After Biden Says Taliban Is Not America’s Enemy, Taliban Lashes Out at U.S. ‘Occupation’ of Iraq

By Patrick Goodenough | December 21, 2011 | 4:53 AM EST

Taliban fighters pose in October 2006 in Afghanistan’s Zabul province. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

( – As controversy greeted Vice President Joe Biden’s assertion that the Taliban “is not our enemy,” the militant Afghan movement on Tuesday launched a verbal assault against the United States, demanding that it pay compensation and that its leaders be put on trial for the “nine year occupation of Iraq.”

In a statement attributed to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, the group accused the U.S. of invading Iraq in 2003 in a bid to “control its rich mineral resources and fill its belly with oil.”

But despite spending a trillion dollars and losing thousands of American soldiers, the Taliban said, “it was the will of Allah Almighty that in this Muslim country, the neck of imperialism would be broken, its plots and determination made fruitless and it would be forced to flee empty handed in the end.”

The U.S. should be forced to account for its actions in Iraq.

“The nations of the world must put pressure on the United Nations and other international organizations to drag and put on trial those perpetrators of the American administration who had a role in burning the Iraqi people in the flames of gunpowder for nearly a decade under false pretexts,” Mujahid declared.

“It is the due right of the Iraqi people to expose the American authority and to ask for a heavy compensation for causing the catastrophic destruction of Iraq.”

The statement was released two days after the last U.S. soldiers withdrew from Iraq, eight years and nine months after a U.S.-led coalition entered the country to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime.

The Taliban tirade also came a day after Newsweek magazine published extracts of a Dec. 15 interview with Biden, in which the vice president made the comments about the Taliban.

Answering questions about U.S. vital interests in Afghanistan, Biden argued that the U.S. went into that country after al-Qaeda attacked America in Sept. 2001 “to fundamentally alter their capacity to do damage to American allies and vital U.S. interests, to fundamentally alter that. We have done that.”

The discussion turned to whether the U.S. could live with an Afghanistan in which the Taliban remained a factor.

“We’re engaged in a reconciliation process. Whether it will work or not is another question,” Biden said. “But we are in a position where if Afghanistan ceased and desisted from being a haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America and their allies, that’s good enough. That’s good enough. We’re not there yet.

“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical,” he continued. “There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests.”

The vice president went on to say that the U.S. aimed to put the Kabul government in a position where it was strong enough to negotiate with the Taliban, without being overthrown by it.

The administration’s long stated position is that it supports an Afghan government-led reconciliation process, on condition Taliban leaders pledge to stop fighting, end support for al-Qaeda, and abide by the Afghan constitution.

During a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked whether Biden regretted making the Taliban comments, and replied, “not at all.”

“We didn’t invade Afghanistan – we did not send U.S. military personnel into Afghanistan because the Taliban were in power,” he said. “They had been in power. We sent – we went into Afghanistan because al-Qaeda had launched an attack against the United States from Afghanistan.”

While the U.S. is fighting the Taliban, Carney said, “the elimination of the Taliban is not the issue here.”

“The objective that the president laid out when he laid out his Afghanistan strategy made clear that the number one principle here is to defeat, dismantle – or disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al-Qaeda as well as help stabilize Afghanistan. And that’s what we’re doing.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a statement criticized the comments.

“If Vice President Biden is to be believed, both he and President Obama think the Taliban ‘is not our enemy.’ This statement is bizarre, factually wrong, and an outrageous affront to our troops carrying out the fight in Afghanistan,” he said.

“The statement is typical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy of appeasement, which sends a weak signal to our enemies around the world and undermines our standing abroad,” Romney added. Obama and Biden should both “immediately explain themselves.”

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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