Rights & Freedoms

Two Eid messages from the Warring Leaders


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Both General Allen, overall ISAF commander, and Mulla Omar, supreme Taleban leader, have issued messages of felicitations to Afghans for Eid ul-Adha. They make interesting reading. Allen, in a message which rivals Omar’s in terms of Islamic references, appeals to the Taleban to stop fighting and urges the Afghan people to continue standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with ISAF against the ‘enemies of peace’. Mullah Omar puts forward a different but similarly fantastic version of the conflict in which he calls on the great Afghan mujahed nation to stand firm against the foreign menace – although he does, at least, have some new and potentially useful things to say about civilian casualties. AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark, reports.

As this blog was posted, President Karzai had yet to issue his Eid message. Mulla Muhammad Omar, as usual, had got in first. Unusually though, he in turn had been pipped to the post by ISAF commander General John R. Allen. Full texts of both messages are given at the end of this blog.
It is impossible to know if Omar actually wrote his message or not and, if he did, it may well have been under close ISI watch. Even so, the message is interesting in the lengths to which it goes (to be seen) to be encouraging better behaviour from Taleban fighters. One paragraph, strongly recalls the Taleban’s Code of Conduct, issued in May 2010 (for an analysis and text, see here):

‘You should be heedful in your sincerity, good intentions and piousness in individual and social actions; do not delve into hypocrisy and arrogance; show no laxity in service to the Muslims; do not wrongly pester and daunt anyone by the barrel of the gun; deal circumspectly with State Treasury. Show strong obedience to your leaders and do not submit to your whims and desires.’

Omar also, devotes almost a quarter of his message to giving very detailed instructions to his fighters – or ‘mujahedin’ as he calls them – on avoiding civilian casualties. They must, he said, take every step to ‘protect the lives, possessions and dignity of ordinary people.’* Normally when ‘bad things’ happen, the Taleban blame others and try to evade responsibility, but here Omar actually admits that the Taleban are killing and wounding civilians. All civilian casualties, he said, which have been caused or suspected of having been caused by Taleban must be reported, investigations should be made and punishments, if necessary, given.

‘If it is irrefutably proven that the blood of innocent Muslims is spilled by the negligence of Mujahedin then a penalty should be implemented in accordance with Shariah after extensive investigation and all steps should be taken to seek the pardon and pleasure of the inheritors and affectee.’

Omar contends that most civilians who are killed, die during fighting. This is not true. A third of all civilian deaths by all parties in the conflict (according to the UN) are killed by recklessly laid and operated IEDs. Usually, Taleban messaging lies about this (see for example this interview with a Taleban IED unit commander cached here). Banning pressure-plate IEDs would be the single most useful thing – short of all sides issuing a ceasefire – which could be done to reduce the number of civilians killed in the conflict. This was also the main response from UNAMA to Omar’s message (for comment see this Guardian article)

The second largest cause of deaths and injuries – which are also nothing to do with fighting – is assassinations and Omar alludes to the threats and warnings which are routinely used to intimidate those considered to be opposing the Taleban and are made as a precursor to assassination, if the warnings are not heeded. He says all Taleban shadow governors must ‘give full attention… to preventing the use of threatening letters and telephone calls in the name of the mujahedin against innocent people…’* As in the Taleban’s Code of Conduct, this is very vague; assassinations and the accompanying intimidation appear to be too useful a method of sowing terror to drop, while at the same time too abhorrent for the wider population for the Taleban to promote openly. Here there is not a ban on issuing threats, but on threatening innocent people. In Taleban terms, innocent people typically exclude government officials, drivers and contractors supplying ISAF bases, MPs and others who all, under International Humanitarian Law, are classed as civilians and who must be protected by all the warring parties, including the Taleban.

Omar’s message on civilian casualties is far from perfect, but it is better than anything else issued to date by him, especially in its attempt to draw this issue into Taleban mechanisms for grievance reporting and command and control. It is easy to dismiss this as propaganda, but even propaganda can be useful. Discourse in war is important; specifying orders and talking about rules can start to create an expectation that they will be obeyed. This message also feels as if the Taleban are carrying on their virtual dialogue over civilian casualties with the UN’s human rights section, which also, generally seems like a good thing (see here for an earlier look at this). How seriously the leadership is actually taking civilian casualties, of course, will become evident only if new orders are issued to field commanders and implemented.

