December 15, 2011
In a recent interview with a Taliban-run news agency, Afghan Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi provided an official response to the recent Kabul Loya Jirga (Grand Council) that approved a continued American military presence in Afghanistan as well as an assessment of the Taliban’s struggle against NATO forces in various regions of the country. 
The four-day Loya Jirga produced a nearly unanimous vote in favor of a strategic agreement with the United States that would permit the continued presence of American military bases in Afghanistan after the scheduled pull-out of U.S. forces in 2014. There were, however, conditions attached, including an end to night raids on residential housing, the closure of all prisons operated by foreign forces and accountability to the Afghan justice system for Americans who commit crimes in Afghanistan (Khaama Press [Kabul], November 19).
The Taliban spokesman suggested that the Loya Jirga decision would actually play into the Taliban’s hands: “The people have realized that the invaders are here for sinister objectives. They want to endanger our religion, prestige and other sanctities at the hands of a few traitors and corrupt agents. They want to keep us as an occupied nation and impose their own systems upon us.”
Given the Loya Jirga’s decision, the Taliban spokesman was asked how long the Taliban will continue to fight against a foreign military presence: “Jihad is a religious obligation upon us. We have no specified time framework for it. When the need for Jihad is ceased, the war will naturally come to an end. It totally depends on the invaders.”
ISAF Regional Command – North
The Taliban spokesman also offered an assessment of the military situation in the southern and northern operational theaters:
- In the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the site of some of the war’s fiercest clashes, the spokesman admits the Taliban have been driven out of some areas, but attributes this to the occupiers’ complete destruction of orchards and houses in these districts. Otherwise he denies NATO claims that the Taliban are restricted to limited areas in the south of these provinces, insisting that foreign forces are confined to their bases in urban centers while the Taliban conduct attacks throughout the rest of the region at will. Qari Yusuf suggests the inaccurate perception of the situation in the southern provinces is partly due to “the absence of free international media” to observe and report Taliban activities accurately. While attributing this absence to threats against journalists by internal and external secret services, this complaint from an official spokesman demonstrates the Taliban’s growing appreciation for the value of the media in the struggle for Afghanistan. The movement once known for smashing televisions now manages a website in five languages, Twitter and Facebook accounts, radio stations, magazines and a video production company that posts its work on YouTube (Express Tribune [Karachi], December 1).
- In the northern provinces, particularly Kunduz, a decrease in Taliban activity is blamed on the reluctance of the “mostly non-American” NATO garrisons there “who are fed up with this war” to venture far from their bases, thus reducing the opportunities for Taliban operations. Nonetheless, Qari Yusuf says the Taliban is continuing to increase its presence in the north. The Kunduz Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is one of five PRTs that come under ISAF’s Regional Command-North. With Germany as the lead nation, PRT-Kunduz includes German, Belgian, Armenian and American troops.
Qari Yusuf summed up the rationale behind the Taliban’s continued commitment to a military resolution in Afghanistan rather than entering into political negotiations:
We can never tolerate foreign invasion in our country. We want the strict implementation of Islamic rules and regulations. We want Islamic brotherhood and unity among the countrymen. We want cordial relation with the world on the basis of Islamic principles where no one is harmed. But the enemy is extending the occupation and is dreaming for a prolonged subjugation of our country. In these circumstances we are compelled to insist on a military solution rather than political one because the enemy is not ready to leave our country… and to solve the disputed issues by political negotiations.
Qari Yusuf also stressed that the Taliban’s operational flexibility is a factor in its favor: “When we notice that the public and the mujahideen are both under pressure, simultaneously we open new fronts in other villages and districts. In the same way if one zone is under pressure, we have increased our activities in other zones… We have entered a new phase in the war where we have been able to inflict heavy losses on the enemy and have significantly reduced our own.”
- Afghan Islamic News Agency, “Interview of the Spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Ansar1.info, December 4, 2011.
This article first appeared in the December 15, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.