Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers

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Mir interviews Zaheerul Islam Shah, political agent of North Waziristan, who describes the youths killed at Isha post as "terrorists." Shah says they were carrying a "very important letter" and "eight hand grenades." Shah says when they were stopped at the check post, they shot at security forces and they were killed in retaliatory firing. Shah says the letter they were carrying talked of delivery of "missiles and explosives" to a particular person to "accomplish the mission tonight." Shah says both were "Al-Qaida terrorists" out on a mission. Shah says the "resistance and defiance" by tribal elements followed the security forces attack on Maulana Saddeq Noor's headquarters who was supervising the militancy in the area. Shah says other than "local resistance", the are also faces "cross-border terrorism" and many signals have been intercepted in this regard.
Video shows Islamic seminary in Miranshah, which was set up by former Taliban Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani. Mir says the security forces have carried out "six operations" against the seminary in last 2 years, including a major operation very recently, after which it was claimed that "15 truck-load of weapons" were recovered from the seminary. Mir adds that the local people, however, claim that the seminary has been closed long time ago. Mir interviews Maj. Gen Akram Sahi who says the Army had information of the presence of Serajuddin Haqqani and his associates at the seminary and they were involved in "terrorist activities." Sahi says "arms and ammunition in tons" were recovered from the seminary and the arrested persons are now being interrogated to establish their links. Mir says many Afghan and Pakistani passports as well as pictures of many Afghan commanders were recovered from the seminary.
Mir says he then entered a mountainous area of Khati Kila in Ahmekhel near Miranshah where a major Army operation was continuing. Mir says four Army personnel, including major Taj Mohammad, were recently killed in the area. Mir says helicopter gunships are being used in the operation. Mir shows unexploded shells fired from gunships and says these shells are scattered everywhere in the area. Mir interviews a local resident Yasin who says fighting is continuing for last 3 days and army helicopters are also being used. Mir says the operation continues to arrest Saddeq Noor. Mir says he returned to Miranshah as intense exchange of fire continued at Khati Kila.
Mir says North Waziristan Political Agent Zaheerul Islam Shah summoned a jirga [tribal assembly of elders] of Asmanzai tribe to control the situation. Mir says in address to the jirga, tribal elder Maulana Abdurrehman opposed the military operation and said the local tribe should not be considered as "illiterate and uncivilized" and they retain the right to approach "international court of justice" against the military operation. Mir says another tribal elder Maulana Dindar said that the operation should be only against "foreigners." Mir says the jirga was also addressed by Naik Zaman, member of the National Assembly, who has already been described as "terrorist" by the security forces. Zaman says the jirga has demanded that all operations should be conducted by the administration of political agent and there should b no direct military action. Zaman says he is a "patriotic" Pakistani citizen and he is ready to make any sacrifice for Pakistan and all allegations against him are "fabricated and unfounded." Mir interviews Senator Matin Shah representing the region who says that proper investigation should be carried out to find out whether a "conspiracy" is being hatched to create instability in the region. When Mir asks if he thinks India is involved in the incidents in North Waziristan, without being specific, Matin Shah says "everybody is involved." Matin shah says the army should exercise restrain and take action only against foreigners. Another tribal elder Malik Shehzad Khan Wazir says the army should respect local tribal traditions and all actions should be taken after taking the political agent into confidence. Wazir says: "we have repeatedly denied and still deny that there are no elements in our region, who are continuing their activities prejudicial to the government's policies." Mir says in spite of the local leaders denial of presence of foreigners in North Waziristan, the security forces say they have recovered large amount of arms and ammunition from the region. Mir says some people believe that "agents from Afghanistan" are also involved in acts of terrorism in Nort Waziristan. Mir says a CD is readily available in Miranshah, which shows beheading of an alleged "Afghan agent". Mir says although the CD is said to have been distributed by Al-Zarqawi group, but persons shown in the CD are all local Pushto-speaking. Mir says the CD shows the admission by an Afghan spy (Saadullah Khan) that he entered North Waziristan to blow up religious schools in Miranshah for which he was promised 2 million Afghanis in Kabul. Mir says (Saadullah Khan) clearly stated in the CD that "those who imparted him the terrorist training were the Americans."
