Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers

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"Everything was done under duress. Rocketi was against the Pakistani establishment and he knew that if he tried to go to Pakistan they would settle a score against him. He was such a prominent person that he could not hide in Afghanistan, so finally he surrendered. I know him inside out, he would never be comfortable sitting with the Americans or their stooges," Akhund said.
"The same is true of those Afghan national heroes who fought against the Soviets and who are now part of the Kabul administration ... for instance, Toran Ismail Khan [from Herat province ]. I know him, he is a sincere fellow. I know he is very uncomfortable sitting in Kabul as a federal minister [for energy and water]. I know he is desperate to be a part of the Afghan national resistance to kick out t he foreign forces, but at the same time it is also a fact that the Taliban mistreated him in the past and he is not ready to trust them yet. That's why he is sitting in the Afghan government," said Akhund.
Akhund is convinced that sooner rather than later relations between former Northern Alliance commanders and the Taliban will be fixed, despite all the past bitterness.
"Of course, Ahmad Shah Masoud was fighting the Taliban and, had he been captured, he would have faced dire consequences. But it is also a fact that what happened to him [assassination] was not the Taliban's policy ... just like what happened in the US [September 11] was not the Taliban's policy," said Akhund.
"I believe that nowadays all distinctions between Shi'ite and Sunni, Pashtun and Tajik, have been forgotten and the Afghan nation is ready to take on foreign forces with a new zeal. Now it is winter and it is difficult to mobilize men, either on the plains or the mountains. But once the spring and summer of 2007 come, the Karzai administration, along with its foreign allies, will be sacked from Kabul," said Akhund confidently.
In recent months Akhund has led the Taliban to successes in the Baghran district, and he played a major role in defeating British troops in Musa Qala recently. Now he has brokered a ceasefire with NATO troops in Nawzad.
"You will see, they will soon withdraw from Nawzad as well. Nevertheless, the battle will not be over, we will just take it to the next front until they leave Afghanistan altogether," Akhund said.
By now it was late at night and time for the final prayers of the day, after which everyone prepared to sleep. It was freezing cold, but Akhund covered himself from top to toe in his shawl and forcibly handed me a blanket - the only one in the room.
The next morning after prayers, as I did my ablutions at a small running watercourse outside the house, I heard the voices of women and children in another building.
"There are women and children at the war front?" I asked Akhund at breakfast, which as the previous night consisted of stale bread and tea.
"Yes, we decided to besiege the ANA and NATO base only because this village was around it. The villagers have voluntarily provided us with a few houses to establish bases and for dumps for our arms. The rest of the population lives normally, just as they always have. This is how today's Afghan national resistance is being formed," said Akhund as he said farewell to rally his men to take up positions.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English - - Hong Kong-based online newspaper with a Bangkok branch office focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe. Successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors as of Feb 2006, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region. Root URL on filing date: http://www.atimes.com]

