In his Eid message released today, Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Omar congratulated his followers on “this year’s unprecedented military victories” against the Coalition forces in the country:
“[Translated from Dari] Mujahid brothers: You are witnessing that the ranks of jihad are growing stronger every day; the acts of sacrifice and shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation of our brave people with the mujahedin is expanding across the country; the occupiers’ key bases are targeted by large-scale offensive attacks and jihadi tactics; the invaders are vacating their military bases in fear of the mujahedin; brave and caring Muslims from within their puppet regime are waging deadly attacks against the occupying, deceitful enemy…”
Omar also called on all Afghans to side with the Taliban to drive out foreign forces and establish an “Islamic” rule in the country. He called the insider attacks – the killing of American and NATO soldiers by the Afghan security forces or Taliban members dressed in their uniform – “the most effective weapon against the enemy,” and emphasized that the scope and intensity of such attacks will only increase in future.
The message shows that the Obama administration’s accelerated troop withdrawal plan has given the Taliban increased confidence of a military victory in the near future. The insurgents and their al Qaeda affiliates see the withdrawal as a retreat and are preparing for a comeback. Afghan officials say al Qaeda and Taliban are already reconstituting in remote areas of eastern Nuristan and Kunar provinces vacated by foreign troops.
As I and my colleagues have written in the past weeks (here, here, and here), there’s much at stake in Afghanistan and the US mission there has a reasonable chance of success. So far, both President Obama and Governor Romney have only talked about their exit plans. But to succeed in Afghanistan, the next administration needs to pursue a strategy that focuses more on achieving vital US interests there than just withdrawing and ending the war.