"Look, the conviction of the masses is the essential thing. The reason why there is not as strong a resistance in the north is that the people are not behind it. Certainly, people across Afghanistan are against the foreign occupation, but for a resistance (to succeed) it needs a special temperament, zeal and strength to face all sorts of hardships. Kandaharis have always shown this and that's why they are ahead of everybody in fighting against foreign troops," Jalil said.
NATO has projected divisions within the Taliban and pointed to the emergence of several former mujahideen leaders to rival the authority of Mullah Omar. Prominent among these is Jalaluddin Haqqani, Anwarul Haq Mujahid and commanders loyal to veteran Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the Hezb-e Islami (HIA).
"Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani is a very respected personality in Afghanistan, but he cannot command the resistance because of his age (58) and illnesses. He has always been a part of the Taliban shura (council) and has never parted ways with the Taliban. Now his son Sirajuddin Haqqani is a main commander, but he always coordinates his actions with the Taliban and is completely subject to the Taliban's discipline. "Anwarul Haq Mujahid has now been officially appointed as the governor of Nangarhar province (which is under the Taliban's shadowy emirates banner) so all these (NATO) projections are wrong. As far as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is concerned, we are striving for the same cause, but we don't have any regular contact."
Jalil c ontinued, "However, let me tell you, most of the places which were previously Hezb-e Islami strongholds are completely under the Taliban's command. For instance, the HIA recently claimed the killings of (10) French soldiers in Sarobi (50 kilometers east of Kabul). Actually, it was done by Taliban commander Qari Baryal, who commands the region of Sarobi, the Tagaab Valley and up to Bagram (near Kabul). The same goes for Wardak and Kapisa (provinces), where the Taliban have largely replaced the HIA's network in the resistance."
There is widespread speculation that the Taliban might attack Kabul any day soon as they now have strong pockets all around the capital. Jalil differs, "Practically, we are in Kabul. We are in Sarobi, which is part of the Kabul district. We are in Maidan Shehr (Wardak province and just 30 kilometers east of Kabul), we are in Nangarhar, which is not far from Kabul. But at present there is no plan to mobilize any attack on Kabul. The reason is the non-availability of resources."
Given the Taliban's long and tough struggle since being ousted in 2001, I raised the issue of whether they might be tempted to compromise with former rivals, such as ethnic Tajik and former president Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, who recently claimed to have had talks with the Taliban. Or perhaps the Taliban might even engage with the Americans or British.
"During the last (2005 parliamentary) elections, Rabbani and Professor Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf (a member of parliament) did speak to the Taliban through mediators. However, they wanted the Taliban's support in the elections. We rejected that idea and since then we have never communicated. We have never had dialogue with the British or with the Americans. There are individuals who have talked to them and this may have created the misunderstanding that the Taliban communicated with them," Jalil said.
I was taken aback by this response. After the US invasion, some overtures were made between the Taliban and the US Central Intelligence Agency - CIA. (See US turns to the Taliban Asia Times Online, June 14, 2003.)
Similarly, in the wake of moves to revive the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline project, an initiative began in Quetta last year (See Taliban, US in new round of peace talks Asia Times Online, August 21, 2007) which led to the idea of regional jirgas (tribal councils) to start peace talks with the Taliban. The scheme was destroyed because of the strong adverse reaction to the government storming the Taliban-sympathetic Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad last year.
"When Mullah Abdul Razzak held talks with the Americans he had left the Taliban. At that time he was completely independent that's why you cannot call it a dialogue between the CIA and the Taliban. It was purely a case of an individual act. Mullah Abdul Razzak only rejoined the Taliban one year ago. The same goes with Mansoor Dadullah or whosoever held the dialogue. They did it against the Taliban's policy." (Dadullah was later expelled from the Taliban.)
The interview was over and I broke the evening's Ramadan fast with Jalil, and suggested a photograph.