General Allen, in his Eid message, uses almost as much religious (Islamic) language as Mullah Omar. He relentlessly works the Abrahamic (or Ibrahimic – Allen uses the Muslim spelling) theme of sacrifice to try to position ISAF and ‘the Afghan people’ as standing together against a common enemy. (‘Is he vying to become Amir ul-Mu’minin?’ was the slightly facetious response of one Afghan who had read it.) Allen casts ISAF, along with the Afghan security forces, as sacrificing protectors of Afghans. He also calls on the Taleban to stop fighting, put down their weapons and reintegrate – and threatens those who don’t with kill or capture. Such messaging is on a par with recent comments, for example concerning a recent attack on an ISAF bus in west Kabul (see here). A flavour of Allen’s message comes over in the following extract:

‘I am reminded of these sacrifices every day: brave Afghan villagers standing against forces of oppression; Afghan government employees who dutifully stand firm in the face of death threats to work to establish their own government and serve their nation; and the outstanding soldiers and police men and women of the Afghan National Security Forces who put themselves in harm’s way, day after day, with a mission to provide Afghanistan the security and stability to prosper.

‘The sacrifices ISAF and the Afghan people make together – shahna ba shahna [ie shoulder-to-shoulder] – every day, is further proof of our mutual and abiding respect as partners in this shared struggle to protect Afghanistan from its enemies and give this great land the peaceful future its sons and daughters deserve. This bond, forged through the brotherhood of arms, fostered by the partnership of understanding, and given voice by the language of friendship and partnership – our sacrifices have not been in vain.’

Allen’s message reads like a fairy tale of what he wishes were true. It has been many years now since Afghans generally assumed foreigners – whether military or civilians – were on their side and had come here to protect them (although some still do see us this way). Many Afghans, including those who are anti-Taleban, do not like ISAF. Many also do not see the Afghan police or the army, or indeed the Afghan state, as protecting them or being on ‘their’ side.

It is undeniable that foreign soldiers are making sacrifices here. But it also needs to be recognised that this is an insurgency driven at least in part by a corrupt and predatory state which is protected by foreign powers. The fact of foreign soldiers on Afghan soil, as well as the support of powerful elements of the Pakistan state also, of course, drive the insurgency.** This leads me to ask, to take just a couple of examples, how Allen’s vision fits in with the US Special Forces’ funding of an alleged war criminal like Commander Azizullah in Barmal (read an article about this case here) or US and ISAF support for the alleged war criminal, Abdul Razeq, appointed by the Palace as Kandahar chief of police (for details, see the following article). How does Allen square his words with the US (admittedly before Allen’s tenure) handing over Taleban suspects to the NDS when they – like everyone else in Afghanistan – knew the detainees were likely to be tortured (a report on this here).

Taleban and Taleban supporters are Afghans too – these are not mutually exclusive terms and it is strange to see them posited as being outside the ‘Afghan people’. The Taleban commit atrocities and war crimes, but they are Afghans and consider that they have legitimate political reasons for fighting. Inviting them to put down their weapons and come home without even acknowledging these political grievances amounts to Allen wasting his breath. This denial of political reality is one reason why the current reintegration programme is also failing.***

Allen’s vision of the Afghan conflict is as fictional as Omar’s, with the latter’s portrayal of the great ‘mujahed’ nation of Afghanistan unified (almost) in its struggle, under his leadership, against the foreign occupation and where the Taleban are portrayed – extraordinarily – as fighting for peace. This is a war in which ordinary civilians are marginalised and where they suffer and fear for their lives. Yet both Allen and Omar in their Eid messages expect them to take sides in the conflict – and that seems the cruellest fantasy of all.

* This is a more accurate translation of the original Pashto sentence than appears in the official English version of the message given below.

** There are certainly other, more realistic, views of the international/Afghan relationship, if General Peter Fuller, just sacked by Allen, for making critical remarks about Karzai and other Afghan leaders, is anything to go by (read them here).

*** For an excellent analysis of how and why the reintegration programme is failing, see as Deedee Derksen’s recent paper. As she says, ‘Without a political approach addressing [the] drivers of the insurgency and higher-level reconciliation, reintegration will see limited results. The government and its partners should concentrate on how to make reintegration part of a broader political process.’

Message of Felicitation of the Esteemed Amir-ul-Momineen on the Occasion of Eid-ul-Odha
Friday, 04 November 2011 12:31

In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest. There is no god but Allah and Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest. All praises are for Allah (Glory to Him, the Exalted).
All Praise are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds and may His Peace and Blessings be upon the leader of the Mujahedin and the Imam of the Messengers, Our Master and Prophet and upon his Family and Companions. To proceed:

Verily, We have granted you Al-Kauthar [this is normally translated as ‘abundance’ (of good things)] (1) Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (2) For he who hates you, he will be cut off (3).(Al Kauthar)

To the Afghan Mujahed nation and to the Islamic Ummah!

