By Jibran Ahmad
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Taliban leaders followed the U.S. presidential debate closely but heard nothing on Afghanistan, a spokesman said on Wednesday, adding that they were not impressed by Republican candidate Donald Trump, whom they considered “non-serious”.
The leaders watched Monday’s televised debate from a secret location in Afghanistan, but neither Trump nor Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton talked about their intentions for the country, the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said by telephone.
“The main thing that we would like the next U.S. president to do is to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors,” he said.
“Why are they hated worldwide? It’s because of their aggressive policies. They invade other people’s countries and kill innocent human beings for their vested interests.”
The election winner will have to decide future policy for what has been America’s longest war, started after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 triggered a U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in Kabul.
President Barack Obama this year shelved plans to halve the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and instead has kept 8,400 troops there until the end of his presidency, leaving further decisions to his successor.
Zabihullah also had harsh words for Trump, a political newcomer who has attacked what he calls the failed policies of the Washington political classes.
Taliban leaders considered Trump a “non-serious” candidate who said “anything that comes to his tongue,” the spokesman said.
Both Obama, in whose administration Clinton served as Secretary of State, and former President George W. Bush had wasted 15 years and billions of dollars without being able to defeat the Taliban, he added.
“There is a choice for the upcoming president, whether he or she would like to suffer human and financial losses to continue their invasion of Afghanistan or they want to let the people of Afghanistan decide their affairs,” Zabihullah said.
“If the new president doesn’t change policy, the Taliban will continue their armed struggle until they are expelled from Afghanistan.”
(Fixes typo in 4th paragraph.)
(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)