Taliban Dismisses Threat of U.S. Attack
Speaking on Taliban-run Kabul Radio, Mullah Omar pointed to the Soviet Union’s drawn-out and unsuccessful invasion of Afghanistan from 1979-1989, and told U.S. leaders to “think and think again” before attacking the country.
The Taliban has acknowledged that it is harboring Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.
President Bush has warned the Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, that Afghanistan could face U.S. strikes if they do not hand over the Saudi-born fugitive.
Meanwhile, Taliban leaders made moves on diplomatic and military fronts ahead of possible U.S. military action.
The group’s defense minister, Mullah Obaidullah, today called on pro-Taliban soldiers to fight against any U.S. attack, the Islamabad-based Afghan Islamic Press reports.
“If your enemy is strong,” he told troops stationed near the Pakistan border, “our God is the strongest.”
The Taliban also announced today they had reached a power-sharing agreement with tribes in three of Afghanistan’s southern provinces.
Taliban spokesman Rehmat Wahidyar told the Afghan Islamic Press tribal officials would be given posts in the regional governments of Khost, Paktia and Paktika.
The Taliban has been fighting for influence over those tribes against former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile since 1973.
Supporters of the 86-year-old former monarch today struck a deal with the rebel Northern Alliance — Afghanistan’s main opposition force — to overthrow the Taliban and create a moderate government in its place.
The two parties say they have formed a “Supreme Council for National Unity” and will convene a traditional grand assembly of Afghan leaders to elect a new head of state and establish a new government.
“I am convinced that the agreement we have reached today will be the start of a new era for Afghanistan,” Younus Qanooni, the head of the Northern Alliance’s delegation, told reporters.
Relations with Pakistan
Despite Omar’s threats, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf says the days of Taliban rule are numbered.
“It appears that the United States will take action in Afghanistan, and we have conveyed this to the Taliban,” Musharraf told the BBC.
When asked if the Taliban’s days are numbered, he replied, “It appears so.”
Nonetheless, Pakistan says it will not sever diplomatic ties with the Taliban, even though it has pledged to help the U.S-led campaign against suspected terrorists.
“Whatever hope is left, whatever possibilities exist, we will certainly remain engaged to see these possibilities are expanded and some kind of diplomatic effort succeeds with the Taliban government,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan told reporters.
“We cannot afford the luxury of isolating ourselves from Afghanistan,” he said.
Pakistan is now the only country with diplomatic ties to the Taliban, since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut their ties with Kabul after the attacks on the U.S.