'Ours is a Global Struggle': An Interview With Taliban Military Chief Mansoor Dadullah
Two weeks ago, ABC News broadcast images of a bizarre so-called "graduation ceremony" taking place somewhere in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The host of the event was none other than Mansoor Dadullah: the newly appointed military chief of the Taliban. The "graduates" consisted of supposed candidates for suicide attacks who, having completed their "training," were allegedly being dispatched to the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Germany: all countries with troops in Afghanistan.
Mansoor Dadullah is the younger brother of the late Mullah Dadullah: the former Taliban military chief who was killed by coalition forces in mid-May. Mansoor was himself held prisoner by the Afghan government until mid-March, when he was one of a group of Taliban released in exchange for the liberation of kidnapped Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo.
The Taliban "graduation ceremony" documented in the ABC report was filmed on June 9 by a Pakistani journalist. Two days earlier, on June 7, the same journalist conducted an interview with Mansoor Dadullah on behalf of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. The questions were provided by Weltwoche correspondent Urs Gehriger and his Afghan colleague Sami Yousafzai. The interview was filmed and the footage is in the possession of Sami Yousafzai.
World Politics Review here presents the Weltwoche interview with Mansoor Dadullah. The English translation was prepared by Sami Yousafzai and the Weltwoche on the basis of the Pashto transcript.
What is your name?
My name is Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, by the grace of Allah, and I am 35 years old.
Are you Mullah Dadullah's brother?
Yes. I am Mullah Dadullah's younger brother.
Are you the new Taliban leader in the Helmand region?
Your brother was known as a ruthless and determined leader, even among his own people. Do you intend to follow in his footsteps?
If Allah is willing I will follow in his footsteps, continue his military tactics, and lead a new front of suicide attackers.
Which areas are currently under Taliban control?
We have vast areas under our control, by the grace of Allah. In Helmand, for example, we control eight districts. We also rule over Kandahar, Urozghan, Ghazni, Kalat, Jalalabad and Kunar. The government's military power is virtually confined to the cities, while we control the countryside.
Mansoor Dadullah during his interview with Die Weltwoche.
The so-called "spring offensive" does not seem to have been as successful as you had hoped. What went wrong?
It was not a failure: the offensive has only just begun. Mullah Omar [the Taliban's supreme leader] calls the offensive "Kameen" [attack]. And indeed, in the near future it will be increasing in vehemence and scope.
What is your relationship to the population of Afghanistan?
Our relationship to the people is marked by respect and friendship, by the grace of Allah. We can count on the people's respect. In fact, their vigorous support is the main reason for our success.
When you were in power you initiated a reign of terror. Why should the population be behind you?
That isn't true. Our government did not use terror, we sacrificed ourselves for Islam.
What do you offer people in return for their support?
We have done a great deal for the people. While we were in power the Afghans enjoyed something that the occupying forces from 42 countries have not been able to provide them since: security. You could even leave a sack of gold lying in your car. The people lived in security. Muslim dignity was preserved. The coalition troops call the Taliban terrorists. In reality we lived in peace, and they brought death and destruction to Afghanistan. Even the Taliban's enemies admit that Afghanistan was more secure under our control than it is now.
Do you consider Karzai's government your enemy?
We view Karzai and all of the occupiers as one and the same foe, we don't distinguish among them.
What must Karzai and his government do in order to begin talking with you?
President Karzai has done nothing to make us believe he is a trustworthy partner for discussions. He sold the dignity of the Afghans. The Afghan women, old men and young boys are badly treated by the occupiers, and Karzai has done nothing to protect them.
Italy has proposed holding an international conference in which the Taliban would participate, and certain governments have welcomed the idea. Do you think such a meeting would be possible?
I do not believe that the Taliban will be included. But if we do receive an invitation, our leadership will decide how to respond.
What sort of regime would you like to establish in Afghanistan?
It is perfectly obvious to the Taliban as well as to the international community that we strive to erect a state in accordance with the provisions of Islamic law and the religion of Allah.
