The Taliban have celebrated Afghanistan's Independence Day on Thursday by declaring victory over the US, which they described as a “powerful and arrogant force.”
Thursday marks the country’s independence from British colonial rule, marked by the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919, also known as the Treaty of Rawalpindi.
“Praise be to God, today we celebrate the anniversary of independence from the British occupation, while we -- by the grace of God -- and with thanks to the Jihadi resistance, have defeated another powerful and arrogant force (America) and forced it to withdraw from the pure land of Afghanistan,” the Taliban statement read.
The Taliban claimed victories against US, Soviet and British forces, holding their success to a higher power.
“There is no doubt that this divine victory was achieved by God at the hands of a helpless people like the people of Afghanistan, who defeated three arrogant empires in three successive centuries,” they said.
“It is thanks to this blessing that we work together with all honesty and sincerity to establish this Islamic system, to unite this country, to uplift it and advance it,” the statement said, adding: “We ask God to grant our Muslim people success in achieving this lofty wish for Afghanistan. Let it be ruled by the Quran, and may peace by upon you and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
A few hours later, the Taliban called on imams, or preachers, across Afghanistan to urge citizens to cooperate with the incoming government in Friday prayers, underscoring a connection they seek to bridge between the country's population and their hardline fundamentalist values.
While the militants have so far sought to present an image of themselves as more progressive than the group that ruled Afghanistan through terror two decades ago, every pledge has been caveated by a reminder of the Taliban's "core values" -- a strict interpretation of Sharia law, which experts say has not been drastically re-imagined in the space of 20 years.
Sharia law was established 1,400 years ago and can only be amended or updated with extreme care by religious scholars, experts in the region told CNN.
When last in power, the Taliban used Sharia law as justification for scores of violent and repressive punishments, including public executions. Alleged adulterers were stoned to death and suspected theft punished by amputation.
“We ask all the honorable preachers to deliver a Friday sermon tomorrow… Urging citizens to cooperate in order to build and advance the nation without trying to escape from it, and to return all cadres and wealth to the country,” the group’s Committee for Advocacy, Guidance, Recruitment, Enjoying Good and Forbidding Wrong said in a statement published by the Taliban on an official Twitter account.
The Taliban also asked preachers to deliver “a statement of interests (on the Islamic system) for the citizens, and a call for unity and agreement among the people,” and to address “the spoiled response to the enemy's negative propaganda and provocations in order to convince and reassure the people.”