- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2012

The U.S. used the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as an “illegal pretext” for an “unjust” war on Afghanistan, the Taliban said in a statement on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the attacks.

Eleven years since the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. is “facing utter defeat in Afghanistan militarily, politically, economically and in all other facets and it has exhausted all other means through which to prolong its illegal war,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an e-mailed statement.

A U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the Taliban government in Kabul, which had provided shelter to Osama bin Laden, refused cut ties to al Qaeda or turn in its leaders for their role in the attacks. Airliners hijacked by militants crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa.

The Taliban spokesman said no Afghans were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, and the U.S. had not been able to provide any “legitimate or logical proofs” proving such links.

The Taliban called on U.S. officials to “halt shedding the blood of the oppressed Afghans under this pretext and to follow the path of sound reasoning instead of tyranny and stupidity.”

President Obama has set a 2014 deadline to withdraw all U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan. NATO partners also will leave the country by that time.

Mr. Mujahid said the Taliban is “neither a threat to anyone nor will we let our soil be used to harm anyone.”

However, he added, that it is the Islamist group’s “due legal and religious right to defend our homeland and establish in it an Islamic system.”

More than 2,000 American troops have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

“Despite America spending large amounts of military and economical assets under the title of homeland security and murdering thousands of its soldiers by the hands of Afghans however no American is safe in any society today,” said Mr. Mujahid.

The Taliban leadership is at odds over peace talks. U.S. efforts to pursue such a track have deepened rifts between the group’s political leadership that favors reconciliation and the field commanders determined to continue the war.

A report released by the Royal United Services Institute on Monday concluded that the Taliban is prepared to work with the U.S. on security in Afghanistan and participate in peace negotiations in return for international political recognition. The report is based on interviews with two former senior Taliban officials, one with close ties to the group’s leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, a lead negotiator for the Taliban and an Afghan mediator with extensive experience mediating with the militants.

The Royal United Services Institute report found that the Taliban and its base deeply regret its association with al Qaeda.

The Taliban will not budge on its insistence not to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai or his administration, who they view as corrupt and weak, says the report.

And the group will not accept the Afghan Constitution, a key condition laid down by the U.S. and Karzai administration for reconciliation talks, because the leadership perceive that acceptance would be “tantamount to surrender,” adds the report.

In a surprising finding, the report found that the Taliban are willing to accept long-term U.S. military presence and bases as long as they do not constrain Afghan independence and Islamic jurisprudence. The eviction of foreign forces from Afghanistan has been one of the motivating factors for the Taliban’s jihad.

The Taliban broke off peace talks with the U.S. in March. One of the reasons for its decision was that the Obama administration has not released five high-value Taliban operatives from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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