You have always fought against modernity -- television, radio, music, etc. Why are you using these new technologies?
Television and the media of mass communication have become indispensable aids in our effort to get our message across to a broad public. We use them with care and with the exclusive aim of reaching the hearts of Muslims.
How and from whom do you receive financial support?
Our financing comes from the Muslim community around the world.
Who pays for your weapons?
When the Russians were leveling Afghanistan, our country was transformed by the international powers into an arsenal. We circumvented the official government channels and laid up stores. The rumors that have been spread in recent times concerning weapons from Iran and other countries are false; we already have more than enough weapons in Afghanistan.
In 2000 the Taliban forbade the cultivation of opium for religious reasons. Why are you permitting it now?
We have not legalized opium farming. When we were in power we eliminated the opium problem with one single command. Since our country was wrested out of our hands, the farmers have begun cultivating opium again. Karzai and the 42 coalition countries cannot stop them.
What is the relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban?
We enjoy warm and friendly relations. We share their main aims.
Is it true that the Taliban have placed themselves under the control of Osama Bin Laden's organization?
No. The Taliban are independent. Al-Qaida is a separate organization. But we are united hand in hand in our cause with Bin Laden.
The Taliban ruled unmolested for years. Your government did not collapse until after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Did you ever have doubts about the sense of supporting Bin Laden?
No. We do not have any doubts, by the grace of Allah, we are proud of what we have done and will always be proud of it. History will prove us right. One day people will talk about the heroic people who sacrificed themselves for an Islamic state. We have not made our sacrifices for Bin Laden, but rather for the laws of Islam.
Don't you think it is a mistake to support Bin Laden?
It is not a mistake. It is the duty of every believer to help Osama Bin Laden. We are proud of it and will continue to do it.
Who decides about attacks on the Karzai government and on foreigners, the Taliban or al-Qaida?
Jihad is the duty of every Muslim, and every Muslim is determined to take part in jihad. It doesn't matter who gives the orders.
Who are the Taliban now? Are they the same sort of people as those who fought against the Russians?
Taliban are Taliban, it isn't their age that matters but their spirit and their determination. Some of us fought against the Russians, but many are young and are learning from the veterans.
How large are the Taliban forces now?
They are growing steadily. If we were 1000 yesterday, today we are 1500 and tomorrow we will be 3000. It is difficult to count all of our soldiers.
How many men do you have directly under your command?
There are 120 commanders under my command. Each one of them has a certain number of sub-commanders, who in turn each have a group of soldiers under them. So you see we have a lot of people in our ranks.
Where are your training camps?
We have various camps at appropriate locations in Afghanistan, and more are being added all the time.
Are the soldiers still mostly students of religion?
Yes. Most of them have completed religious schooling.
Who teaches the Taliban how to use their weapons?
War is the best teacher. The veterans of the struggle against the Russians also pass on their craft to the new soldiers. I am myself one of them, I took part in the struggle against the Russians as a young man. What is more, we know how to handle such things as tanks and airplanes from our time in power.
Do you train suicide attackers yourselves?
We have a range of camps for suicide attackers, and, by the grace of Allah, they are fully staffed, and training is well underway.
How do you recruit these candidates for death?
The main work is done by our enemies, the crusaders. The terror used by the infidel in such places as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the Afghan prisons in Baghram and Kandahar is a catalyst for young Muslims. When you see the humiliations to which Muslims are subjected in those places at the hands of the infidel, you thirst for revenge and are prepared to sacrifice yourself.
Are there foreigners among the suicide attackers?
Yes, by the grace of Allah, we have Muslims joining us from many countries.
From many countries, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Isn't it harmful to your struggle when you blow up innocent civilians?
We try our best to spare civilians. And in fact we do not kill them. At least not intentionally. In order to avoid civilian casualties we warn civilians to stay away from our enemies.
Who are your enemies? The West?
Anyone who rejects the Holy Koran and Islam is our enemy.
Is Italy your enemy?
