KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban told “American invaders” to leave Afghanistan in an announcement marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, assured the people of a bright future under Islamic rule and said it had already liberated “vast areas” of the country.
The Taliban, who announced a surprise three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday, except against foreign forces, also denounced the U.S. relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, which “further exposes the absolute hatred of American officials towards Islam”.
Taliban leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada said in the statement that Afghans’ salvation lay in “American and other occupying forces” leaving and repeated a call for talks with the United States.
“If the American officials truly believe in a peaceful end to the Afghan imbroglio, then they must directly present themselves at the negotiation table,” Akhunzada said.
“We also assure our nation (of) a bright future for our country accompanied by peace and prosperity, Allah willing,” he added.
The Taliban are fighting U.S.-led NATO forces, combined under the Resolute Support mission, and the U.S.-backed government to restore sharia, or Islamic law, after their ouster by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
“The American invaders have not desisted from any brutality and severity in pursuit of subduing our nation. They bomb our villages, cities, mosques, madrassas and other events, murder innocent civilians, forcibly displace them and torment thousands of Afghans through unimaginable torture in prisons,” Akhunzada said.
Resolute Support said in response it was hopeful that the Taliban stick to their ceasefire “and we hope that pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation”.
“Considering more than 90 percent of the casualties in Taliban high-profile attacks in Kabul this year are civilians, which is up from more than 80 percent in 2017 and 60 percent in 2016, peace for Afghanistan is overdue,” spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell said.
The Taliban banned cinema, TV and music during their five-year rule, deeming them un-Islamic, and insisted that women wear all-enveloping burqas. They inflicted harsh punishments for those who did not adhere to their interpretation of Islam.
But observers say life in Taliban-ruled areas now is much more relaxed, with music and TV permitted, girls allowed to go to school up to the age of 11, and women allowed to wear less restrictive dress.
Akhunzada said the Taliban had established “exemplary peace” in areas they control.
SIGAR, a U.S. Congressional watchdog, said in a recent report that the government controlled areas with about 65 percent of the population and controlled or influenced 56.3 percent of districts, the second lowest level since 2015, the first year after most international forces left Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Jibran Ahmed and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Michael Perry)