The Taliban, the Sunni Islamic militant group, is commonly known for waging guerilla warfare, controlling Afghanistan’s opium trade, carrying out terrorist attacks, and oppressing women.
But apparently the group has also drawn some positive messages from the Quran.
The leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada, used his weekly address on Sunday to call on his followers to plant trees, sounding very much like a UN report or Leonardo DiCaprio in the process.
"Tree plantation plays an important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth," the Taliban leader said, according to a report carried by the Afghan Taliban Voice of Jihad website.
He got even more specific: “Plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah's creations.”
The Afghan government condemned the message as an act of evasion, saying that it attempts to trick the public into thinking the group is having a change of heart when really they should be defined by their “crimes and destruction."
The Taliban has been gaining territory over the past few years following the departure of US troops. The terrorist group currently controls nearly 35% of the country, and is poised to seize more area as it exploits the government’s lack of popular support, poor coordination, and perpetual budget gaps.
Either way, the message comes at an important time for the country, which suffers from extreme deforestation.
As of 2013, Afghanistan had lost more than 50% of its forest cover compared to three decades before. The country’s deforestation has been driven by war, drought, and international demand for Afghan timber.
Less than 2% of the country is currently forested and unless interventions are made this proportion will decrease.
The Taliban was in power from 1996 through 2001 until the US invaded and toppled their government. Since then, the country has been engulfed in violence, poverty, and disorder.
And if you support yourself by exploiting local economies, like the Taliban does, it makes sense that you would see a threat to your livelihood in the form of a barren, lifeless landscape.