The Taliban have prepared a strategy to start a long guerrilla war from the mountains against any invading troops that seize their cities and a new government that is formed there to wage "a never-ending war to free Afghanistan again from invaders."

This was stated in an interview to Gulf News by the legendary Mujahideen commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, the commander-in-chief of the Taliban's southern military command, Mullah Omar's top military strategist and commander, who has planned the current Taliban military strategy against the American attacks.

Haqqani, who is also responsible for the safety of Osama bin Laden speaking from an undisclosed location inside Pakistan is the only commander of the Mujahideen that fought the Soviets who was allowed by the Taliban to remain in their ranks.

Gulf News: In case U.S. forces take over main cities such as Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad, will Taliban surrender? If not, will they attack these cities to reclaim them?

Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani: First of all, it is next to impossible for the Americans to do so. Remember that the Soviet also controlled several Afghan cities once. What happened to them? We never had a single city but look at us now.

We will retreat to the mountains and begin a long guerrilla war to reclaim our pure land from infidels and free our country again like we did against the Soviets.

How do you plan to deal with a ground invasion by American troops?
We are eagerly awaiting the American troops to land on our soil, where we will deal with them in our own way. I tell you the Soviets were a brave enemy and their soldiers could withstand tough conditions. The Americans are creatures of comfort. They will not be able to sustain the harsh conditions that await them. Afghanistan will prove to be the graveyard of the Americans.

What is the Taliban's view of a broad-based national government?
The Afghans are with the Taliban simply because it is an Islamic government. The so-called broad-based national government will by its very nature be secular, which will never be acceptable to the Afghans. No one from the Taliban will be a part of such an unacceptable government, which will be filled with American, Russian and Indian stooges.

What of Pakistan's support for a broad-based national government for Afghanistan?
Let me remind you that on Pakistan's eastern border is India – Pakistan's perennial enemy. With the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Pakistan has an unbeatable 2,300 km strategic depth, which even President Pervez Musharraf has proudly proclaimed.

Does Pakistan really want a new government, which will include pro-India people in it, thereby wiping out this strategic depth?
I tell you, the security and stability of Pakistan and Afghanistan are intertwined. Together, we are strong but separately we are weak.

What is the current status of Afghan defences against the American military strikes?
There is no retreat from anywhere.

How many Afghans have been killed so far in the air raids?
Around 450 Afghans have so far died.

How many prominent members of the Taliban government been killed?
Not a single important leader or military commander of the Taliban has been killed in the past 12 days of constant U.S. bombardment. Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and all other commanders are safe and sound and carrying out their duties. About 25 Taliban soldiers have died.

Have all the planes and helicopters in Taliban possession been destroyed as reported?
This is all propaganda. Only one military helicopter and two Ariana Airlines passenger planes have sustained damages. The rest of the planes are safe.

Are Osama bin Laden and his group of Arabs helping the Taliban in defending Afghanistan?
We don't think in terms of nationalities like Arab, Indian or Pakistani. All with us are Afghans. Whoever migrates to Afghanistan in the name of Islam, we consider them Afghans be they from Saudi Arabia, Britain, Chechnya, Pakistan, India or any other country of the world. And yes, we are all fighting this war together.

What plans do Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida have to deal with potential attack on their suspected positions?
I told you. We are all fighting together.

Why did Osama bin Laden not accept the ulema's recommendation that he leave Afghanistan?
The Afghan ulema never ordered Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan. What they actually said was that he is free to decide for himself. Neither did we call him nor will we send him away. We have neither kept him by force in Afghanistan nor will we force him out.

How true are the reports of defections in Taliban ranks?
There is absolutely no truth in such claims. The propagandists had claimed that Qazi Abdul Hye of Sar-e-Pul region in the north had defected along with his forces. This claim was made when he was cut off some days ago in a siege by the Northern Alliance. After he broke through the siege, he and everyone of his 4,000 soldiers was back.

Is Mullah Omar ready to quit as the Taliban leader and hand over power to an acceptable person who can negotiate a ceasefire in order?
We pledged allegiance to him, and made him the Amir-ul-Momineen (leader of the faithful). As long as he keeps serving Islam and Shariat, he will remain our leader. Why should he step down? Who are others to demand that Mullah Omar should step down?

Gulbuddin Hikmetyar has announced he will fight along side the Taliban. Will you accept him in your ranks or try him for various crimes as the Taliban earlier pledged?
We have a tradition whereby when an external, common enemy threatens the Afghans, we set aside our internal differences and unite against the threat. Besides, Mullah Omar is the final authority to decide whether we will accept Hekmetyar's help or not.

How did you come to Pakistan? Did you use a visa?
I am also the (Taliban) minister for border regions. Our tribes are settled on both sides of the Durand Line. Both sides are my home. Pakistan is my home.