KABUL: One of the most senior Taliban commanders has admitted that it is unlikely they can win the war in Afghanistan, according to an interview published by Britain’s New Statesman magazine.
The identity of the Taliban leader is not revealed but the interview was conducted by Taliban expert and author Michael Semple, who has also served as a UN envoy to Afghanistan and now works with the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.
“It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war,” the commander, who is referred to only as Maulvi (cleric) tells Semple, according to excerpts of the interview on the magazine’s website.
“The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect.”
The Islamists were in power in Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 for harbouring al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and have since waged an increasingly bloody insurgency.
“At least 70 per cent of the Taliban are angry at al Qaeda,” Maulvi is quoted as saying. “Our people consider al Qaeda to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens.
“To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country.”
The Taliban insurgents now face the growing forces of the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, supported by some 130,000 US-led NATO troops, who are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.
“It is in the nature of war that both sides dream of victory. But the balance of power in the Afghan conflict is obvious,” says Maulvi, who is described as one of the most senior surviving Taliban commanders and a confidant of the movement’s leadership.
“Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness.
“To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth — that they cannot prevail over the power they confront.”
The views presented in the interview contrast strongly with the Taliban’s belligerent public statements, but Maulvi said that “for the moment, as long as (supreme leader) Mullah Omar is alive, the Taliban will be prepared to follow him in this fight”.