ideas will be forthcoming.  The twin messages “the fight continues” and “no talks until the last foreign invader has left Afghan soil” remain difficult-to-shift dead weights around the neck of the leadership, throttling flexibility, regardless of who is in charge.

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