July 2, 2016
ISLAMABAD—The new Taliban chief has called for the United States to end its “occupation” of Afghanistan, saying the Islamist insurgency is determined to “salvage” the country from the claw of the infidel occupation and mischief.”
Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada made the remarks Saturday in connection with the annual Eid festival, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“You will not be able to frustrate the determination of our (the Afghans) Jihadic struggle, by your resorting to extending the time of presence of your soldiers or of increasing military rule of engagement in Afghanistan,” he said.
Hibatullah was referring to President Barack Obama’s decision to increase airstrikes against the Taliban and to deploy of U.S. soldiers to the battlefield when necessary to help Afghan forces defeat the insurgents.
“You [the United States] are facing up not a group or faction but a nation. You are not going to be a winner [God willing]. So it is rational if you come with a reasonable policy for solution [of the issue] instead of the use of force,” he asserted.
Hibatullah took control of the insurgent group just days after a U.S. drone strike on May 21 killed Taliban leader Mullah Akthar Mansoor in neighboring Pakistan.
Under its new leadership, the Islamist insurgency has intensified battlefield attacks and suicide bombings against officials and security forces of the U.S.-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.
The latest such attack took place in Kabul Thursday when a twin suicide car bombing on a police convoy killed nearly 40 recruits and officers, and wounded dozens more.
U.S. officials have anticipated more violence in Afghanistan since the Taliban leadership transition.
Hibatullah, who was deputy to Mansoor before being elevated to the highest post, does not have a military background but is believed to be behind the Taliban-led bloodshed in Afghanistan using his years of religious influence in the group, according to the U.S. military’s initial assessment.
“He has been really behind issuing a lot of fairly bloody fatwas (decrees) and justifications for the use of suicide bombers and targeting of civilians… again he does not have a tremendous amount of experience with it (leadership), but he clearly is still a dangerous man particularly based on a lot of the ideology he was putting out,” said the U.S. military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland in Kabul.
Hibatullah also condemned as a “supporter of the occupiers” the U.S.-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.
“Your support and siding with invaders is like the work of those abhorrent faces who in our past history supported the Britons and the Soviets,” he lamented.