ISLAMABAD - Taliban and American military officials have taken to social media to accuse each other of acting against peace building efforts in conflict-torn Afghanistan.
The spar between the two adversaries via Twitter comes as American and representatives of the insurgent group are engaged in a months-long dialogue to try to bring an end to the Afghan war. But the talks have failed to deter the Taliban from ceasing or reducing battlefield hostilities. Deadly battles between Taliban insurgents and U.S.-backed Afghan security forces in recent days have killed and wounded hundreds of people, including civilians.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted late Saturday that Washington, and not his group, is opposed to peace efforts. He reiterated the Taliban's traditional stance that the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is to be blamed for the 17-year-old war.
"So long as you occupy our country through forces & and plots, no true Afghan will seek peace but will want to force you out," the insurgent spokesman tweeted. He was responding to reported remarks by U.S. military spokesman Col. Dave Butler that the Taliban is hurting Afghans who want peace in the country.
Mujahid urged Butler to speak only for the Americans and "think about ways of ending your occupation" rather than trying to represent Afghans.
"You know this not true. The Afghan people know this is not true. You have the opportunity to reduce violence but you chose not to," Butler responded. "The Taliban is choosing to ignore the will of the people and bring harm to this country. Peace is the right way," he added.
Butler's comments prompted Mujahid in a subsequent tweet to ask the U.S. military spokesman whether it was not true that American forces were "forcefully" based in Afghanistan and dropped "countless bombs" and imprisoned thousands of Afghans.
'The people you claim you're fighting for want peace. You know the truth. You are not even in this country but sending Afghan sons to die while you attack the pride of the people - the Afghan Security Forces. You claim to fight us but only attack Afghans,' Col. Butler responded in a tweet early Sunday.
He did not elaborate but Afghan and American officials have long alleged Taliban fighters use sanctuaries in Pakistan to orchestrate cross-border insurgent activities. Officials in the neighboring country reject the charges and blame Afghan refugee populations near the border areas for serving as hideouts for insurgents.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to dislodge the Taliban from power for sheltering al-Qaida leaders blamed for plotting the 9/11 attacks on American cities.