LONDON Taliban leader Mullah Omar on Monday urged U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to withdraw or face a similar defeat to occupying Soviet troops a generation ago.
In a rare message, posted on militant websites and monitored by the U.S.-based SITE intelligence group, Omar offered a bargain to the U.S.-led forces that drove the Taliban from power in 2001 but are now fighting a fierce insurgency by the Islamist militia.
"Reconsider your wrong decision of wrong occupation, and seek a safe exit to withdraw your forces," said the message, which the Taliban said came from Omar.
"If you leave our lands, we can arrange for you a reasonable opportunity for your departure," he said, adding that the Taliban posed no harm to anyone in the world.
If the occupation persisted, "you will be defeated in all parts of the world ... like the former Soviet Union," Omar said.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a Marxist government against mujahideen fighters, but was ground down by guerrilla warfare and withdrew in 1988-89.
Omar's apparently conciliatory remarks were reminiscent of statements by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in which he has offered to spare Western countries from attacks if they cease what he calls a war against Muslims. Western governments have always dismissed such offers out of hand.
(Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Giles Elgood)