Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2010

8 September 2010

Wednesday


The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, often called the Blue Mosque at Mazar-e-Sharif

Last year following Ramadan, Mullah Mohammad Omar issued an Eid al-Fitr address that I discussed in The Graveyard of Empires. During the past year I have further discussed Afghanistan in the following posts (inter alia):

Afghanistan: The War of Words

Afghanistan and Switzerland

A just war in Afghanistan?

Now Mullah Mohammad Omar has issued another Eid al-Fitr statement, the translated text of which can be found at The Unjust Media and at the Zaakirah: Ummah Matters blog. The address is titled “Message of Felicitation of the Esteemed Amir-ul-Momineen Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid, on the Eve of Eid-ul-Fitr.”

The Minaret at Djam, Afghanistan

The BBC reported this address under the headline, “Mullah Omar says Afghan Taliban close to victory.” Mullah Omar does indeed make this claim, and the substance of the remarks underlines this idea, but the explicit claim to being near victory appears in passing in the text, and does not appear in an especially prominent place. But this address is a very confident address, much more so that what Mullah Omar said last year, and it is also a much more systematic and clear-headed text that last year’s address.

This is the face of Afghanistan more familiar from news reports: ruined buildings in Kabul.

Although Mullah Omar is a man (and a leader of men) who is fully committed — mind, body, and spirit — to an eschatological conception of history, in which divine power manifests itself immediately and directly in human affairs, the rhetoric of this address, while retaining the eschatological core of the ideological message of the Taliban, is much more pragmatic. Mullah Omar is now acting like the government-in-exile of Afghanistan. While the references to “colonialism” are continuous with last year’s address, this year’s address is much less a pastiche of criticisms of the West and encomia on the Mujahid fighting in Afghanistan than it is a practical blueprint for an ideal Afghanistan-to-be under future Taliban rule.

After the opening remarks, the statement is divided into nine (9) sections that address, in turn, 1) the “Mujahid Nation of Afghanistan,” 2) fellow Mujahideen fighting throughout the world, 3) “Religious Scholars, Statesmen, Teachers, Writers and Poets,” 4) Former Mujahideen and Employees of the current government of Afghanistan, 5) the nature of a future Taliban government in Afghanistan, 6) the foreign policy of the same, 7) “the Islamic World and the Muslim Ummah,” 8) “Coalition Forces Stationed in Afghanistan,” 9) “Americana [sic.] Rulers and the Misinformed American People.” This gives a sense of the breadth and comprehensiveness of the document, but for all this ground that it covers, it remains a relatively concise statement.

This is obviously no longer a mere call to arms for Jihadis to fight American invaders, this is a comprehensive statement of principles for a future Taliban administration. It is not only more pragmatic than past statements, it is also a little more cautious. There are warnings for Mujahideen not to, “…commit activities under the name of a Mujahid that malign the name of Mujahideen and be cautious not to harass people on mere pretexts and baseless reports.” This puts one in mind of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi cautioning the latter to moderate the violence of his campaign in Iraq and, “…avoid any action that the masses do not understand or approve, if there is no contravention of Sharia in such avoidance, and as long as there are other options to resort to, meaning we must not throw the masses — scant in knowledge — into the sea before we teach them to swim.”

If the Taliban should at some point engage in negotiations with the current administration in Kabul and enter into some kind of power-sharing agreement or amnesty or governmental participation, we would only need to strip out a few statements from this document to make it serviceable as a party platform for Taliban candidates to run in future Afghan elections. A jihadi manifesto that can double as a party platform is truly a moderate manifesto, if judged by the standards of that genre.

Of Mullah Omar’s most recent statement, Section E, “Regarding the Upcoming System of the Country,” is worth quoting in more detail for the ways in which it underlines the pragmatic, mature ambitions of the Taliban. Having learned some lessons in bad public relations that ultimately unseated them once, they are ready to return to power on the basis of a platform with which few in the world could strongly object:

“…we will try to establish an Islamic, independent, perfect and strong system on the basis of these principles –- a system with economic, security, legal, educational and judicial aspects being based on the injunctions of Islam and conducted through a consultative body joined by persons with experience, knowledge and expertise. All God-fearing, experienced and professional cadres of the Afghan society will be part and parcel of this system without any political, racial and lingual discriminations.

“Administrative responsibilities will be devolved on them according to their talent and honesty. We will respect the Islamic rights of all people of the country including women; will implement Sharia rules in the light of the injunctions of the sacred religion of Islam in order to efficiently maintain internal security and eradicate immorality, injustice, indecency and other vices; will strictly observe the law of punishment and reward and auditing in order to bring about administrative transparency in all government departments. The violators will be dealt with according to the Sharia rules.”

This is quite explicitly not a Western plan for government, but it is clearly a plan for government that would have the approbation of the Islamic world, and could be the basis of Islamic advisers from more developed Muslim nation-states that would work with the Taliban to produce a regime that could be recognized by the UN and accepted into what Toynbee called, “a single world-wide comity of states.”

All sides in this conflict have been becoming more pragmatic and less ideological over the course of the present conflict, and in this sense we could, from a very abstract perspective, see the parties to the conflict narrowing their differences and coming together. Except, that is, for the feeling of confidence in this current statement from Mullah Omar. Clearly, he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. There is not only the official policy that an Afghanistan pull-out will begin a year from now (a policy that has been sharply criticized at the highest levels of the US military), but there is the long history of US engagement of which the Taliban will will not be ignorant: despite the predictable rhetoric about colonialism, everyone knows that the Americans never come to stay, at least in terms of a military presence. Truly democratic governments cannot support sustained wars of attrition; it is not only a matter of the pain of sacrifice of blood and treasure, but also the lack of steady focus and continuing interest.

The Afghans will always be in Afghanistan, but the Americans will only be there for a short time. For the Taliban to have to wait a year is nothing. They would wait far longer than a year if need be. Needless to say, the US will not be cleansing Afghanistan of the Taliban in the coming year, so if the pull-out begins as scheduled, Afghanistan will return to its perennial feudal character and internecine conflict.

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