Italy sent troops to Afghanistan, so why shouldn't Italy be our enemy?
Do you see yourselves as part of the global war against the West, or is your struggle restricted to Afghanistan?
Jihad is a duty for every upstanding Muslim. Jihad must not be restricted to Afghanistan or Iraq. Ours is a global struggle, and I have promised Allah that I will spread it across the world until the end of my days.
How does the situation in Iraq and the Middle East affect your struggle?
It has a positive influence rather than a negative one. The war in Iraq and in Palestine keeps us supplied with soldiers and weapons.
Why did the Taliban spare the life of the Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, but not his driver and translator?
We believe the journalist was a spy. His Afghan assistants, Ajmal Naqshbandi and Sayed Agha, were spies. That is why we killed them.
If they were spies, for whom were they working?
Daniele Mastrogiacomo was a spy for the Italian troops and for the occupiers. His driver [Agha] was a spy for the Karzai regime, while his translator, Ajmal, worked in the international camp in Baghram. His uncle was the administrator of Baghram district.
The Italian government claims it negotiated for the release of all three. Is that true?
The Italian government worked exclusively for the release of Mastrogiacomo. They never mentioned the names of Sayed Agha and Naqshbandi.
How was Mastrogiacomo set free?
I was in prison and cannot comment. Ask the people who were involved in the negotiations. I was taken by Rahmatullah Hanafi to the place where Daniele Mastrogiacomo was being kept. Rahmatullah Hanafi then took him. [Editor's note: Rahmatullah Hanafi was an Afghan employee of the Italian NGO "Emergency" who served as an intermediary in the prisoner exchange.]
Who was exchanged for Mastrogiacomo?
In addition to me, Hafiz Hamdullah, Mullah Ghafar Akhond, Zamarak Yasser, Lufullah Hakimi and Hafiz Hamdl were set free.
Was Ajmal Naqshbandi [Mastrogiacomo's translator] taken to the place where the exchange occurred? Mastrogiacomo says he saw Ajmal be released as well.
No, that statement is a lie. No one negotiated with the Taliban for Naqshbandi. The deal only involved Mastrogiacomo. I did not see Naqshbandi where the exchange of prisoners took place. I did not see him until two or three days later.
Did the Italian government pay a ransom for Mastrogiacomo's release? And if so, how much?
No. The Italian government never talked about a deal involving Naqshbandi. [Editors' note: Dadullah seems either to have misunderstood the question or to have purposely given an evasive answer.]
Do you know the intermediary in the exchange of prisoners, Rahmatullah Hanafi?
I did not know him. I saw him for the first time at the exchange of prisoners.
Why did the Afghan secret service arrest him shortly after the exchange of prisoners?
The Afghan government does not trust its own people. That is why he was arrested.
Is not Rahmatullah one of the Taliban, as various people have suggested?
No, he is not a Talib. I had never heard his name until he told me that he was managing the exchange of prisoners.
Many western aid agencies have left the country, fearing kidnappings. Are NGOs your enemies as well?
No, we do not consider each and every NGO our enemy, only those with contact to the secret services. We do not allow such agencies to work in our country.
Since Mastrogiacomo's kidnapping, most journalists have been staying away from large parts of Afghanistan for fear of being abducted. If this becomes a general trend, soon the world will no longer know what is going on in your country. Is that your aim?
No, we are happy to receive journalists. We are interested in independent reporting with a commitment to the truth. Journalists are free to come here and give the world an accurate picture of us. But we will not tolerate any journalists spying on us and praising our enemies.
An offensive on the part of NATO and the Afghan forces is underway in the south of the country. What is the nature of your resistance, with what means are you pursuing it, and what are your chances of avoiding defeat?
We are hopeful that we will win the war with Allah's aid. We are convinced that NATO and the Americans will suffer a humiliating defeat.
Urs Gehriger is a correspondent for the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. Sami Yousafzai is a
journalist based in Peshawar, Pakistan and a frequent contributor to Die Weltwoche.