A Taliban commander has blamed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, killed last year in a US raid, for Afghanistan's destruction, saying he was relieved when bin Laden died.
"To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country," the unidentified leader said, according to a report by UK magazine New Statesman.
Former UN envoy to Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, Michael Semple, interviewed the commander on a range of topics, including the group's aims and its prospects for victory in Afghanistan.
The commander was not identified by name to enable him to speak frankly, but Semple verifies that he is "a confidant of the [Taliban] leadership" and a former Guantanamo inmate.
The commander is quoted by the New Statesman as saying that 70 percent of the Taliban were angry at al Qaeda.
"Our people consider al-Qaeda to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens," he said. "Originally, the Taliban were naive and ignorant of politics and welcomed al-Qaeda into their homes. But al-Qaeda abused our hospitality. It was in Guantanamo that I realised how disloyal the al-Qaeda people were."
The commander told Semple that the prospects for the Taliban regaining national control of Afghanistan are dim, but the leadership will never admit this for the sake of morale.
"It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war. The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect. Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel," he said.
"If they fall short of achieving national power, they have to settle for functioning as an organised party within the country."
The commander refused to talk about Pakistan, according to the quotes published by the New Statesman.
"The one thing I dare not talk about is the relationship with Pakistan," he said.
The full interview will be released Thursday in the New Statesman, but the magazine released a brief preview of the commander's statements online on Wednesday.