Springtime in Afghanistan usually brings a spike in violence as the Taliban takes advantage of the thaw to launch a wave of fresh attacks, reports the AP. But the Taliban's leader has just issued a statement calling on Afghans to plant more trees. In a public letter issued Sunday in four languages, including English, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada says that, "the Mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting." Per Reuters, they should "plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah's creations." Akhundzada reportedly taught at a Pakistani mosque for 15 years, notes Reuters; the statement marks a rare emergence from hiding since he became Taliban leader in May 2016.
The statement does point out that the Taliban remain "actively engaged in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings"—a reference to the Kabul government that the militant group seeks to overthrow. Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, dismissed the statement as an attempt to "deceive public opinion" and distract from the Taliban's "crimes and destruction." (Read more Taliban stories.)