May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you all.

First of all I would like to extend to you my heart-felt felicitation on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Odha! May Allah accept in His Sight your sacrifices, charity, worship, the Hajj of the Pilgrims, their prayers and the Jihad and struggle of the courageous Mujahedin! May Allah bless the heirs of the Martyrs with patience and compensate them with which is better and may Allah safeguard their families and orphans.

May Allah, the Lord of Glory, exchange the suffering and hardships of the oppressed Muslims with joy and well-being. May He release our prisoners from the inhumane jails of the enemy and reunite them with their families and May Allah, the Lord of Glory, crush and humiliate our enemy with his Omnipotence.

Similar to other Eid’s, I would once again like to shed light on our stance regarding important issues associated with our and your future:

For ten years now, our courageous Mujahedin have been engaging in Jihad against a cruel and incursive enemy for a noble cause and are presenting countless sacrifices in this path every day. They have pushed the most materially advanced and arrogant power of the world to the verge of collapse with Allah’s Divine Help. Thousands of their troops have been killed and maimed while others face permanent disabilities and mental disorders, compelling their people to rise up in opposition and take to the streets. The American and Western people have no further taste for extending the Afghan war and seeing their soldiers return in coffins!!
It is only the Bounty and Grace of Allah Almighty that He chose us for the service of our country and Islam in this crucial and sensitive period and suppressed the greatest enemy of Islam with our hands. My memorandum to the Mujahedin is that they should consider all their victories only on due part to Allah Almighty’s Divine Help and the innumerable sacrifices put forward by the people. You should be heedful in your sincerity, good intentions and piousness in individual and social actions; do not delve into hypocrisy and arrogance; show no laxity in service to the Muslims; do not wrongly pester and daunt anyone by the barrel of the gun; deal circumspectly with State Treasury; show strong obedience to your leaders and do not submit to your whims and desires.

Mujahed Brothers! You know very well that our enemy is facing an unambiguous defeat. The ongoing Badre military operation tasked for the current year has quelled all of their conspiracies and designs. The enemy has suffered immense human and material losses in all parts of the country, including in the capital Kabul. In view of these prevailing sensitive conditions, all in authority and subjects should consolidate their unity because the enemy is now attempting to divide their ranks under various names. It is trying to attribute the perplexing and glorious operations, military advancements and achievements of Islamic Emirate to foreigners so to hide their shameful defeat and create artificial rationales for permanent presence in Afghanistan by falsely indicting the neighbouring countries. But the enemy must realize that their purchased Jirgas and permanent bases have and will be strongly opposed by us and will on no account be permitted to materialize.

Our esteemed countrymen inside and outside the country must use their perspicacity, take supplementary steps to neutralize the enemy plots and not fall for their propaganda. They should inform themselves about the activities of Islamic Emirate through its official Spokesmen, Websites and Press Releases. Our nation must further its support to their Mujahedin as per the past decade and must amplify their forbearance and patience.

Our Jihad is for attaining the gratification of Allah Almighty as well as the country’s peace, freedom and sovereignty. We are shielding a creed which is communal between you and us (Islam) and we firmly believe that honour and dignity are destined for us. We will once more live in the world with our heads held high as a noble nation, if Allah wills it.

We once again invite the internal opposition to renounce their cooperation of the invaders for the sake of their religion and people and call on them to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mujahedin against the foreign occupation. Being sincere in this regard, you will find that the doors of Islamic Emirate are wide open for you or you should at least adopt your normal lives. Your life, wealth and honour will be protected.

Afghanistan is without a doubt the shared home of its many ethnicities. The sovereignty and protection of this home is an obligation on all. Our foreign enemies must realize with full conviction that we are not bluffing or talking out of place but are unequivocally calling them to the solution of this problem which is:

From the very first day of your invasion of Afghanistan, you did not lend an ear to our stance or you looked at it with an enemy’s eye but now you have seen that you have journeyed in vain for the past ten years, spent your treasure and spilled your blood in a wasted effort. How do you weigh the condition of Afghanistan and America compared with the past decade?
If you do not try to delude yourselves and the world than indeed you will accept that both the countries have regressed, not progressed compared to that time. As regards to the situation of Afghanistan; if you are still optimistic about the futile Bonne Conferences and the lies of your Generals then surely you are headed on the path towards more failures and devastation!
Our people are not ones who succumb to other nations. We do not turn our backs on our creed and stance. We do not cherish this life to the extent that we abandon our religion but rather our life and death are and will be solely for the sake of Allah Almighty. We take pride in and are happy to offer sacrifices in the path of Allah (Glory to Him, the Exalted) while you fight for expansionism, wealth and money. Your soldiers do not have the spirit to fight and lose moral easily hence all your reliance is on military weapons and hardware.

