QUETTA, PAKISTAN – As the United States rapidly approaches the deadline for sequestration, President Obama is getting support from an unlikely quarter: Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
In a video released today, Taliban spokesman Zabibullah Mujahid read a statement from the group's supreme leader: "I, Mullah Muhammad Omar, Emir of the Taliban, Commander of the Boy Brigades, Custodian of the Holy Poppy Fields, Rocker of the Casbah, Sultan of Swing ..."
After several minutes Zabibullah was able to read the actual contents of the statement, where the Taliban leader addressed what he referred to as the "dire consequences" if Congress fails to resolve the sequestration issue:
"Peace be upon you, American infidels. As you are aware, because of your inability to pass a simple budget, you are facing up to $40 billion in defense cuts for your fiscal year 2013," Zabibullah read. "While we are totally fine with these cuts devastating your military and economy, there will also be some catastrophic consequences for us as well."
"Half our budget comes from skimming off your operations in Afghanistan. Without hard American dollars, hundreds of Taliban fighters will be laid off over the coming year and forced onto the streets to beg like common women."
Omar's statement was rather apocalyptic at the consequences of the automatic budget cuts: "With the money we have, we will barely be able to bribe members of the [Pakistani] Frontier Corps!"
When asked about the Taliban's statement, White House spokesman Jay Carney was blunt. "This is more proof that it is not just the American people who want strong action on President Obama's deficit reduction program, but also the people of Afghanistan as well. Because they understand that these cuts will impact the whole world."
Others thought Mullah Omar's statement was overblown. Conservatives in particular believe that Mullah Omar is using fuzzy math.
"Even if the sequester goes into effect, the federal budget for this year will still be larger than last year’s," Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform told Duffel Blog. "But the Taliban are telling the American people that unless government gets an even bigger raise, they're not going to be able to conduct as many attacks as they normally do. I think that's just disgraceful. The Haqqani Network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar receive much less funding but conduct twice as many attacks: more proof that smaller government works."
"Why go through all the grief of having the Taliban extort us when we can simply give the money directly to the Karzai government and the Taliban can extort it from them?" asked Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the CATO Institute.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) tried to strike a balance, contending it was Taliban spending that was truly to blame.
"These are false choices. We are faced with the negative effects of the sequester because the Taliban have not been able to take even the smallest step towards controlling spending. If they simply budgeted the runoff from our waste, we wouldn't be having this debate. They need to stop pretending this is some kind of campaign for giving zakat. It's going to be wasted on jihad, pure and simple.”
Zabibullah was not taking the criticism laying down.
"It's the U.S. who cannot pass the budget," he told reporters in a Q&A session following the statement. "They and they alone are to blame for our troubles. Our salaries will be cut almost in half. New recruits will be furloughed indefinitely, effective on 1 March. I do not know how this Jew [Cantor] thinks we run jihad, but zakat is for zakat, nothing else!"
As of Wednesday the government remained deadlocked and neither the Taliban, nor Washington remained optimistic.
"The Republicans in Congress need to learn to moderate themselves," Zabibullah said. "There are two kinds of people I can't stand: extremists and Jews."
"This is what you get, when you stray from the sharia," warned Zabibullah, "fiscal insolvency."
Duffel Blog Investigative Reporter G-Had also contributed to this report.