Image: Image: Taliban Chief Mullah Omar
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Mullah Omar, Taliban leader, is shown in an unddated photo.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/15/2010 7:43:08 PM ET 2010-11-16T00:43:08

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said Monday that the insurgents' strategy aims to increase operations nationwide and battle the U.S.-led coalition in a war of attrition.

But in a sign that NATO's campaign against the Taliban may be hurting the militants far more than they have acknowledged, Mullah Omar also appealed for funding from Muslims around the world.

Mullah Omar, who has not been seen in public since being driven from power following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., said the Taliban wants to boost operations across Afghanistan to "compel the enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them through tactical raids."

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In his message for Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, the Taliban leader also claimed that NATO forces were in Afghanistan for the "achievement of some colonialist objectives and goals, so it is the religious and humane obligation of the Afghans to stand up."

The U.S.-led coalition has ramped up its military campaign against the Taliban in their southern stronghold, capturing or killing hundreds of insurgent leaders. A senior coalition official has said the military has been averaging more than 200 special forces operations a month, with more than half resulting in the capture or killing of the targeted insurgents.

Mullah Omar appealed for funds in his holiday message, which suggests that NATO operations may be taking a toll on the insurgents.

'Grappling with hardship'
"The people are grappling with hardship and poverty. But the Afghans have embraced all these sufferings out of commitment to the great cause of establishment of rules of the Holy Quran and the defense of the Islamic faith," he said, asking that Muslims "perform your obligation of fraternity in your material wealth."

He also reiterated Taliban denials that the insurgents were open to talks with the Afghan government. President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to find a political solution to the insurgency.

Mullah Omar accused Karzai's government of being full of people who are tools of the West and "not interested in the future and prosperity of the country."

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"They are only hankering after filling their pockets with money and fleecing the masses," the Taliban leader said. He called on those in the government "to desist from supporting the invaders."

Karzai has included eventual talks with the Taliban as part of a wider reconciliation plan but Afghan and U.S. officials have played down confused and unconfirmed reports about talks with high-level insurgents, saying any contacts so far have only been preliminary.

Karzai's peace plan also will be addressed in Lisbon, with Afghanistan setting the ambitious target of 2014 for its forces to take over complete security responsibility .

NATO said that Mullah Omar's message was not meant for Afghans but for the international community.

Aimed at global audience
"We believe this message is targeted at the international audience more than Afghan audiences. The language is more nationalistic and anti-colonial; a departure from past messages," said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman.

He added that Mullah Omar's message includes more criticism against the international media than in the past.

"The Taliban cannot use facts to explain away their setbacks in and around Kandahar City, the civilian casualties they continue to cause deliberately and through indiscriminate methods like improvised explosive devices, and their intimidation of Afghan civilians wherever they are able."

A coalition intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mullah Omar pointed out in his message that some of his commanders had not been strictly following his guidance banning the kidnapping and killing of civilians. Insurgents killed 15 civilians last week, according to the coalition.

"Pay attention to the life and property of the civilians so that ... your jihad activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life of people," he said.

There seems little hope of an immediate end to the violence. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said on Monday five of its troops had been killed in a clash with insurgents in the east on Sunday, its worst loss in a single incident in six months.

At least 645 have been killed so far in 2010, by far the deadliest year of the war.

Also on Monday, the Taliban said it had fired rockets at an ISAF base in eastern Kunar province, setting ablaze a huge fuel container. In the north, nine police and militia and eight insurgents were killed in a pitched gunbattle in Kunduz.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Karzai calls for lower profile for U.S. troops

  1. Transcript of: Karzai calls for lower profile for U.S. troops

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Just a week before the US and NATO allies sit down in Portugal to discuss the future of the war in Afghanistan , Afghan President Hamid Karzai is calling on US troops to cut a lower profile and reduce the intensity of combat operations. Karzai told The Washington Post US special operations night raids, against Taliban targets in particular, have become a sore point with the Afghan people and could worsen the insurgency. NBC 's Atia Abawi has been reporting in the region for the last two years. She joins us now from Kabul . Atia , the US says the troop surge has worked, so why is Karzai suddenly asking the US to back off?

    ATIA ABAWI reporting: Well, Lester , President Karzai is being very loud and clear to both Putin as well as the Taliban leaders here in Afghanistan and Pakistan that he is ready to negotiate, that he wants the Taliban to reintegrate back into the government as well as the society here in Afghanistan . And by using The Washington Post , it's a megaphone for his message to DC politicians and it's a prominent enough newspaper for that message to make it back to the tribal regions here in Afghanistan and Pakistan so the Taliban leaders know that he's serious as well. He has admitted to speaking to very -- two very top level Taliban commanders, one that is rumored to be from the Haqqani network, a network that is notorious for killing both NATO soldiers and Afghan civilians. And many of these Taliban leaders, including those within the Haqqani network, say that they will not negotiate with the Afghan government until NATO forces leave. So he's bringing this message out. He wants the Taliban to know that he's serious, because in the last nine years -- and President Karzai 's mind-set is that he worked with the international community and there's not peace in Afghanistan yet. He feels by talking to the Taliban maybe that will bring peace into his country, and that's a gamble that he's willing to take.

    Lester: Atia Abawi in Kabul for

    HOLT:

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