According to reliable information, hundreds of thousands of your troops have come to and gone from Afghanistan on rotational deployment basis but you are still being confronted by the Mujahed and Taleb of the first day; he is neither tired nor has he wavered. So now you only have one choice and that of removing all of your military forces from our country as quickly as possible and this is for your own benefit. Leave this nation and soil to the sons of this soil. This soil is the concern of Afghans. The establishment and the nature of system here is the job of the Afghans. We do not want to harm other nations and countries. We believe the resolution to all conflicts and tribulations resides in realization and understanding. We had said this a decade ago and reiterate it again. For this purpose we have given guidance to the concerned authority of Islamic Emirate to come to a mutual understanding with all the countries while paying heed to National and Islamic principles in order to elucidate the policy and stance of Islamic Emirate to the world.

One point which is quite painful for everyone is that of civilian casualties, generally caused in fighting. As far as the enemy is concerned, they have veritably come here for the purpose of killing and torment but the Mujahedin have to take every step to protect the lives and wealth of ordinary people in accordance with their religious responsibility.

The common folk must also facilitate Mujahedin in averting civilian losses and sufferings. They should avoid moving in close proximity to Americans that patrol in villages and countryside and should actively put to practice the precautionary measures announced by Mujahedin so no harm will reach them during the impending attacks of the invaders.
As far as it is pertaining to Mujahedin then they should ward off future civilian casualties by vigorously implementing the following stipulations:

• All the provincial governors should core in on civilian casualties and make it a point of focus to stop the name of Taliban being falsely utilized against victims in warning letters and phone calls. Routine investigations should be carried out in their related areas. Scholars should be employed every now and then to preach protection of civilian life, wealth and honour to Mujahedin and promote virtue. All those civilian casualties which are caused or are believed to be caused by Mujahedin should be reported to the superiors.

• If civilian casualties are caused in IED strikes, martyrdom attacks and other operations but the Mujahedin of the area repudiate these allegations while all testimonials and evidence point otherwise then all the suspects should be forwarded to the legal offices. If it is irrefutably proven that the blood of innocent Muslims is spilled by the negligence of Mujahedin then a penalty should be implemented in accordance with Shariah after extensive investigation and all steps should be taken to seek the pardon and pleasure of the inheritors and affectee.

• If the same officials persist in their neglectfulness in relation to civilian casualties then more Islamic penalties should be handed out in addition to his termination from post.
• Related office and the Cultural Commission should also acquire information from various sources regarding civilian casualties caused by Mujahedin or unknown persons and forward them in written form to the acting authority every so often.

To end I once again extend my wholehearted felicitation on the occasion of Eid-ul-Odha to you and your families and ask Allah Almighty for your happiness and prosperity. I expect fear of Allah, unity and brotherhood from the Mujahedin in the strongholds. I call on the wealthy brothers not to forget the poverty-stricken, the disadvantaged and the orphans in these days and nights of sacrifice. I call on all the Muslims to take viable steps in these days of changes in the Islamic world for the benefit of Islam, unity and country by implementing all the Islamic principles. I advise all the Islamic and Jihadi movements in all corners of the world to be cautious of the plots of the enemies of Islam and detest from committing any act which is against or is sceptical in Islamic Law, will stain the image of Mujahedin and cause aversion amongst the populace.

May Allah Almighty turn our afflictions to happiness and help us in establishing a Peaceful, Free, Independent and Shariah-based government. Amen.
The servant of Islam
Amir-ul-Momineen
Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahed
Last Updated ( Friday, 04 November 2011 13:40 )

ISAF commander’s Eid message

Eid ul-Adha 2011, An Open Letter
to the People of Afghanistan
from
General John R. Allen
Commander, International Security Assistance Force

Salam Aleikum, Eid ul-Adha Mubarak

I am honoured to address the people of Afghanistan during this “Festival of Sacrifice,” Eid ul-Adha, and I join you in celebrating this sacred occasion – marking the devotion to Allah that was expressed by the prophet Ibrahim (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him).

