TALIBAN SPOKESMAN SEES “PRESCRIPTION OF DEMOCRACY” AS PART OF U.S. MILITARY STRATEGY
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gave an interview to the media service of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” on February 23 concerning the “current political and military situation” in Afghanistan. The interview was carried by a number of jihadi websites (Ansar1.info, February 24).
Zabihullah begins by addressing the efforts in Kabul to launch a session of the new parliament five months after a vote that was marked by fraud and court challenges. Following an extended dispute, parliamentarians have finally agreed on Uzbek warlord Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi as the new Speaker of Parliament, the last step in enabling the new parliament to begin work (Reuters, February 27). Zabihullah, however, views the parliament as “part of the invaders’ military strategy,” fulfilling a “strategic military need” for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban spokesman explained the rationale of foreign support for the “fake parliament” – efforts of the invaders to “enforce their ‘prescription’ of democracy” have resulted in a “popular elected government and parliament; hence no one has the right to continue their struggle against the elected government.” By “purchasing” puppet MPs, the foreign invaders will succeed in obtaining a long-term strategic alliance with Afghanistan that will allow a continued foreign military presence. Zabihullah challenges the legitimacy of the new government, suggesting the parliamentarians “are accountable for crimes and corruption” and their work will be limited to “pocketing salaries.”
Claims by General David Petraeus that the Coalition is making progress in securing Afghanistan are also challenged by the Taliban spokesman, who responds that such statements are made under “great political pressure” given the enormous cost of the occupation in lives and public funds: It is a known fact that the invaders have been defeated in Afghanistan, but they continue their propaganda through which they want to compel the world to believe in their so-called progress in Afghanistan.” Zabihullah cites a report by an unnamed European security firm that claimed there was a 64% increase in Taliban attacks in 2010.
Responding to claims by Kabul’s National Directorate for Security that 1,500 Taliban militants have switched sides in northern Afghanistan, Zabihullah says the mujahideen are actually gaining momentum in the north and that Kabul is attempting to introduce various warlords as Taliban before claiming their defection to the government (Central Asia Online, February 11).
The Taliban see a direct connection between the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the economic crisis in the West: “Fortunately, [the occupiers] were faced with distressing resistance and for ten long years they have been trapped in a ruinous war. As a result, the Coalition countries, particularly America, are suffering a terrible economic depression.”
However, Zabihullah believes public opposition to the war is growing in the West as politicians begin to waver in their support for the ongoing and unusually lengthy conflict. The Taliban spokesman concludes by raising the specter of the Vietnam War, where Americans “had dreadful experiences and even up until today every American has a particular sense of fear and terror about it; hence, in such a situation the invasion and overrunning of a war-torn, small Afghanistan, which seemed very easy and almost costless to them, turned out to be very difficult and enormously expensive.”
OROMO LIBERATION FRONT CALLS FOR “EGYPTIAN AND TUNISIAN-STYLE REVOLUTION” IN ETHIOPIA
Political reverberations from the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt continue to sweep through the Horn of Africa, which has already witnessed demonstrations against the Transitional Federal Government and its Islamist opponents in Somalia (see Terrorism Monitor Briefs, February 17). Now militants belonging to Ethiopia’s Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have called for all of Ethiopia’s ethnic and religious groups to emulate the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts and unite in deposing the Tigrayan-dominated government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, leader of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the major element of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.
In a statement broadcast in both Afan Oromo and Amharic, the OLF maintained that only a revolution in the streets could command the attention of the West: “Until [Addis Ababa] becomes the next Tunis or Cairo, their ears will not listen,” though “most of the superpower countries, the hitherto supporters and handlers of the tyrannical regimes, were forced to quickly abandon their darlings and side with the people in revolt.” Most importantly, the Oromo must unite with Ethiopia’s Amharic speakers to provide a long-term solution to the country’s ills (Jimma Times, February 27).
The Oromo are the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia and dwell principally in central and southern Ethiopia, though there is a high degree of social integration with Ethiopia’s Amharic-speaking peoples, the traditional rulers of the nation until 1991. The Oromo are religiously diverse, with members of the ethnic group following Islam, Christianity and traditional religions, but not all Oromo opposition leaders and parties agree on the necessity of a revolution.
In recent days, a joint operation along the border by Ethiopian and Kenyan military forces that began last November is reported to have resulted in the arrest of at least 120 OLF fighters and the seizure of a quantity of arms, grenades and missiles. The existence of a cross-border Oromo community is reported to have complicated efforts to identify OLF members; according to a local Kenyan provincial commissioner, “These people speak the local dialect and it may be hard to distinguish them from the locals but the locals themselves are volunteering information that will lead to their arrest.” The operation will continue to search for other OLF members (Sudan Tribune, February 26).
The OLF began an armed struggle for Oromo self-determination and local autonomy from the Amhara monarchy in 1973. After dropping out of the coalition government formed after the conclusion of the Ethiopian civil war and the fall of the communist Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, the OLF then took up arms against the new Tigrayan-dominated government. Addis Ababa classifies the OLF as a terrorist organization and has accused it of being responsible for a series of bombings in Addis Ababa in 2008, a claim denied by the OLF (see the OLF statement published in the Sudan Tribune, May 29, 2008).
Despite assertions by Ethiopian authorities that the military capabilities of the OLF and its armed wing, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have been much diminished by constant pressure from government security services, the movement recently claimed that a special unit of the OLA operating in the OLF’s so-called “Eastern Zone” raided and destroyed a government military base in Kombolcha, killing 19 soldiers and injuring 25 others (Voice of Oromo Liberation Radio, February 25; OLF News, February 26; for OLF military capabilities, see Militant Leadership Monitor Briefs, January 29, 2010). The attack and the alleged casualties have not been confirmed by government sources. Kombolcha is 12km from the commercial center of Harar. The OLA has also claimed responsibility for the February assassination of a government intelligence official in the Eastern Oromia district who was accused of harassing members of the local Oromo community. An OLA statement warned: “Those who continue to be part of the TPLF killing machine will face the same death penalty unless they refrain from such evil acts” (OLF News, February 6; Jimma Times, February 9).