In a statement which suggests the reclusive Taliban leader is taking a more hardline approach to collateral damage than he has in years past, Mullah Omar’s new Eid al-Adha statement is admonishing insurgents to not just avoid killing civilians but to go out of their way protecting them.
Indeed, Mullah Omar goes on to threaten those insurgents who don’t follow this order, saying “if it is irrefutably proven that the blood of innocent Muslims is spilled by the negligence of mujahedin, then a penalty should be implemented in accordance with Shariah.”
Past efforts to limit Taliban violence against civilians existed, but were largely centered around Mullah Baradar, a more moderate leader who was eventually detained in Pakistan. It seems Omar, however, has finally noticed that the deaths are doing serious harm to the Taliban’s popular support.
It was a lesson that former NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal was also keen to impart on his fighters, and led him to dramatically curb the occupation forces’ aggression around civilian population centers. Since McChrystal’s replacement last year, however, NATO’s policies have again turned toward more aggressive tactics, and civilian tolls are again on the rise. Though Mullah Omar is likely to last longer than any individual NATO commander it remains to be seen if his influence will successfully change the tactics in what has become an extremely bloody war.
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