KABUL -- People across Afghanistan are ridiculing the call by Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada for Afghans to plant trees.
"The mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree plantation and not hold back any effort in this regard," Haibatullah said in a message posted to the group's website Sunday (February 26). Trees play "an important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth".
The Taliban leader's message comes amid fears of another bloody fighting season as spring approaches.
"They should stop planting IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that are killing so many innocent Afghans, including children and women daily," said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, according to AFP.
Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai said he initially considered the message a joke.
"Joking Taliban, Taliban's intention of trees plantation haha planting trees to hide behind & plant bombs to kills Afghan's # trees for terror", he tweeted.
“Since the establishment of the Taliban movement, the only things that these people have in their minds are fighting, crimes and destruction," said Shah Hussain, deputy spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani, according to VOA.
Seemingly positive messages like these, or claims that the group is building roads and bridges, are usually how the Taliban hope to demonstrate their administrative abilities, Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul, told VOA.
But such attempts are merely propaganda, said Faridoon Khwazoon, a spokesperson for Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
"When they are killing our innocent people, when they are attacking our mosques and schools, how can they speak about tree planting?" he asked Salaam Times.
"If they are real Muslims and real Afghans, they should come and help people not kill them," he said.
Taliban 'are killers'
"Everyone knows that the Taliban are killers; they don't believe in humanity. How dare they talk like this?" said Ministry of Defence spokesperson Gen. Dawlat Waziri to Salaam Times.
The Taliban are the enemies of peace and stability, and the public should not buy their propaganda, added Waziri.
"We have proof that in the past they cut down trees from our mountains as part of their effort to sell them outside Afghanistan," he said.
During the past three decades, Afghanistan's forest cover has shrunk by about 50%, decimated partly by the large black market in timber, according to the UN Environmental Programme.
In 2016, Afghan civilian casualties were the highest ever recorded by the UN, with almost 11,500 non-combatants killed or wounded, AFP reported.
Izazullah from Kabul contributed to this report.