KABUL — The Taliban called on the US Congress on Sunday to send a "fact-finding mission" to Afghanistan to investigate what they called the lies and propaganda spread by American military chiefs to prolong the war.
The Islamist militant group has been fighting for more than nine years to topple the Kabul government, which is backed by 150,000 US and NATO troops.
In the past year, Taliban influence has spread across the country from their bastion in the south where the war is concentrated, and momentum has been widely seen to have turned in their favour.
The statement, addressed to "Messers American Congressmen," was emailed to AFP and signed by Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, "spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan".
It suggested the Congressional team travel throughout Afghanistan to uncover "ground realities" it said are being concealed by military leaders eager to give the impression of victory.
The resistance to the US-led war against the Taliban was indigenous, the group said, contrary to claims by Washington it was influenced from outside the country.
The Taliban leadership is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, from where it is thought to fund, plan and man operations in Afghanistan.
According to media reports, studies and top NATO figures, it does so with the support of Pakistan's intelligence service, though Islamabad has denied the allegations.
The Taliban occasionally issue such statements, which are generally dismissed by Washington and its partners backing the Kabul government.
On September 11 they called for an unconditional withdrawal of foreign troops -- a condition for opening peace talks with the government -- and an end to the "illegal occupation" of Afghanistan.
In August the group suggested the establishment of a multilateral committee to investigate civilian casualties, which the United Nations says are overwhelmingly caused by the Taliban.
"Can a few militants stand up to armed forces of 40 countries including the strongest countries of the world," Sunday's statement said, referring to the US-NATO alliance.
"In fact the current armed jihad (holy war) is a country-wide resistance against you. Men and women, old and young from every tribe, ethnicity, caste and area have arisen to oppose you.
"Thus by your intending to wipe out the resistance, you have chosen the way of committing genocide of the whole nation," it said.
The Taliban said that if the US government would not provide proof of its claims, "then how about another experiment? Send a team to Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission".
"The team should have freedom of movement and should be allowed to remain far from the clutches of your intelligence agencies," it said, adding that US military leaders were unlikely to allow the team to do so.
The statement accused US defence secretary Robert Gates, commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan US General David Petraeus, and other "military brass" of exaggerating battlefield successes to appear victorious and for financial gain.
For nine years "Afghans have been festering in the vortex of an imposed war... The apparition of mass murder, imprisonment, night house raids and plundering which has become the order of the day constantly haunts them," the statement said in English and Pashto.
High foreign military casualties -- more than 2,000 since the war began -- had "sparked off hot discussions" among ordinary Americans "and now it has become one of the most critical issues pending before you".
"In the last two years, your military high-ups implemented different strategies including troop surge, construction of new military bases, forming militias.
"All these steps have been taken without considering the ground realities. It is why they all failed," it said.
"Moreover the fear that Afghanistan may turn out to be a threat to world peace must be put out of your minds as it is a mere baseless propaganda."
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