Statement on known Taliban website may indicate that leaders are retreating from alliance with al-Qaida
The Taliban have issued an English-language statement claiming they pose no international threat a move that will fuel the debate among US and European policymakers over whether the hardline Afghan insurgent group can be split away from the international militants of al-Qaida.
The statement came amid reports that Barack Obama's military advisers are shifting the focus of US operations to target al-Qaida in Pakistan while downplaying the threat posed to America by the Taliban.
But 36 hours after the statement was released, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a massive suicide bomb targeting the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed at least 17 people.
Published yesterday on the eighth anniversary of the first coalition strikes on Afghanistan in 2001, the communique declared the militants' aim to be the "obtainment of independence and establishment of an Islamic system".
"We did not have any agenda to harm other countries including Europe nor we have such agenda today," said the statement, which was posted on a known Taliban website. "Still, if you want to turn the country of the proud and pious Afghans into a colony, then know that we have an unwavering determination and have braced for a prolonged war."
The statement's authenticity is yet to be confirmed, but the claim would appear to be evidence at the very least that the Taliban are seeking to influence the strategic argument in the west.