Pakistan: Report--Govt Not Likely To Resort to Military Option in N. Waziristan

SAP20061223037001 Karachi Dawn (Internet Version-WWW) in English 23 Dec 06
[Report by Ismail Khan: "Time to revisit Waziristan deal?"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
PESHAWAR, Dec 22: Is it time to revisit the North Waziristan deal? Indications are that the government is contemplating to at least make a re-assessment of the September 5 agreement that drew international criticism and brought new pressure from the US and the Nato to dismantle 'safe heavens' for the Taliban and Al Qaeda in its tribal borderlands.
Governor NWFP Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, the sole architect of the agreement, has convened a meeting of the 45-member inter-tribal grand jirga at the Governor House on Saturday to take stock of the post-September 5 scenario in the restive tribal region.
The Saturday meeting will not only take stock of the situation in North Waziristan but also assess its implementation in the backdrop of criticism that Pakistan has capitulated to the militants and that the agreement has done nothing to stem cross-border infiltration and deal with the presence of foreign militants.Director US National Intelligence John Negro Ponte said Pakistan would have to reckon with the situation sooner or later while the State Department acknowledged that the situation along the Pak-Afghan border was 'a mess'.
The two statements coming one after the other in the last week or so from key figures of the US establishment were a clear departure from the more cautious wait-and-see approach of the Bush administration.
The statements have come amid concerns in the US and the Nato that an emboldened Taliban would use the winter break in fighting to make more recruitment, train, arm and reorganise in time for the so-called spring offensive early next year.
Pakistan, on its part, has been steadfast in sticking to its argument that the North Waziristan agreement offered the only approach to resolve the issue through negotiations as coercive tactics have failed to achieve its objectives.
But Lt-Gen Aurakzai's latest initiative to reconvene the inter-tribal jirga and discuss the situation betrays a sense of urgency as well as unease to cope with mounting pressure from the principal backers of the war on terrorism.
The inter-tribal jirga is expected to be told to revisit Miramshah, regional headquarters of the volatile North Waziristan, and discuss the situation with the main interlocutors, in this case the militants, and the 15-member oversight committee that was formed to liaise between the government and militants.
Government officials who defend the agreement acknowledge that while it did not offer a perfect solution to what is a very complex issue, it did offer a window of opportunity to deal with a very difficult situation.
The agreement has been successful in that both militants and government ceased hostilities against each other and there is now a semblance of peace in the restive tribal region.
But if reports are anything to go by, it failed to address three main issues: the setting up of parallel administration, cross-border infiltration and presence of foreign militants.
Some circles now privately acknowledge that the failure to implement the agreement on those critical issues lie in the government failure in the post-September 5 scenario to open up direct channels of communication with militants calling the shots and broaden the base of the agreement to include tribal figures, as well as the ineffectiveness of the oversight committee to ensure its implementation.
It is a fact that while the agreement was signed with the militants, it did not include tribal elders which would have made it more effective in terms of the implementation of its clauses. It also did not let the oversight committee work more than just liaise between the two parties to the agreement to oversee and ensure its implementation.
There are additional problems that the government would need to address before it sends the tribal jirga to Miramshah.
Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the key militant leader and principle interlocutor in the agreement, is precariously poised in the absence of full backing from former mujahideen and Taliban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
This is reflected in his inability to extend the term of the agreement and influence to neighbouring Mirali sub-district in North Waziristan, an area security officials acknowledge is infested with foreign militants.
Mr Bahadar, though well-meaning, is also delicately poised to take on foreign militants both in Miramshah and Mirali, owing to his own limited influence and full support from the senior Taliban leadership.
And this is despite the fact that there is growing local unease and discomfort with foreign militants, particularly those of the central Asian origin due to growing kidnappings, robberies and target killings.
The government, on its part, has also demonstrated a certain sense of paralysis and numbness to seize the opportunity and exploit differences amongst militant commanders on dealing with the issue of foreign militants in South and North Waziristan. Dithering and reluctance to take quick crucial decisions on the part of the administration contributed to the present state of affairs in the tribal region. The decision to post good and competent officers on Friday to make use of their imagination and exploit the situation should have been made earlier.Given the state of affairs and mounting pressure on Pakistan to deal with cross-border infiltration and foreign militants, the government appears to be caught between the rock and the hard place. The choices are stark and options very limited.
However, there are no indications that the government is in a mood to resort to the military option to handle the situation at hand. Even in terms of political solution, it has very limited room to manoeuvre, apart from the option to rely on the inter-tribal jirga to press the interlocutors to live up to their promises and make them agree to broaden its base to include tribal elders and grant more authority to the oversight committee to ensure the implementation of the September 5 agreement.
Reopening the North Waziristan Agreement, for whatever it is, and renegotiating it would be a dangerous move that would further complicate matters. Instead the government now needs to build on it and press home the point to the tribal elders and militants that time is running out and better act now than regret later.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Internet version of Pakistan's first and most widely read English-language daily promoting progressive views. Generally critical of military rule; root URL as of filing date: http://www.dawn.com]

Pakistan: Taliban Confirms Death of Mullah Usmani in Airstrike

SAP20061227027001 Islamabad The News (Internet Version-WWW) in English 27 Dec 06
[Report by Rahimullah Yusufzai: "Taliban confirm Usmani's death in Afghan air strike"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
PESHAWAR: Taliban officials are now confirming that one of their top military commanders Mulla Akhtar Mohammad Usmani was among those killed in an airstrike in the southwestern Helmand province on December 19.
Requesting anonymity, an important Taliban military commander said it was true that Usmani was in the vehicle that was hit during an airstrike by US-led coalition forces in Helmand. "He was martyred along with other Taliban fighters. Gradually, the news of his death is spreading among the Taliban," he told The News from an undisclosed location.
Other Taliban members had also started to concede Usmani's death. One of them said the Taliban could in due course of time officially confirm that Usmani was dead. Earlier, the Taliban had denied the claim by the spokesman of the US-led coalition forces that Usmani was killed in the airstrike. Instead, they were claiming that a local Taliban commander Maulvi Abdul Zahir and his two companions were killed in the attack.
Colonel Tom Collins, the US military spokesman, had claimed that forensic analysis and intelligence information had enabled the coalition forces to verify that Usmani was killed in the precision strike on his vehicle. He said visual proof could not be provided as Usmani's body was obliterated in the attack. He admitted that no DNA test was carried out to confirm the information about Usmani's killing.
During Taliban rule, Usmani served as the chief of the Taliban-led Afghan army. He also served as corps commander of Kandahar and was one of the most trusted military commanders of Taliban movement founder Mulla Mohammad Omar. Along with Mulla Dadullah, he was one of the two leading Taliban military commanders fighting against foreign forces and Afghan National Army.
His death is a big loss for the Taliban. Following the ouster of Taliban from power in December 2001, Usmani is the second member of their "Rahbari Shura" (supreme council) to have been killed in US-led military operations in Afghanistan. Earlier, Abdur Razzaq Nafiz was killed during fighting in Zabul province. The remaining eight members of the shura are Mulla Ubaidullah, Mulla Biradar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Saifur Rahman Mansoor, Mulla Dadullah, Mulla Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, Mulla Mohammad Rasul and Hafiz Abdul Majeed.

[Description of Source: Islamabad The News (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Internet version of the widely read, influential English daily, member of the Jang publishing group. Neutral editorial policy, good coverage of domestic and international issues. Hardcopy circulation estimated at 55,000; root URL as of filing date: http://www.thenews.com.pk]

Pakistan: Geo TV Discussion on US Charge of Tribal Areas Supporting Taliban
SAP20061229412001 Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu 1800 GMT 28 Dec 06
[Discussion between Afghan Affairs Correspondent Sami Yusufzai on phone line in Peshawar and senior Pakistani journalist Kamran Khan in studio in Karachi on US Assistant Secretary of State Ricjard Boucher's charge that Pakistani tribal areas have become "command and control system" for Taliban--live; taken from regularly scheduled "Today With Kamran Khan" program, words within double slant lines are in English]
[Kamran Khan] The US administration has now formally stated that it has information that the Taliban are using Pakistan's tribal areas not only as a sanctuary, but they have also established their //command and control system// in these areas and from there they are sending arms [to Afghanistan]. This charge had so far not been formally made in such a //specific// manner at the highest level in the United States. Although the Afghan government and the US media have been claiming this, but US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, while addressing a press conference in Canada, spoke //specifically// in this connection and said that the Pakistan's tribal areas have, in fact, been proved to be the sanctuary for the Taliban's //control and command// system. Boucher, however, stated that Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in this matter and Pakistan and the United States are jointly trying to solve this issue and not only Pakistan and the United States, but Afghanistan is also trying to solve the issue. Boucher said that the United States has apprised Pakistan about its concern and Pakistan shares this concern with the United States. At the same time, Pakistan has announced that it would mine and fence the border along Afghanistan adjacent to the tribal areas. Mining and fencing would be done in //selected// areas. The Afghan government has not liked the Pakistani step and has opposed it. A UN official, who is posted in Kabul, has also said that the United Nations will have reservations on the Pakistani step as the human right organizations consider this process as not the right approach.
Whether Pakistan's tribal areas have really become the Taliban's //command and control center// and their sanctuaries or not? Whether this charge is true or not? We will ask this from Afghan Affairs Correspondent Sami Yusufzai, who is with us on telephone line from Peshawar.
Sami, now the charge has been formally made by the US Assistant Secretary of State and you also have been viewing the //issues// individually. How far would it be true to say that the Taliban's //command and control system// has been set up in the Pakistan's tribal areas and that the Taliban are not operating from Afghanistan, but from these tribal areas? What would you say about the validity of these charges?
[Yusufzai] Yes Kamran, I was earlier in Kabul for 2 to 3 weeks and it appeared that the Afghan //intelligence// and the US //intelligence// had jointly set up //centers// near Khost, Paktia, Kandahar and near the border areas and they were fully engrossed in compiling reports about the Taliban's presence in the areas inside Pakistan. They had set up small //cells// after which they found evidence that the Taliban leaders are present in Waziristan and Quetta and in some areas and villages near Chaman and that the Taliban are regrouping at smaller level and preparing (?plans) in these areas. I myself met with the //intelligence// people and they themselves showed me a video about [Taliban commander] Jalaluddin Haqqani's religious seminary called (Munbail Uloom) in Miram Shah [in Pakistan]. This seminary was closed down after the collapse of Taliban 5 years ago, but I myself saw in the video shown by the //intelligence// people that the seminary, which is close to Miram Shah in Data Khel, has now reopened and the Taliban, who from their dresses appeared to be from Kandahar and Helmand in southern Afghanistan, were arriving there. Earlier, the international community did not back and support Karzai regarding his allegations against Pakistan, but it now appears that Karzai has been successful to //convince// to some extent the United States, the United Kingdom and other very important countries about his allegations.
[Khan] Sami, the claim that the Taliban are living here in Pakistan's tribal areas and in Baluchitan areas, including Quetta, had not been //disputed//, but to say that arms are being sent from these areas and that the Taliban regroup and take vow in these areas and plan from there and that they return there after carrying out attacks [in Afghanistan] and that the //control and command// system is also in these areas are allegations of very serious nature.
[Yusufzai] Yes, it is right to say like that if these people are going to Afghanistan. [Sentence as heard] In reality the Taliban are present in some areas of Pakistan and it is very easy for them to stay there because three millions Afghans are living in Pakistan. Islamabad, however, says that it has no knowledge and it is very difficult for it to identify these elements as three million Afghans are living in Pakistan. The issue, however, is not that the Afghan government and others are saying that there is no doubt that the Taliban are present in Pakistani areas, but the issue is that of the Afghan government's serious allegation that there are some agencies in Pakistan, which are //sponsoring// the Taliban. I think that when President Musharraf in an interview had said that it is possible that some former ISI [Inter Service Intelligence]] personnel may be involved [in helping the Taliban], it provided ammunition to the Afghan government to back its charge that some [Pakistani] agencies have the knowledge that the Taliban are regrouping in some areas of Pakistan and when the Taliban //commanders// come to Pakistan from Afghanistan in winter, some of their //commanders// and //leaders// in Pakistan also come back with them.
[Khan] Reports have also been received at the same time that the US forces in an attack killed an important Taliban Commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani. Mullah Akhtar Usmani was an important Taliban commander. These reports are few days old. Has it been finally confirmed that Mullah Akhtar Usmani was killed by the US forces?
[Yusufzai] Yes, it has now been confirmed by the Taliban in Helmand province and my //personal// sources in Taliban have also confirmed that Usmani was killed in Helmand. Some spies were shadowing him and the car in which he was traveling was directly targeted. Mullah Akhtar Usmani was a very important leader and almost all financial resources of the Taliban were with him. So, I think that this is the biggest setback the Taliban have suffered since its last //collapse// [ 5 years ago]. The Taliban's very important commander has been killed.
[Khan] Thank you very much. Sami Yusufzai was talking to us. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher has formally stated at a press conference that the United States believes that the //command and control system// of the Taliban has been established in Pakistan's tribal areas and arms are being sent to the Taliban [in Afghanistan] from there and they regroup and plan from Pakistan's tribal areas for carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. The United States had so far not formally made such a serious charge.

[Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu -- 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan's Jang publishing group, broadcast from Dubayy. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Programs include some Indian shows and dramas which the group claims are aimed at promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.]

Pakistan: Kidnapped PAEC Employees Freed, Kidnappers Claim To Be Taliban
SAP20070116081004 Karachi Dawn (Internet Version-WWW) in English 16 Jan 07
[Report by Abdul Sami Paracha: "Six kidnapped employees of PAEC freed: Shootout leaves four dead"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
KOHAT, Jan 15: Six employees of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), who had been kidnapped by armed men on Sunday night from their camp office near a uranium mining field in Karak district, were freed by police early on Monday morning after an encounter in which three kidnappers and a constable were killed.
Three vehicles taken away by the kidnappers were also found and a pick-up belonging to the kidnappers was seized.
Official sources told Dawn that only half an hour after the men had been kidnapped, at around 9:30am, a police team managed to find the place, near Gurguri, where the kidnappers had been hiding.
Police ordered the kidnappers who numbered 13 to surrender, but they opened fire. Police retaliated and the exchange of fire continued till about 2am, resulting in the death of police constable Naimatullah. Two of the three kidnappers killed in the exchange of fire were Abdus Sattar (of North Waziristan) and Inayatullah (of Buland Khel in Thall tehsil). Two kidnappers, Yaqoob Khan (of North Waziristan) and Sher Zaman (of Buland Khel in Thall tehsil), were injured. Other members of the gang managed to escape.
An injured kidnapper told interrogators that their local Taliban chief, Amir Ahmed Gul, had told them that they were going to attack a foreigners' camp in Thall. He said they did not know that the chief would use them for kidnapping people. He said they were taking the kidnapped people and the vehicles to the seminary of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani near the cattle market in North Waziristan.
However, the interrogators said that the kidnappers were posing themselves as Taliban to misguide them.
The Teri and Banda Daud Shah police have registered a case under sections 302/324/353 of PPC and 5 Explosives Act 411/148/149/13 AO and 7 Anti-Terrorist Act. They have been also charged under section 17/3 of Haraba and 156. Police seized five hand-grenades, three Klashnikovs, four cellphones and Rs 1,430 cash from the kidnappers.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Internet version of Pakistan's first and most widely read English-language daily promoting progressive views. Generally critical of military rule; root URL as of filing date: http://www.dawn.com]

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