Mir says he also visited Kurram agency, another tribal area neighboring Noth Waziristan, to inquire why it enjoys complete peace in contrast to violence in North Waziristan. Mir says security was very tight in Kurram agency and he found no sympathy among local population for foreign militants. Mir interview local resident Nisar Ali who says people in Kurram agency are against Al-Qa'ida. Mir says, however, Former National Assembly Member Javed Ibrahim Piracha has different view of Al-Qa'ida fighters. Piracha says people come to pay respect at the graves of Arab fighters who died in fight with security forces after fleeing Tora Bora bombing. Piracha says he respects Usma Bin Ladin and Mollah Omar. Mir interviews Kurram Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat Khan who claims that his region is completely free from Al-Qa'ida influence. Hayat Khan says no foreigner can hide in "class composition and social structure" of Kurram Agency.
Mir says another factor contributing to instability in North Waziristan is lack of educational facilities. Mir says he visited Miranshah government degree college to find only few students in attendance. Mir interviews teachers and students who agree that the promotion of education is answer to North Waziristan problem.
Mir concludes by saying the situation in North Waziristan continues to deteriorate and it is becoming a "no-go" area for common citizens. Mir says dialogue with local tribal population could lead to the solution of the problem.
[Description of Source: Karachi Geo TV in Urdu -- 24-hour satellite TV channel owned by Pakistan's Jang group of publishers, broadcast from Dubayy]
[This item was originally filed as SAP20051122013002]
AFP Told: Two Dozen Taliban, Islamic Militants Surrender in Afghanistan
JPP20060105063007 Hong Kong AFP in English 1007 GMT 05 Jan 06
GARDEZ, Afghanistan, Jan 5 (AFP) - Two dozen Taliban and Islamic fighters Thursday surrendered to the Afghan government under a US-backed amnesty scheme and renounced violence, officials said.
They gave themselves up in the eastern city of Gardez, capital of Paktia province, government official Habibullah Mangal told AFP.
The militants, four from the ousted Taliban regime and the rest from the Hezb-e-Islami extremist faction led by wanted warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and another anti-government commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, had been living in exile in Pakistan.
Paktia governor Hakim Taniwal welcomed the surrender and said it would help reduce the level of violence perpetrated by Taliban militants and their allies since the ouster of the Taliban regime more than four years ago.
"It is a very important step, those who were in opposition with the government now have given up and have vowed to take part in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. This will weaken the opposition," Taniwal said.
Mawlawi Abdul Hodod, representing the former militants, said they would now take part in rebuilding the war-shattered country.
"We will take part in the reconstruction of the new Afghanistan, we will also help to bring more and more people from exile," Hodod said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered amnesty to members of the Taliban movement and other Islamic militias "whose hands are not stained with innocent people's blood".
More than 600 have taken up the offer, including former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil and the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef.
An anti-government insurgency being carried out by the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents, including some with links to Al-Qaeda, has claimed more than 1,600 lives in the past one year, with most of the dead militants killed by Afghan and foreign security forces.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]

AFP: Pakistani Troops Destroys Islamic School Suspected of Hideout for Militants
JPP20060315063011 Hong Kong AFP in English 0945 GMT 15 Mar 06
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, March 15, 2006 (AFP) - Pakistani troops using explosives Wednesday destroyed an Islamic school suspected of being a hideout for militants in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, officials said.
The Khalifa Madrassa in the restive North Waziristan district was seized by troops and blown up, becoming the third religious seminary to be demolished in the area in the past fortnight.
The action followed fierce clashes between Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and Taliban-supporing tribesmen that have left around 170 militants and five troops dead.
