Taliban stronger than before, says group leader

Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, told Al-Masry Al-Youm the Taliban is militarily stronger than before, as evidenced by the large number of casualties they have inflicted on NATO troops.

The Taliban are politically cut off from the world, having no diplomatic missions or delegations abroad, but their internal politics have been extremely successful and they are well liked by the Afghan people, Zaeef added.

When asked how the Afghan people would feel if the Taliban once more ruled Afganistan, Zaeef said, "time changes people and change must take place in order to meet the people’s needs." 

He said that if the Taliban were to rule the country again they would not resist advances in technology and civilization, so long as those advances fall in line with Islamic laws.

Zaeef also said he did not believe that the US wish to reconcile with the Taliban.

“The Taliban have no problems with Afghan president Hamid Karzai," he said. "Our only problem is with the occupation.”

Zaeef went on to say that the US and its allies seek a Taliban surrender. Coalition forces want to sustain their presence in an effort to govern the Taliban and the country according to their interests, rather than the interests of the country, he continued.

When asked for his opinion of Osama bin Laden and his relation with Mullah Omar following the events of 11 September, Zaeef said, “Following the September events, the Commander of the Faithful Mullah Omar met with Bin Laden in the presence of a large number of Taliban leaders and Al-Qaeda members, and asked him if they were behind the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon.

“Osama denied the allegations but I now believe that Bin Laden planned the attacks without informing the Commander of the Faithful and then lied to him by denying his involvement in the attacks after they took place,” he said.

When asked whether he believed that the religious institution Al-Azhar could play a role in the Afghan cause, Zaeef said, “I don’t think so; the problem here is between the Taliban and the US. Al-Azhar is an educational institute, it can play an educational role but it cannot play a political role.”

 Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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