KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban told U.S. President Donald Trump in an open letter on Tuesday that the military situation in Afghanistan was “far worse than you realize”, and sending in more troops would be self-destructive.
A senior Taliban official told Reuters the rare decision to address Trump directly was timed to coincide with the president’s deliberations on the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the lengthy English-language letter.
It criticized the Afghan government as “stooges”, “lying, corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who were providing Washington with “rosy pictures” of the military position.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, has waged an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a U.S.-led invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Those attacks were planned by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from a base in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the letter said, arguing that the only thing preventing the Taliban from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces. Influential voices including Republican Senator John McCain have also urged an “enduring” U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
But such plans have faced scepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration was “very, very close” to a decision on Afghanistan, adding that all options were on the table. However, U.S officials believe it could take weeks for a South Asia strategy to be approved.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the Taliban told Trump.
“A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
Some Taliban leaders disagreed with publishing the letter as they believe the group is close to being able to end the war on its own terms, while the “Americans are no longer in a position to fight this never-ending war,” one Taliban official said.
The first official said the Taliban was open to “discuss all issues with the United States for bringing peace to Afghanistan” if American troops are withdrawn.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban letter said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention toward the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
(This story has been refiled to change second byline)
Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan