Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers

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Al-Qa'ida Trains Jihadists in Waziristan

EUP20070118029004 Paris Liberation (Internet Version-WWW) in French 18 Jan 07
[Report by Philippe Grangereau and Khawar Mehdi: "Al-Qa'ida Trains Jihadists in Eastern Pakistan"]
Washington -- The Al-Qa'ida organization, which was ousted from its Afghan sanctuary following the United States' overthrow of the Taliban at the end of 2001, has established a new operational stronghold in Pakistan, in the tribal area of Waziristan. According to our information, the terrorist organization again has special training camps there for foreign Islamist combatants, where, among others, candidates for suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Europe are trained.
"Stick" -- Two of these camps are led by an Iraqi and an Uzbek, Liberation was told by several well informed sources resident in Waziristan. One of Al-Qa'ida's training camps is apparently commanded by Abu Kasha [name as published], an Iraqi who goes by the name of "Arab Malang" ("Arab dervish.") "He tries to project the image of himself of as a mystic," one source explained, "and generally goes about with a hiking stick, with no visible weapons, accompanied by just a few men."
Like most of the hundreds of other Arab combatants in Waziristan, he fled Afghanistan in 2001, probably with Usama Bin Ladin. It seems that he recently had Algerian, Somali, and Saudi would-be jihadists brought to Mir Ali, the village in North Waziristan where he is based, via Iran and Afghanistan. A "working division" has apparently been established. The Arab combatants apparently focus on attacks targeting Afghanistan, in coordination with Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Another group of combatants from Central Asia, mainly Uzbekistan, are apparently tasked with launching offensives on Pakistani Army garrisons in Waziristan. This group, affiliated with Al-Qa'ida, is apparently led by Najimuddin Uzbek [name as published].
According to our sources, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban insurgents, who are allied to Bin Ladin's organization, now exercise "almost total control" over Waziristan. It is from this area bordering Afghanistan that most of the attacks targeting the Afghan Government and coalition forces are launched. General Eikenberry, who commands the US troops in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that the number of suicide attacks increased from 27 in 2005 to 139 last year. At the same time, the US military recorded 4,542 armed attacks in 2006, as against 1,558 the previous year.
Fist on the table -- The United States, officially Pakistan's ally, has long refrained from saying anything about Pakistan's and the Pakistani secret services' suspected tolerance of Taliban acting from their territory. For Islamabad, the Taliban movement is a way of defending its interests in Afghanistan, where is sworn enemy, India, enjoys growing influence. However, protecting the Taliban is tantamount to tolerating its Al-Qa'ida allies.
Washington, whose patience is exhausted, has banged its fist on the table. On 11 January US intelligence coordinator John Negroponte said that Pakistan hosts the terrorist network's worldwide headquarters. "Al-Qa'ida has strong connections and operational relations that extend, from its leaders' sanctuary in Pakistan to its branches throughout the Near East, in North Africa, and Europe," he said. Al-Qa'ida is still the "terrorist organization that presents the greatest threat to the United States. We have killed or captured many senior operational members of Al-Qa'ida. But the core is resistant."
Swelling -- According to the sources contacted by Liberation, Bin Ladin's organization exercises major influence in Waziristan, thanks to its alliance with the local Taliban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani [name as published]. For its funding it used, at least until 2004, the regular Pakistani banking network, which has branches in Waziristan (the United Bank, Allied Bank, and Muslim Commercial Bank.) In 2003 and 2004, according to the head of one of these banks, accounts that had until then been credited with just a few hundred rupees, suddenly swelled. These "very major" amounts came mainly from two sources -- the Pakistani city of Karachi and the Arab emirate of Bahrain. The network apparently now uses Islamist charitable organizations spread throughout Pakistan. Tuesday US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, visiting Afghanistan, said that Pakistan is an "ally in the war on terror." But he added that there is a "problem," because the "Al-Qa'ida networks operate from Pakistan."

[Description of Source: Paris Liberation (Internet Version-WWW) in French -- left-of-center daily newspaper]

Asia Times: 'Winter of Taliban's Content'

CPP20070125715020 Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English 1116 GMT 24 Jan 07
[Report by Syed Saleem Shahzad: "The Winter of the Taliban's Content"; headline as provided by source]
KABUL - Like two snowmen trapped immobile in winter's grip, NATO-led forces and the Taliban-led insurgency eye each other icily, watching and waiting for the thaw that will allow them to renew what both believe could be the decisive battle for control of Afghanistan.
As soon as the snow starts to melt within a few months, Afghanistan will be locked in a titanic battle that will initially be centered along the key artery running across the south of the country from Herat in the west, through Kandahar and on to the capital Kabul in the east. This will become the highway to hell, or, if the Taliban win, the highway to the paradise on Earth that they promise for the country.
With the onset of winter last year, both sides had time to reconsider their positions, especially in view of the Taliban's most successful spring offensive since being ousted in 2001. About 4,000 people died last year, a fourfold increase over the previous year.
In southwestern Afghanistan, the Taliban emerged powerful and confident, both on the political and military fronts, clearly no longer the timid rats hiding in mountain holes from where they would come out randomly and try to bite their enemies.
All the same, the Taliban failed to force the withdrawal of any of the 31,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in the country, something the alliance calls "a failure". The Taliban response is that last year was just a "warm-up". This year will be for real, they say.
Where they stand
Through the eyes of the US and NATO, the accepted view of the Taliban, given their initial performance in the field, was of a bunch of poorly organized troops whose only hope was to increase the number of their recruits, who in turn would become cannon fodder.
This all changed last year in the southwest when the Taliban, after being rejected by the masses, were asked down from the mountains to join in with the population. This provided the Taliban with essential grassroots support and logistics.
At this point, the Taliban abandoned their one-dimensional guerrilla tactics and developed a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, militants would seize the main access points around Kandahar - the former Taliban spiritual headquarters in the province of the same name - and on the other, Taliban leaders would foment a popular armed uprising aimed at joining with the militants in the capture of Kandahar.
This is what happened in the mid-1990s when the Taliban emerged and seized power in the chaos following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989: once the southwest was secured, eastern Afghanistan followed, and the two regions combined for the final assault on Kabul.
NATO commanders are now taking this possibility seriously, so much so that they see a foreign hand behind the planning - Pakistan or, more specifically, retired Pakistani army personnel.
One example, which was handed over to Islamabad by NATO, involved a prominent retired officer and former Pakistani diplomat who met with top Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Osmani in Helmand province, only 10 days before Osmani was killed last month in a NATO air strike. In a protest note, it was claimed that Pakistani intelligence services were using retired officers to support the Taliban.
Be that as it might, the brains behind the Taliban's war is a veteran Afghan mujahideen commander against the Soviets, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani. He organized the Taliban to keep NATO forces engaged across Afghanistan through guerrilla raids, the use of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, while at the same time steadily beefing up the Taliban's presence in carefully picked corridors for use in the battle for Kandahar.
Too quick off the mark
From September through November last year, the Tagab Valley northeast of Kabul fell into the hands of the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mercurial mujahid with political ambitions who for now is fighting alongside the Taliban against NATO forces.
To the south of Kabul, the Musay Valley became a focal point for fighters loyal to the Taliban and the HIA. On the grand chessboard of Afghanistan, these were tactical moves aimed as backup for a mass mobilization of Taliban troops.
Meanwhile, the Taliban increased their presence along the corridors from Kandahar to Herat and Kandahar to Kabul. Altogether, thousands of men were ready to flood into Kandahar and Kabul. All they were waiting for was reinforcements in northern Afghanistan.
In October, Commander Gholam Hossain of Bamyan, a Shi'ite, had traveled to Baghran in Helmand province and, along with another Shi'ite commander from northern Afghanistan, had promised that as soon as the Taliban launched their mass attack, they would join forces and provide as much logistical support as possible from the north.
But leading Taliban commanders wavered, believing they needed more men. They wanted to wait until March. With the date uncertain, men began to drift from key pockets, and the moment was lost.
NATO takes heart
"Everything turned out to be Taliban rhetoric as they failed to seize Kandahar and Kabul, despite their tall claims," NATO spokesman Mark Laity told Asia Times Online at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul.
"It is a fact that the Taliban cannot fight any decisive battle against NATO. They just cannot stand against the military strength of NATO forces. At the end of 2006, the Taliban tried to capture some strategic points and tried to carry out a conventional sort of warfare against NATO forces, but when NATO carried out operations, they could not withstand," Laity said.
"NATO carried out operations in southwest Afghanistan, such as Baaz Tsuka (in the Zari and Panjwai districts, south of Kandahar on either side of the Arghandab River), and there were cleanup operations of insurgent hideouts around Kabul. After such operations, the Taliban are no longer a threat to carry out any conventional armed strategy," Laity said.
He added that after Baaz Tsuka, the Taliban were forced to leave their positions near Kandahar. "They refused to fight with NATO and withdrew from the Panjwai and Zari districts and in some cases they even left their ammunition behind," Laity said.
Standing by a map on the wall, Laity pointed to the Musay Valley. "That valley had become a hub for insurgents from where they used to send suicide attackers to Kabul. We carried out massive operations and arrested a number of Taliban commanders and diehards. Now the valley is clear. The Tagab Valley in the northeast was also in the hands of insurgents. We carried out another massive operation to clean up and now the valley is clear of insurgents," Laity said.
Laity listed other NATO successes and told Asia Times Online of plans for the involvement of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.
The point is, though, that Afghanistan is not as simple as one operation such as Baaz Tsuka. There is always another side to the story.
For instance, the Taliban don't see their withdrawal from the Zari and Panjwai districts as a reversal. They say they only pulled out after striking an agreement under which control of the area was handed over to tribal elders sympathetic to the Taliban.
This is similar to the deal struck in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province last September - NATO and the Taliban pulled back after power was handed to pro-Taliban tribals (see Rough justice and blooming poppies, Asia Times Online, December 7, 2006).

Such agreements are now common throughout southwestern Afghanistan, and clearly benefit the Taliban more than they do NATO, despite the NATO interpretation.

"This [Zari and Panjway] is a success of the Afghan people, who at the end of the day got peace through this agreement, and establishing peace is the actual purpose of NATO forces in Afghanistan," Brigadier-General Richard Nugee, a NATO spokesman at ISAF headquarters in Kabul, told Asia Tim es Online.
"W e spoke to the tribal elders and told them the merits of cooperating with NATO forces, which would promote a lot of reconstruction work in the area, including health facilities, roads and schools, and the demerits of cooperating with the Taliban, which would only bring devastation to the area and the Taliban would always lose whenever they fought.
"As a result, the Taliban elders were compliant and struck the peace agreement. Now we will support the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Auxiliary Police to move into the area and establish the writ of the Afghan government," Nugee said.
"Now the Taliban don't have much room for their strategy and asymmetrical attacks are the only way for them. These attacks do not harm NATO forces much. Eighty percent of the victims of these attacks are Afghans, and that is why various polls show that Taliban popularity has gone down to less than 10% in Afghanistan," Nugee said.
Not so fast ...
But just as the Taliban see their withdrawal from the Zari and Panjway districts as benefiting their long-term plans, they are not too concerned about the touted NATO success in the Tagab Valley northeast of Kabul, where they say the resistance is far from eliminated.
The valley is in Kapisa province, which is predominantly ethnic Tajik, and connects with the harsh terrain of Kunar province, which lies opposite Pakistan's Bajaur tribal agency. During their 10-year occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviets never controlled this area.
Obviously, the Taliban could not withstand the NATO bombardment of the area, so they simply melted into the forests of Nooristan province, the mountains of Kunar province and the plains of Bajaur.
They are now waiting, as they were last year, for the green light from southwestern Afghanistan, at which point they will emerge from their hiding places to join the planned mass rebellion. This could be any time after March, once the weather warms up.
NATO is all too aware that time is short, and also that after five years, many of which saw US forces raining bombs on Afghanistan, hard military aggression is not an option - it simply increases support for the Taliban.
NATO accepts that "Taliban" is a "generic name" for the insurgency, which includes most segments of Afghan society in the southwest of the country. Rather than bombs, a political solution is needed.
For instance, the British in Helmand call their mission a "security task" under which they aim to provide security to the people, rather than chase the "enemy" from its hideouts. All the same, they do clear pockets of Taliban along routes around Kandahar.

NATO has also redefined the Taliban into two categories - "reconciliatory" and "irreconciliatory". According to its information, southwestern Afghanistan comprises 80% reconciliatory Taliban with whom it has already started negotiations.

A new governor in Helmand province, an expert in tribal affairs, will attempt to invoke tribal traditions for rapprochement with the Taliban. At the same time, money and resources are being pumped in for infrastructure and reconstruction projects to help win hearts and minds.
This battle might already have been lost. The Taliban want all foreign forces out of the country, and they will fight to the last to achieve this once battle resumes over the next few months.
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]

Four Al-Qa'idah fighters killed in eastern Afghan province - agency

IAP20070206950041 Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English 1040 GMT 06 Feb 07

Four Al-Qa'idah fighters killed in eastern Afghan province - agency

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website
Miranshah, 6 February: A purported statement from an Al-Qa'idah operative revealed on Tuesday [6 February] that four members of the terrorist network have been killed in fighting against NATO and Afghan troops in southeastern Afghanistan.
The statement issued and signed by Abu Yahya al-Libi, a known Al-Qa'idah operative, said the four, three of them named as Shaykh Zubayr al-Libi, a Sudanese national, Salah al-Din Afghan and Hamza al-Ghaznawi. [sentence as received] It said they had been killed in battles with NATO and Afghan troops in Barmal District of the southeastern Paktika Province.
Some other members of the network who were wounded in the Barmal clashes have been shifted to secure places for treatment, the statement added.
Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of the four Al-Qa'idah top operatives who escaped from the highly-fortified US detention centre of Bagram last July, is believed to be leading the network's fighters in the southeast now. A Libyan national, he is described as a militant preacher and recruiter, who has released several statements since his escape.
A commander of Mawlawi Jalaloddin Haqqani of the Taleban, close ally of Al-Qa'idah, confirmed the death of the four members of the terrorist network in recent fighting.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, one Pakistani fighter, named as Yusof also died in the fighting. He added there were currently 250 Arab fighters battling against NATO and Afghan forces in the southeast.

[Description of Source: Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Pajhwok Afghan News, established in April 2004, provides daily news and features in Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu. Self-described as "independent," it often reports on security matters and the Taliban activities. It claims to be staffed, managed, and led entirely by Afghans. According to the site, it receives financial support from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).]

Former Taleban official arrested in Afghanistan
IAP20070214950084 Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English 1354 GMT 14 Feb 07

Former Taleban official arrested in Afghanistan

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website
Khost, 14 February: Six suspected Taleban militants, including a former official of the ousted Taleban regime, have been arrested during separate operations by the NATO and Afghan forces in the southeastern provinces of Khost and Paktia.
Salim Karwan, the spokesman for the provincial governor in Khost, told Pajhwok Afghan News that NATO and Afghan forces captured Mullah Daud Turabi, a senior official of the Vice and Virtue Department during the Taleban regime, in a pre-dawn raid in Gorbaz District of Khost.
After the overthrow of the Taleban government as a result of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Turabi took charge of the Taleban fighters in Khost and Paktia Provinces, said the spokesman, who added that the detainee was one of the senior commanders of the Taleban in the region.
The deputy chief of the Intelligence Department, Amir Jan, said that Turabi was operating under the command of Jalaluddin Haqqani in the area and was a frequent visitor to Miranshah, the headquarters of Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency.
In the neighbouring Pakita Province, security officials said they had arrested five people for their alleged links with Taleban militants. The suspects were captured during a raid in Zormat District of the province, said the provincial police chief Abdol Rahman Sarjang.
Weapons and some documents had also been recovered from the five detainees, said Sarjang, who added they were being investigated to get a clue to their other colleagues.

[Description of Source: Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Pajhwok Afghan News, established in April 2004, provides daily news and features in Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu. Self-described as "independent," it often reports on security matters and the Taliban activities. It claims to be staffed, managed, and led entirely by Afghans. According to the site, it receives financial support from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).]

Asia Times: 'Pakistan Makes Deal With Taliban'
CPP20070301715034 Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English 1026 GMT 28 Feb 07
[Report by Syed Saleem Shahzad: "Pakistan Makes a Deal With the Taliban"; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - The Pakistani establishment has made a deal with the Taliban through a leading Taliban commander that will extend Islamabad's influence into southwestern Afghanistan and significantly strengthen the resistance in its push to capture Kabul.
One-legged Mullah Dadullah will be Pakistan's strongman in a corridor running from the Afghan provinces of Zabul, Urzgan, Kandahar and Helmand across the border into Pakistan's Balochistan province, according to both Taliban and al-Qaeda contacts Asia Times Online spoke to. Using Pakistani territory and with Islamabad's support, the Taliban will be able safely to move men, weapons and supplies into southwestern Afghanistan.
The deal with Mullah Dadullah will serve Pakistan's interests in re-establishing a strong foothold in Afghanistan (the government in Kabul leans much more toward India), and it has resulted in a cooling of the Taliban's relations with al-Qaeda.
Despite their most successful spring offensive last year since being ousted in 2001, the Taliban realize they need the assistance of a state actor if they are to achieve "total victory". Al-Qaeda will have nothing to do with the Islamabad government, though, so the Taliban had to go it alone.
The move also comes as the US is putting growing pressure on Pakistan to do more about the Taliban and al-Qaeda ahead of a much-anticipated spring offensive in Afghanistan. US Vice President Dick Cheney paid an unexpected visit to Pakistan on Monday to meet with President General Pervez Musharraf.
The White House refused to say what message Cheney gave Musharraf, but it did not deny reports that it included a tough warning that US aid to Pakistan could be in jeopardy.
A parting of the ways
The Taliban saw that after five years working with al-Qaeda, the resistance appeared to have reached a stage where it could not go much further.
Certainly it has grown in strength, and last year's spring offensive was a classic example of guerrilla warfare with the help of indigenous support. The application of improvised explosive devices and techniques of urban warfare, which the Taliban learned from the Iraqi resistance, did make a difference and inflicted major casualties against coalition troops.

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