KABUL, Afghanistan -- On the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban issued a bellicose statement accusing the United States of using the "September incident" as a pretext for an unjust war.
After nearly 11 years of war, the movement declared that the "criminal warmongers" -- the United States and its allies in the NATO force -- were "fleeing the battleground, one after the other."
"America ... is facing utter defeat in Afghanistan militarily, politically, economically and in all other facets, and it has exhausted all other means through which to prolong its illegal war," it added.
The statement comes at a time of discord within the Taliban movement over whether to move toward negotiations with the United States or to wait until after 2014, by which time most NATO troops are scheduled to have gone home. The Taliban leadership has publicly spurned the notion of talks with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
While taking a typically bombastic tone, the movement also appeared to be inching closer to acceding to one of the demands of the West and the Karzai administration: that the Taliban renounce ties to Al Qaeda and other terror groups based outside Afghanistan. The Taliban sheltered Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants before and after the 9/11 attacks, until the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001 drove the movement from power.
Though the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain nominal allies, their goals had diverged even before the death of Bin Laden in a U.S. raid last year.
"We are neither a threat to anyone, nor will we let our soil be used to harm anyone," said the statement, which was issued in the name of Zabiullah Mujahid, a name used by various Taliban spokesmen.
-- Laura King
Photo: Afghan President Hamid Karzai, shown above at a ceremony late last month. Credit: Ahmad Massoud / Xinhua / Associated Press