By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said Monday that the insurgents' strategy aims to increase operations nationwide and battle the U.S.-led coalition in a war of attrition.
But in a sign that NATO's campaign against the Taliban may be hurting the militants far more than they have acknowledged, Mullah Omar also appealed for funding from Muslims around the world.
Mullah Omar, who has not been seen in public since being driven from power following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., said the Taliban wants to boost operations across Afghanistan to "compel the enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them through tactical raids."
In his message for Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, the Taliban leader also claimed that NATO forces were in Afghanistan for the "achievement of some colonialist objectives and goals, so it is the religious and humane obligation of the Afghans to stand up."
The U.S.-led coalition has ramped up its military campaign against the Taliban in their southern stronghold, capturing or killing hundreds of insurgent leaders. A senior coalition official has said the military has been averaging more than 200 special forces operations a month, with more than half resulting in the capture or killing of the targeted insurgents.
Mullah Omar appealed for funds in his holiday message, which suggests that NATO operations may be taking a toll on the insurgents.
"The people are grappling with hardship and poverty. But the Afghans have embraced all these sufferings out of commitment to the great cause of establishment of rules of the Holy Quran and the defense of the Islamic faith," he said, asking that Muslims "perform your obligation of fraternity in your material wealth."
He also reiterated Taliban denials that the insurgents were open to talks with the Afghan government. President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to find a political solution to the insurgency.
Mullah Omar accused Karzai's government of being full of people who are tools of the West and "not interested in the future and prosperity of the country."
"They are only hankering after filling their pockets with money and fleecing the masses," the Taliban leader said. He called on those in the government "to desist from supporting the invaders."
NATO said that Mullah Omar's message was not meant for Afghans but for the international community.
"We believe this message is targeted at the international audience more than Afghan audiences. The language is more nationalistic and anti-colonial; a departure from past messages," said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman.
He added that Mullah Omar's message includes more criticism against the international media than in the past.
"The Taliban cannot use facts to explain away their setbacks in and around Kandahar City, the civilian casualties they continue to cause deliberately and through indiscriminate methods like improvised explosive devices, and their intimidation of Afghan civilians wherever they are able."
A coalition intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mullah Omar pointed out in his message that some of his commanders had not been strictly following his guidance banning the kidnapping and killing of civilians. Insurgents killed 15 civilians last week, according to the coalition.
"Pay attention to the life and property of the civilians so that ... your jihad activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life of people," he said.