Taliban congratulates Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
Photo: VITALY ARMAND /AFP)

Taliban celebrates 34th anniversary of Soviet withdrawal amid heightened internal rifts

The Taliban celebrated the 34th withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 with speeches from its senior leaders, including the defence minister and the son of Mullah Omar, the found of the group, Mullah Yaqub and foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, in Kabul on Wednesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, posted on Twitter by the group’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, it said that “the victory against the Soviets had been achieved through bravery and sacrifices of the proud nation.” Afghanistan, the statement said, “will always be an important country in the region.” And “Afghans, as they are victorious in the battlefields, are also committed to engagement and understanding with others, providing they are not trying to harm us.”

The day came amid heightened tensions within the group’s senior ranks, with some leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, publicly criticising their supreme leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada.

In a televised speech, Mullah Yaqub said:

“We fought to end the occupation and strengthen our Islamic system. We have now achieved our goal and must do everything in our power to maintain it. It is important to always listen to the legitimate demands of our nation and work tirelessly towards unifying our people. May Allah bless us with unity, and may we use our capabilities to protect our religious and national interests, while respecting and accepting one another. We must learn from our past mistakes of gaining and losing independence repeatedly. The independence we have secured now is sufficient, and we must work towards sustaining it.”

The group’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi said the group wanted to “positive” relationship with the world. The people of Afghanistan, Muttaqi said, were “obedient” of their leader, and that the presence of ISKP in Afghanistan is being exaggerated.

Khalil Haqqani a senior leader in the Haqqani Network, the uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani and the minister for refugees, said an Islamic government like the Taliban’s didn’t exist in the world. “We need to support the Islamic Emirate,” he added.

Some former Mujahidin leaders and commanders, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, made their own statements on social media.

Mohammad Mohaqqiq, the leader of Islamic Unity Party of the People of Afghanistan, tweeted that “The withdrawal of the Eastern Block and three decades later of the US from Afghanistan, teaches us that governments not wanted by the people cannot be kept by force, which applies to the Taliban too.”

Atta Mohammad Noor, the leader of a faction of Jamiat Party also congratulated the victory over the Soviets by posting photos of himself alongside former leaders, including Ahmad Shah Massoud.

On 15 February 1989, the last convoy of Soviet forces crossed over the bridge separating Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, ending its 9 year occupation of the country.