Taliban Leader's Holiday Message: No Peace Talks, 'Focus on the Invaders'

Taliban leader rules out talks with Karzai, tells Afghans to break off relations with govt

On Wednesday, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban rejected a call for peace talks in a statement timed to the beginning of an annual Muslim festival.

Taliban Mullah Omar rebuffed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for talks and for the Taliban to become part of the Afghan political process. Karzai made the appeal during his inauguration speech last week.

"The people of Afghanistan will not agree to negotiation which prolongs and legitimizes the invader's military presence in our beloved country," said Omar in a statement that appeared on a Taliban Web site. He said foreign powers are a "cunning enemy" and "want peace talks to "prolong their evil process of colonization and occupation." He referred to the recent elections in Afghanistan as a "melodrama."

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, issued his own brief statement in three different Aghan languages to mark the holiday, which comes at the end of the haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. McChrystal's message was sharply different.

"I believe this is a defining moment for you the people, your government and the international community to work together with clarity of purpose and clear conscience towards stability, peace and development," said McChrystal. "Let us use the great principles of your great religion such as honesty, integrity, justice, freedom and equality to rebuild Afghanistan."

McChrystal commands U.S. and International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan. There are more than 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, who lost an eye fighting against the Soviet occupation, is the founder of the Taliban. He led Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when he was toppled by the U.S. and its allies.

He is now believed to be hiding across the border in Pakistan, though the Pakistani government denies his presence. The Taliban has increased its strength within Afghanistan, and U.S. and NATO casualties are mounting.

In his statement, Omar asked Afghans to protect "public and national property during the conduct of military operations, particularly during martyrdom-seeking operations." Recent suicide bombings have brought great loss of life in Afghanistan. A Nov. 20 strike in a market in the western city of Farah killed 16.

"Focus on the invaders and their lackeys and other important targets," said Omar.

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