"The Khalifa Madrassa was destroyed by security forces today as part of a campaign to deprive militants of any hideout," a local official told AFP in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
The school was unoccupied at the time, officials said.
The madrassa was set up by Khalifa, an Islamic cleric from Afghanistan who died several years ago but who was an associate of former Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, local officials said.
Haqqani is now on a US list of most wanted militants.
Last week troops and helicopter gunships destroyed seminaries run by two local clerics, Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaleq, who were wanted for leading the unrest against the army's operations in the tribal region.
On Monday Pakistani authorities ordered thousands of Afghans living in the tribal areas to go back to their native country.
Hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have sneaked across the mountainous border from Afghanistan in the past four years, finding support from conservative Pakistani tribesmen.
Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror" launched military operations in the tribal areas in October 2003 and deployed more than 80,000 troops along the border.
Kabul and Afghanistan have recently traded barbs over who is responsible for cracking down on militants who operate on both sides of the frontier.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]

Pakistan: Taliban Said Ready for Spring Attacks as Iraq-Trained Fighters Return
SAP20060320033001 Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English 20 Mar 06
[Corrected version: correcting attachments; Report by Syed Saleem Shahzad from the "South Asia" section: "Taliban's Iraq-style spring is sprung"; for assistance with multimedia elements, contact OSC at 1-800-205-8615 or oscinfo@rccb.osis.gov]
KARACHI - As another spring approaches in Afghanistan, another Taliban-led offensive is planned. But this year, the Taliban believe, unlike in the previous offensives in the five years since they were booted out of power in Kabul, they are better organized than ever before.
A key to the Taliban's revival has been the links it has forged with the resistance in Iraq, which has provided hundreds of Taliban with hands-on training in that country, as well as logistical and tactical support.
One such support device is a compact disc released by the Jaishul Islam al-Iraq (Islamic Army of Iraq) that shows how urban guerrilla warfare is being conducted in Iraq and how this can be adapted to the resistance in Afghanistan. The CD, a copy of which has been obtained by Asia Times Online, is widely circulated among the rank and file of the Taliban.
The Jaishul Islam al-Iraq is an indigenous group commanded by many former top Iraqi generals and independent Islamists, and the CD therefore shows the very refined quality of their attacks. The group fully coordinates its activities with other groups, such as Ansarul Sunna, and it also has good ties with al-Qaeda.
The CD contains 10 separate clips, each one showing a significant aspect of Jaishul's strategy. These include:
· The structure of the group's intelligence;
· Infiltration of the rank and file of enemy forces;
· Exhaustive knowledge of the target;
· Precise identification of the "material" to be used against specified targets;
· The importance of dedicated foot soldiers.
One of the clips shows two vehicles seconds before one of them, laden with explosives, rams into a US armored vehicle. The other truck, which has been monitoring the progress of the target, can be seen frantically reversing from the scene.
Another clip shows guerrillas taking up positions near a spot used by a US helicopter carrying soldiers. As the chopper takes off, it is hit by a missile and crashes. Several soldiers can be seen burned in the wreckage, while one who survives can be seen pleading, in English, for his life. The response is a hail of bullets that kill him.
Other footage shows an attack on the US base of Tal Afar. The resistance, with the help of collaborators within the Iraqi forces, has planted explosives in the camp, which can be seen going off. In one picture, US soldiers watch the first explosion. In the next second, their building is blown up.
As a background to the images, Koranic verses are recited, as well as resistance songs in Arabic, such as "We will defend our land with full vigor."
The spring is sprung
Asia Times Online has learned that as many as 500 fighters who trained in Iraq are now in Afghanistan or Pakistan, while many others are expected to return soon.
The Taliban's connection with Iraq began before the US-led attack there in 2003 when Taliban leader Mullah Omar sent some of his men to stay with the Ansarul Islam, a Kurdish Islamic group in northern Iraq, to train and fight alongside Kurdish guerrillas against Saddam Hussein's forces. After the US invasion, many of these men went to other parts of the country to fight alongside various groups opposed to the US forces.
