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Asia Crisis

Afghan Taliban says more U.S. troops won't help

(For more on Afghanistan, click on [ID:nAFPAK])

KABUL, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar said on Wednesday any new war strategy decided by Washington, including sending more troops, was doomed to fail and again rejected Kabul's calls for negotiations.

In a rare public statement, posted in English on a Taliban website (www.alemarah.info/english/) on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, the reclusive Taliban leader also called on Afghans to break off ties with their "stooge" government.

U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to "finish the job" in Afghanistan and is expected to announce next week whether he will send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to quell a growing Taliban insurgency.

In one part of Omar's statement he addresses "the rulers of the White House and the belligerent Americans", saying America and its allies faced a "certain" defeat in Afghanistan and no strategy, including additional troops, would help.

"This is a defeat which can't be averted by reinforcement and formulation of successive irrational strategies. It is better for you to choose the path of rationale instead of militarism and put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan," the statement said.

There are already around 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans. More than half of the American troops have arrived since Obama took office in January, some already ordered in by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Despite growing numbers of foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan this year has reached its worst levels since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.

Qari Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, said the statement attributed to Omar was genuine.

Similar messages have appeared before on the Taliban website, but Omar has not appeared in public for years and his whereabouts and health status are not known.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, inaugurated last week for his second five-year term, has called for reconciliation with the militants. His office has said the insurgents could be called to attend a "loya jirga", or grand council meeting.

However, the Taliban have consistently rejected calls for talks with the Afghan government as long as there are foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"The invaders do not want negotiation aimed at granting independence to Afghanistan and ending their invasion but they want negotiation which will prolong their evil process of colonization and occupation," the statement said.

Omar also called on the Afghan people to support the militants and not Karzai's government.

"I hope you will help the sacrificing mujahideen of the path of freedom and strengthen their ranks with your persons and wealth ... and break off all relations with the stooge Kabul Administration," Omar said in the statement.

U.S. commanders believe the reclusive, one-eyed Taliban leader has been hiding in Pakistan since he was driven from power in 2001 after refusing to turn over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that year.

The Taliban deny their leader is in Pakistan and say he is living in Afghanistan.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Paul Tait) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see:

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) ((jonathon.burch@thomsonreuters.com; +93 794 354 074; Reuters Messaging: jonathon.burch.reuters.com@reuters.net)) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to newsfeedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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