Mullah Omar is ‘still willing to talk’

In a five-page message emailed ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr festival, Taliban’s reclusive leader urges a continued struggle against the international coalition and its Afghan allies.

August 06, 2013 03:47 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:38 pm IST - KABUL

The Taliban’s reclusive leader said on Tuesday that his group was willing to start peace negotiations, even as he urged more attacks including insider shootings by government security forces on foreign troops.

In a wide-ranging e-mailed message, Mullah Mohammad Omar blamed America and the Afghan government for the derailment of talks two months ago.

In a message issued ahead of the Id al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, Omar urged the army and police to turn their guns on foreign forces, government officials and the Afghan troops who are cooperating with the U.S.-led coalition forces.

The Taliban’s longstanding policy is to continue attacks even as it pursues negotiations.

The five-page message was e-mailed to news organisations. Mullah Omar regularly issues such messages for the two yearly Id holy days.

Striking a conciliatory tone elsewhere in the message, he denied that the insurgents were seeking to monopolise power in Afghanistan and said that his group favoured what he described as an “Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles”.

The reclusive leader has not been seen since he reportedly fled a village in southern Afghanistan on motorcycle three months after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. There are no known audio recordings of his voice since early 2002 or any pictures of Mullah Omar. He mainly communicates in messages relayed by his spokesmen.

In the message, Mullah Omar did repeat a key U.S. demand opening the way for peace talks by pledging not to use Afghanistan as a base to threaten other countries, though he again did not openly denounce al-Qaeda — one of the original conditions set by the United States that was temporarily dropped to get talks going.

“Our fundamental principle according to our unchanging policy is that we do not intend to harm anyone, nor we allow anyone to harm others from our soil,” the message said, echoing the original language used by the Taliban on June 18 when they announced the opening of a political office in the Gulf state of Qatar. Some elements of the Taliban, including the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, are believed to still have ties with al-Qaeda.

Those talks foundered before they even began when the Taliban marked the opening with the flag, anthem and symbols of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan the group’s name when they ruled the country. President Hamid Karzai immediately pulled the plug on talks saying the office had all the trappings of an embassy of a government in exile.

The Taliban has already held secret talks with Mr. Karzai’s representatives to try to jumpstart a peace process, Afghan officials and a senior Taliban representative recently told The Associated Press.

The discussions with members of the Afghan High Peace Council, appointed by Mr. Karzai three years ago to conduct talks with the Taliban, have so far been unofficial and preliminary. They are seen as an attempt to agree on conditions for formal talks.

But Mullah Omar warned that whatever the result of peace talks, the Taliban would not accept the signing of a bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States that would allow the presence of foreign troops beyond the end of 2014, when all international combat forces are to leave the country.

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