Eid ul-Adha is important for many reasons; for piety, for charity, and because it provides an occasion for families to come together. During these blessed days, we also pause to consider Prophet Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) commitment and what this great and benevolent sacrifice means to us. We consider how we can honour his legacy by embracing a path that leads to peace. And we consider the opportunity that we have to reject the violence and destruction caused by acts of terror and the Taliban, and instead advance reintegration – and bring Afghans back home and back to their communities, if they renounce violence and choose peace. During this auspicious occasion (of Hajj), Afghans join millions of their Muslim brothers and sisters from around the world to seek forgiveness from Allah and pray for lasting peace and harmony in their country. May their wishes be fulfilled and their prayers accepted.

Friend or foe, the Afghan people have known great suffering during these decades of conflict. Sadly, this has been due to the selfish arrogance of only a few. The vast majority of Afghan people did nothing to create this and certainly did not wish it upon themselves. They have suffered dearly due to ruthless tactics from the enemies of peace that have indiscriminately killed and wounded scores of innocent Afghan civilians. But, despite the difficulties and the hardships, you have endured, and you have continued to strive for your nation and its future. And we are here standing by you to help you achieve a durable peace which serves the mutual interest of our nations and the nations of this region.

I am reminded of these sacrifices every day: brave Afghan villagers standing against forces of oppression; Afghan government employees who dutifully stand firm in the face of death threats to work to establish their own government and serve their nation; and the outstanding soldiers and police men and women of the Afghan National Security Forces who put themselves in harm’s way, day after day, with a mission to provide Afghanistan the security and stability to prosper.

The sacrifices ISAF and the Afghan people make together – shahna ba shahna – every day, is further proof of our mutual and abiding respect as partners in this shared struggle to protect Afghanistan from its enemies and give this great land the peaceful future its sons and daughters deserve. This bond, forged through the brotherhood of arms, fostered by the partnership of understanding, and given voice by the language of friendship and partnership – our sacrifices have not been in vain.

Each day, Afghans are learning new skills, working to provide for their families, standing up for their communities, and labouring to build a new, more hopeful Afghanistan. With each step of progress, our shared enemy has come to realize that they cannot tear down what the Afghan people are building up. The enemies of peace are not Mujahedin or martyrs, but murderers; and their violence, assassinations, and attacks will not frighten the Afghan people into submission.

Taliban fighters, too, are growing weary of their leaders – who stay off the battlefield, deciding instead to issue orders from the comforts of foreign lands. Because they have lost territory, support, morale, and the will to fight, many of these fighters are considering reintegration and choosing a future of hope and promise for themselves, their families, and their communities.

It is this future that those who oppose the Afghan Government must consider this winter as they gather with their families. They should reflect on their past actions and how these actions added to the suffering of innocent people. As the enemies of peace seek shelter from the cold, they must also seek shelter from the evil they have committed against the innocent people of Afghanistan – end it now and join in the Afghan-led peace process. They must know that they have an alternative and they face a choice: renounce violence and reintegrate back into their communities to walk down a path of hope, tolerance and peace; or return to the battlefield, to be killed or captured.

Like Prophet Ibrahim (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him), disgruntled Taliban fighters too must test their faith in Allah and consider the sacrifices they must make to embrace the peace process as an increasing tide of their countrymen are beginning to do. For it is only through a united faith in Allah which will enable the people of this great nation to build an Afghanistan together that determines its own path ahead, provides for its many children, and embraces its own new and hopeful future.

Throughout Afghanistan, the Afghan National Security Forces are standing up as an institution of national unity to provide protection, security, and hope to the Afghan people. The International Coalition will continue to stand with the ANSF and the Afghan people – we will remain here to help Afghanistan as long as we are needed, as part of a long-term and enduring partnership with the Afghan people. Ultimately, however, Afghans themselves must continue to reject the ruthlessness and rigidity of the Taliban who, as has been shown again and again, do not offer any hope for the future of this great nation. Ultimately, only Afghans can truly dictate to the Taliban the peaceful future that you determine is right for Afghanistan.

We seek to build an Afghanistan that is for the Afghan people – with Stability, Peace, and Prosperity for Afghan brothers and sisters for many generations to come. I invite the Taliban fighters to renounce violence and to come back to your families and communities to be a part of that future.

As Commander of ISAF, I can assure you that we will continue to stand with the ANSF and the Afghan people as we work to realize our shared hope and aspiration for this great country. We will continue to stand with the Afghan people to work alongside you, and build alongside you – until our shared vision of an Afghanistan for the Afghan people is realized and our dream of peace and prosperity for generations of Afghanistan’s children becomes a reality.

May peace and blessings of Allah be with you upon this Eid.

Manana, Tashakkur and Akhtar Mu Mubarak (may you enjoy a blessed festival).

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Thematic Category: Rights & Freedoms, War & Peace