In 2003, one of the Taliban commanders who had been sent to Iraq, Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar, returned to Afghanistan, where he rejected the traditional style of guerrilla warfare in operation since the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s - heavy reliance on AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
The first thing he taught the Taliban was the formation of groups that could fight independently and which would be task-orientated to specific missions. Many of these small groups were sent regularly to Iraq between 2004 and 2005, where they spent months with the Jaishul Islam al-Iraq, the Ansarul Sunna and other Islamic groups.
In return, these men passed on their new-found expertise to comrades in Pakistan's tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, notably North and South Waziristan, the former being a veritable Taliban stronghold, the latter heading that way. And significantly, a la Iraq, they have organized scores of suicide squads, a relatively new phenomenon in Afghanistan.
Taking on Pakistan
In the first phase of their spring offensive, the Taliban aim to contain the Pakistani army by engaging it throughout the tribal belt. This will allow the Taliban freely to cross the leaky border with Afghanistan, or better, strike a deal with the army to leave the Taliban alone. According to contacts who spoke to Asia Times Online, a blueprint for such attacks in the tribal areas has already been approved by the Taliban's command council.
Within Afghanistan, heavyweights Kashmir Khan of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, Mullah Akhtar Usmani and Sirajul Haq Haqqani, son of former Taliban minister and commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, are already in the field to influence local tribes to support the Taliban movement.
Shabname, or "night messages", contained in pamphlets are being distributed asking people to revolt against foreign forces, which, the pamphlets say, are made up of people from countries where caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed have been published and his personality ridiculed.
Independent analysts believe that the Taliban, even with training, will be unlikely to achieve anything like the level of warfare being waged by the Iraqi resistance, which has a strong element of hardened professional soldiers.
Nevertheless, the Afghan resistance will be sufficiently competent and equipped and big enough to remain a serious threat to US and allied troops, and even force a rethink on their part.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English -- A Hong Kong-based Internet-only publication which claims to report on and examine geopolitical, political, economic, and business issues in English "from an Asian perspective"; root URL on filing date: http://www.atimes.com]

UK Reports Suggests Pakistan Army Losing Fight Against Islamist Militants
EUP20060504015006 London The Guardian (Internet Version-WWW) in English 04 May 06
[Report by Declan Walsh in Kundi Ghar: "New Frontline in the War on Terror. Experts Fear Pakistan Is Losing Fight Against an Islamist Militant Revolt in Its Tribal Belt"]
As hideouts go, the Shawal Valley in northern Pakistan is a militant's dream. Lonely goat trails wind through a rocky 25-mile corridor that nudges the Afghan border. Its fiercely conservative tribesmen and forbidding high-walled compounds have sheltered Taliban fighters and probably Al-Qa'ida fugitives.
Last weekend Brigadier Imtiaz Wyne, a Pakistani army commander, stood on the top of one of its highest peaks and declared his 5,000 troops had tamed the wild valley - almost. "This border is sealed," he said, pointing to a line of observation posts along the border.
But the cornered militants were fighting back, he admitted. His soldiers had suffered five major attacks in the previous month; on one occasion a captured soldier was gruesomely mutilated before being executed.
"They are a mix - foreigners, locals, Afghan Taliban, criminals," said the officer. "It's difficult to say who is the leader, but ultimately it is Al-Qa'ida."
A vicious mini-war has erupted between the Pakistani army and the "Pakistani Taliban" in North Waziristan, a turbulent tribal area that has moved to the front line of the Pakistani and US "war on terror". Every day sees fresh violence between the army and militants - a loose coalition of radical clerics, tribal leaders and Al-Qa'ida fighters.
