The Taliban marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States on Saturday by calling on American forces to withdraw unconditionally and end the “illegal occupation” of Afghanistan.
In a statement that also coincided with the Eid holiday, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Taliban said the United States had no chance of bringing peace to Afghanistan after nearly nine years of war.
As NATO allies pulled out their troops, Americans had become targets both at home and abroad, said the statement, emailed to news organisations.
“Nine years after September 11, despite using all possible military solutions in Afghanistan, now they have lost any possible chance for peace,” the statement said of the United States.
“They are left with only one option and that is to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan without any preconditions.
“They do not have the right to impose conditions and preconditions for leaving Afghanistan because, first, their occupation of Afghanistan was illegal and also, second, they have been defeated in this illegal invasion,” it said.
The United States and NATO have 150,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting to quell the Taliban insurgency, which began soon after the Islamists’ brutal five-year regime was toppled in a US-led invasion.
Military leaders, including the commander of international forces US General David Petraeus, agree that the Taliban’s footprint has spread in recent years, especially to the once-peaceful north.
The insurgency is concentrated in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, populated largely by ethnic Pashtuns who are the bedrock of the Taliban and its fight against the Kabul government.
President Hamid Karzai, kept in power by the coalition forces, is trying to open a dialogue with the Taliban leadership to bring the war to a speedy end, as United States troops are expected to begin drawing down next July.
The Dutch have already withdrawn and the Canadians are due to end their mission next year.
The Taliban has used US President Barack Obama’s deadline for the start of a drawdown against the coalition, saying it shows how the war has turned in its favour.
“The international coalition they (the United States) befriended at the beginning, now realising the reality, have started to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan to free themselves from this problem,” the statement said.