Taliban supreme leader warns foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan
KABUL – The Taliban’s supreme leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada has once again warned foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan during a rare speech at a gathering of Islamic clerics in Kabul on Friday, according to state media.
The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan “cannot develop without being independent,” according to state-run Bakhtar News Agency. “Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) should not give us their orders, it is our system, and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.
In the speech, Akhundzada praised the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last August, almost two decades after they were driven from Kabul by US troops, saying: “The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims all over the world.”
The speed of the takeover, just weeks after the starts of the withdrawal of US troops, took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country.
Akhundzada made the comments in an audio recording during a three-day religious gathering of 3,000 attendees — all of whom were male, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but CNN listened to the recording of Akhundzada’s speech. The gathering in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzada is based in Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace and spiritual heartland, is rarely photographed in public, a fact that has fueled rumors over the years that he was sick or possibly dead. No photographs of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday, have been released.
A senior religious cleric from the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada, was named as the Taliban’s leader in 2016 after the group’s previous leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.
He retained the post when the group announced its interim government back in September.
Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, although he said he “forgave” them.