The biggest upset occurred in early March, when 1,500 self-styled Taliban assaulted a military base in the main town, Miran Shah. The ensuing four-day battle involved artillery and helicopters gunships and left 145 militants dead, 25 of them foreigners, according to the army figures.
The fight is also ideological. Taliban clerics have imposed strict social edicts, such as a ban on music or films, and started to dispense summary justice. Last week Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, told the Guardian he was concerned "Talibanisation" was spilling into the settled areas. "There is an extremist mindset - attacks on barbers, no television or songs," he said.
A Pakistani intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the revolt was led by eight tribal and cleric leaders. Some have direct links to the Afghan Taliban. "We have apprehended people on their way to attack US positions in Afghanistan," he said.
Army generals, who have deployed 45,000 regular and paramilitary troops to quell the revolt, insist they have the upper hand. "I am hurt when anyone says there is no writ of government, because my forces are everywhere," area commander Maj Gen Akram Sahi said. His forces had killed 324 "miscreants", arrested 142 and blown up a madrasa (religious school) used to train jihadi fighters, he said. The death toll may include some civilian deaths, western diplomats believe.
Gen Sahi, who admitted that radical Islamic forces were supplanting traditional tribal rule in Waziristan, sought to discredit the revolt's leaders. After searching a house used by cleric Abdul Khaliq his troops found "the most dirty films", he said. "How can they talk of being Taliban?"
Measuring Militancy
Gauging the militants' strength is difficult. Foreign journalists are banned from the tribal areas, most local correspondents have fled, and it was not possible to interview any residents during a recent media trip. Analysts and local media believe, however, that the Taliban are gaining ground.
A diplomat with access to western intelligence, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the army was "floundering" in its efforts to wrest control of the turbulent area. "Military equipment, training, and communications are inadequate given the task at hand," he said, estimating the number of Taliban fighters at more than 5,000.
The militants have tightened their grip using Iraq-style scare tactics. More than 150 pro-government figures have been killed in the past year, at least a dozen of whom were decapitated, according to Pakistani intelligence.
They are also supported by Al-Qa'ida fugitives who have found refuge in their homes. Haji Khalil, an elder in Miran Shah, told the Daily Times newspaper that "hundreds" of foreign militants - Uzbek, Chechen and Arabs - were living in the tribal areas. "Nobody can differentiate between them and the locals because they wear local dress and speak Pushto fluently," he said.
The revolt is probably being funded from the Middle East, the diplomat said. Donors are recruited using videos showing Taliban attacks on American forces in Afghanistan or gory beheadings of alleged US collaborators.
Afghan Links
The military says it has lost 50 soldiers in the last year and more than 400 since it started operations in South Waziristan in 2004. Even so, many Afghan officials question whether the army - and in particular its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) - is truly committed to stamping out the Taliban. "The ISI is not interested in a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan. They want to see a weak Afghanistan," said Governor Merajudin Pathan by phone from Khost, the closest Afghan province.
Waziristan has a rich history of militancy. During the 1980s struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan it was a base for mujahideen fighters. The US and Saudi Arabia funded their fight; Pakistani intelligence organised it. That support has returned to haunt the US.
One of the main jihadi leaders to receive CIA weapons was Jalaluddin Haqqani, a cleric who ran a network of Wahabbi madrasas spanning Waziristan and Khost. He became a Taliban minister and helped Usama Bin Ladin establish a presence in Afghanistan. Now Haqqani's son, Siraj, is believed to be a leading figure in the Taliban revolt.
The presence of Al-Qa'ida bases in South Waziristan sparked the first Pakistani military strikes in 2004. But the Al-Qa'ida hunt has failed to come close to the biggest catch of all. An intelligence source said Bin Ladin was probably hiding in the tribal belt, although not in Waziristan. "For now, it's probably just too dangerous," he said.

[Description of Source: London The Guardian (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- prominent center-left daily]

Taliban Asks Foreign, Local Militants Not To Fight Pakistan Army in Tribal Areas
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