A recent controversial exchange of five Taliban commanders for one US soldier was “a spectacular achievement”, said Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar in his annual Eid festival message.
“Exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the political Office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement,” Omar said in a statement, released late on Friday.
In May, the insurgent movement exchanged US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for five years by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, for five top Taliban commanders, incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay prison.
The insurgent leader also said the group was able to gain prominence thanks to the deal.
“Many entities that used to oppose us now have come around to accept the Islamic Emirate as a reality.”
Islamic Emirate is the official name of the Taliban movement.
It was also the group’s name for Afghanistan when it ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, until its ouster in a US-led invasion.
In his Eid message, the reclusive leader also warned that a bilateral security agreement to allow US and the NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan would prolong the fighting.
“Presence of limited number of troops, under whatever title it may be, will mean continuation of occupation and the war,” he said.
Omar also said that the struggle was domestic, “aimed only at forming an independent
Islamic regime and obtaining independence of our country”.
Afghanistan is set to sign the security deal with the US to allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in training and advisory roles, as well as to conduct counterterrorism operations.
President Hamid Karzai has delayed the signing. However, both the run-off candidates in the recent election have said they would sign it.