Page last updated at 08:20 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Taleban vow to win Afghan fight

US Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan (file pic)
The incoming US president has vowed to send more troops

The Taleban's senior spokesman has used a rare radio interview to call for all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan.

Speaking by telephone from a secret location in the region, Zabihullah Mujahid also derided US President-elect Barack Obama.

Fielding questions from BBC World Service listeners, he said Mr Obama's plans to deploy more troops would not defeat the Afghan insurgency.

The interview came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited London for talks.

Mr Karzai met Prime Minister Gordon Brown amid suggestions that the UK was considering whether to send more troops to southern Afghanistan.

Britain - which lost two soldiers in an explosion in Garmsir, southern Afghanistan, on Wednesday - currently has some 8,100 troops in the country.

Mr Karzai told the BBC he did not ask for the UK to send more troops, and admitted that his own government would need to do "a million times better" to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.

He also called on the US and Nato to seize the opportunity of improved relations with Pakistan.

Mr Karzai said it was time to translate this opportunity into an effective strategy in the fight against terrorism.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been strained in the past, especially over Taleban sanctuaries in Pakistani territory.

Mr Karzai said the fight against the Taleban would not be won just by increasing the number of foreign troops; the right strategy would include going after Taleban and al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan.

Defiant Taleban

Speaking on the BBC's World Have Your Say programme, Mr Mujahid answered listeners for almost an hour, and took follow-up questions from the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner.

Karzai: Afghan government needs to do "a million times better"

He said the Taleban now controlled more than half of Afghanistan, and were running those areas in a more tolerant fashion than in previous years.

Under Taleban rule between 1997 and 2001 Afghans lived in a highly restrictive society governed by Islamic sharia law.

Executions by beheading were frequent, girls and women were banned from education, and music was among the many "Western" influences banned by the mullahs who ran the country.

However, Mr Mujahid told the BBC that the Taleban had now stopped beheadings and were educating girls in areas under their control. He denied they were behind this week's acid attack on schoolgirls in Kandahar.

The spokesman denied his movement financed itself from the drugs trade, a statement our correspondent says is unlikely to be taken seriously in Western capitals.

He criticised the US for attacking Afghanistan in 2001, and said there was no proof that Osama Bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Al-Qaeda, he said, had been brought to Afghanistan by the Americans, not by the Taleban.

He said he had no idea where Osama Bin Laden was but did confirm that the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar - who has not been seen since 2001 - was hiding "in a secure place".

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