In a communiqué marking the beginning of the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, claimed his forces were making gains against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and announced a new plan to increase attacks aimed at delivering a "crushing and decisive blow" against the presence of foreign forces. "The aim is to entangle the enemy in an exhausting war of attrition and wear it away like the former Soviet Union," declared Omar in his address on the "Festival of Sacrifice." Omar wrote that his forces had developed new short- and long-term strategies, saying that, overall, "our strategy is to increase our operations step by step and spread them to all parts of the country to compel the enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them through tactical raids."
Omar's declaration comes amid reports that leaders at this week's NATO summit in Portugal plan to set 2014 as an end date for "combat" operations.
Omar portrayed the ongoing battle with US forces in Marjah and, more recently, in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar—where US-led forces code-named their operation "Dragon Strike"—as victories. Noting the surge in US and NATO casualties and deaths in Afghanistan, Omar wrote. "The moment of defeat of the invaders has approached," adding: "The enemy has been defeated on the battlefield. Now they rely on media hype and portray themselves as if making advancement but the ground realities are what you and we are witnessing. The enemy is retreating and facing siege in all parts of the country day in and day out. Their life casualties are spiraling up."
Current Taliban commanders and former senior officials of Omar's Taliban government recently told The Nation that while the US Special Operations Forces' targeted killing campaign against Taliban commanders has been successful, the strikes were actually producing a more radical generation of fighters and commanders. In his communication, Omar did not address the issue of the targeted killing campaign, but he did claim that morale among the Taliban remained high. "Our Mujahid people will never feel exhausted in the sacred path of Jihad, because it is a divine obligation," he wrote. "Fatigue can have no way into it."
Omar is never seen publicly, and US officials believe is hiding in Quetta, Pakistan. In interviews with The Nation in Afghanistan, several former and current Taliban leaders suggested that Omar was currently residing in Afghanistan. In the nine years since US forces toppled the Taliban government analysts have questioned the extent of his control over insurgent forces fighting to expel the United States and NATO. On the ground in Afghanistan, anti-US fighters tell different stories. Many say they are loyal to Omar and proclaim him the leader of the jihad, while other reports paint a picture of a fractured resistance with multiple groups. Omar "is the main figure and a powerful person and the emir of the Taliban," says Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban government's ambassador to Pakistan. Speaking at his home in Kabul where he is closely monitored by Karzai's security forces, Zaeef said, "Nobody knows where is he. If I know, the [Afghan] government should know, the Americans should know. It would be not safe. Nobody knows where is he, but he is alive." As for reports Omar has been captured, Zaeef laughs and says, "He was already captured so many times by the American media."
In his Eid-al-Adha communiqué, Omar blasted the Karzai government as a corrupt "puppet Kabul regime" subservient to Washington and rejected as "baseless propaganda" reports that senior Taliban officials have engaged in any negotiations with the Karzai government or US/NATO forces. "The cunning enemy which has occupied our country is trying, on the one hand, to expand its military operations…and, on the other hand, wants to throw dust into the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation," Omar wrote.
The Taliban leader's allegations mirror those of a US official who told McClatchy News Service in October that reports of senior Taliban meeting with Afghan or US officials were propaganda aimed at sowing dissent among the Taliban leadership. "This is a psychological operation, plain and simple," said the US official with firsthand knowledge of the Afghan government's strategies. "Exaggerating the significance of it is an effort to sow distrust within the insurgency."
In his declaration, Omar wrote:
The enemy wants to cover up its failure in Afghanistan by wrongfully raising hollow hopes in the hearts of their respective people. The believing people of Afghanistan and the public of the world should not trust any news report or rumor about the stance of the Islamic Emirate disseminated by any one rather than the leadership of the Islamic Emirate or the designated spokesmen, because such new reports are spread by the intelligence agencies of the hostile countries. Then the media outlets affiliated with these espionage entities, irresponsibly publish them with great fanfare. The aim is to play down the defeat [of the enemy] at the military field through media warfare. But these conspiracies will never prove effective against our brave people and mujahideen.
Omar also delivered his counterpoint to the US counterinsurgency doctrine, instructing his forces not to target civilian populations and to build ties in local communities, calling on his followers to ensure that their "Jihadic activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life" of civilians, adding, "Anything that is not permissible in Islam, has no place in our military policy."