KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban will fight on till the last foreign soldier is driven out of Afghanistan, but their door is always open to talks with other Afghan opposition groups, the Islamist movement said on Monday.
The offer comes days after Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president and mujahideen chief, now opposition leader, said the Taliban had shown a desire for political dialogue and called for serious efforts to establish talks with the Islamist rebels.
The Taliban “will fight till the withdrawal of the last crusading-invader, but the door for talks, understanding and negotiations will always be open for the all the mujahideen,” the Taliban said in a statement on its website.
But, the Taliban said, the mujahideen should join the insurgency and help fight to drive out foreign forces.
Rabbani and other former leaders of the mujahideen forces which fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, then each other in the 1990s, now dominate the opposition in parliament.
The Taliban have previously said they would also fight on to depose President Hamid Karzai, but there was no mention of the Western-backed Afghan government in Monday’s statement.
The Taliban cited “sacrilege” against Islam since President George W. Bush spoke of a crusade against terrorism in 2001, up until the recent shooting of a Koran by a U.S. soldier in Iraq. All proof of the “crusaders’ hostility towards Islam”.
“Now, the Muslims of the world and Afghanistan, and in particular, the leaders of the groups who consider themselves Muslims and mujahideen are under the service of the invaders and crusaders,” the Taliban statement said.
The mujahideen, the Taliban said, “may have realized the time has come to begin an armed jihad against the crusading-invaders. This is the only way for rescuing the Islamic nation and dear Afghanistan.”
Rabbani, who now leads the opposition block in parliament, said he had established contact with the Taliban several months ago and had received a letter in recent days containing “some encouraging messages” from the Taliban addressed to the alliance of parties he leads.
The Taliban statement did not directly refer to Rabbani’s comments.
U.S.-led troops, helped by Afghan mujahideen groups, toppled the Taliban in 2001 after the hardline Islamist movement refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks on the United States.
But many of the factions that helped topple the Taliban now feel sidelined and some have privately shown dissatisfaction with the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.
More than 12,000 people have been killed by violence in Afghanistan in the past two years, the bloodiest period since the overthrow of the Taliban government.
More than 62,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military are stationed in Afghanistan. Foreign commanders say the troops will leave the country when Afghan security forces are able to stand on their feet.