A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban issued a response to President Donald Trump’s announcement of a new strategy for the Afghan war on Tuesday, vowing that “Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower” without complete withdrawal.
Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued his remarks to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) after Trump’s speech. Despite deriding Trump for issuing statements that were “nothing new” and “very unclear,” Mujahid warned that Trump was “just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything.”
“If America doesn’t withdraw its troops, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” Mujahid declared. “For generations, we have fought this war, we are not scared, we are fresh and we will continue this war until our last breath.”
AFP also spoke to a “commander” of the Haqqani network, another jihadist organization active in Afghanistan, who condemned Trump’s “Crusade” against “the entire Muslim umma.”
A week ago, the Taliban published an “open letter” to President Trump urging him to withdraw troops from the country, accusing Washington insiders of “warmongering” and “pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
“It seems to be a historical mistake on the part of the previous administrations to have dispatched American youth for the slaughter of Afghans. However, as a responsible American president, you need to study the mistakes of your predecessors and prevent death and injury to American forces in Afghanistan,” the Taliban suggested.
The remarks echo the Taliban’s Ramadan message in June, in which they threatened to kill any American soldiers stationed in the country. “If you think that you may break our determination with your military presence and surge of troops, you are making a mistake! This is not the solution of the issue to continue your occupation on the request of the inept administration of Kabul,” the message read.
Trump, who had for years railed against military intervention in Afghanistan on Twitter, changed his tune Monday, announcing that he would greatly expand the Pentagon’s power to act in the country.
“We will not announce our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will,” Trump said before a military audience in Virginia.
Trump also suggested a “political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan” while lamenting, “but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.” Such a settlement would be part of Trump’s attempt to use “diplomatic, economic, and military” avenues to attempt to end conflict in Afghanistan for good.
“We are not nation-building again, we are killing terrorists,” Trump also asserted in the speech, leaving open the question of how the Taliban would be able to participate in a “political settlement” if American soldiers kill all its members.
The Taliban has made significant gains in Afghanistan in the past year, announcing in June that it had successfully infiltrated Afghan security forces, teaming up with the Islamic State for a rare coordinated attack, and reportedly convincing the Russian government to support them to prevent the spread of rival jihadist groups.
Most recently, a report published last week revealed that the Taliban had begun a campaign to intimidate Afghan pilots out of working for the government, threatening to abduct their children and kill them. The Taliban had previously used a similar method of intimidation to silence Islamic academics who opposed their jihad.