"No. This is the secret to our survival. We never allow photographs, and that is why we can move freely in Afghanistan and the tribal areas (of Pakistan) as nobody recognizes us. Especially with my white hair, nobody suspects me of being Taliban," Jalil said with a smile.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online 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. URL: http://www.atimes.com]
BBC Monitoring Background: Conflict in Pakistan Tribal Areas
SAP20080911950028 Caversham BBC Monitoring in English 11 Sep 08
Background: Conflict in Pakistan tribal areas
Background briefing by BBC Monitoring on 11 September
Pakistan's tribal (Pashtun-majority) population lives along the border of Afghanistan in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Baluchistan province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The FATA comprises seven Agencies and six Frontier Regions. The seven agencies are Bajaur Agency, Kurram Agency, Orakzai Agency, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency, North Waziristan Agency and South Waziristan Agency. The six frontier regions are Kohat, Peshawar, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. The tribal areas that fall under the Baluchistan and NWFP provinces are known as the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA).
In the NWFP, the PATA include Chitral, Dir, Swat, Amb and the tribal areas in Kohistan and Manshehra districts. In Baluchistan, Zhob and Loralai districts, Dalbandin in Chagai district, Maari in Sibi district and Bugti in Sibi district comprise the PATA.
The FATA are semi-autonomous as per the Pakistani constitution. The courts of Pakistan have no jurisdiction in the FATA and laws enacted by the parliament also do not apply to these areas.
The FATA agencies are governed by Political Agents, who are appointed by the federal government. The FATA administration does not interfere in tribal affairs. According to the FATA government website: "Interference in local matters is kept to a minimum. The tribes regulate their own affairs in accordance with customary rules and unwritten codes, characterized by collective responsibility for the actions of individual tribe members and territorial responsibility for the area under their control. The government functions through local-level tribal intermediaries."
The FATA also has its own judicial system under which all civil and criminal cases in FATA are decided under the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901 by a jerga (council of elders).
The tribal areas of Pakistan are fiercely independent and retained their freedom even under British rule. But the tribal areas have been marked by low literacy rates, scarce development funds, rigid traditions hampering development and fallout of the instability in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The region shot to prominence after the fall of the Taleban in Afghanistan in 2001, when many Taleban and Al Qai'dah leaders were said to have moved across the border to Pakistan's tribal areas. Since 2000, the tribal areas have seen a marked rise in pro-Taleban groups.
In December 2007, a local Taleban named Tehrik-i- Taleban Pakistan (TTP) emerged, which has been held responsible for several suicide blasts and attacks on Pakistan's leaders, including the one that killed former PM Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
In June 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan under President Pervez Musharraf decided to launch security operations to end the increasing Talebanization of Pakistan's tribal areas.
Pakistan has been witnessing a resurgence in violence in several regions of its tribal areas from end-July 2008 until now. While, the nature and cause of these clashes differ from place to place and involve a variety of players, the role of the local Taleban appears to be a common link. The clashes in Kurram Agency are essentially sectarian conflicts exacerbated by the role of the Taleban. In Bajaur Agency and Swat, the ongoing clashes are a result of direct confrontation between Pakistan's armed forces and pro-Taleban militants. In North and South Waziristan strikes have been conducted by NATO forces from Afghanistan on alleged Taleban strongholds. Kurram, Bajaur and North and South Waziristan are four of the seven semi-autonomous FATAs along the border with Afghanistan. Swat is a provincially administered tribal area under the NWFP.
Clashes: At least 700 people have been killed in month-long sectarian clashes between predominant Turi and Bangash tribes. (Geo TV website, 7 September). The Shi'i Turi and Sunni Bangash groups inhabit the region in equal numbers. The origin of the recent series of clashes dates back to April 2007 when the Bangash tribe allegedly set ablaze a truck of the Turi tribe, killing one and injuring two others. (Geo TV website, 24 August). A report on 3 September in the Indian daily The Hindu said that the conflict erupted in April 2007 after Sunnis staged a rally in a town raising slogans against Hussein, the Shi'i martyr. Three days later, when the Shi'i took out a rally in protest, gunmen fired at them killing eight people. (The Hindu, 3 September)
The current round of fighting began around 8 August when Sajjad Hussain, younger brother of a National Assembly member Sajid Hussain Turi, was killed. (Dawn website, 9 August).
Taleban role: The Bangash tribe are reportedly backed by local Taleban. (The Nation 24, August). In a report on 3 September, The Hindu said that the Sunni tribes in the Kurram Agency are now controlled by the Taleban, who want to battle the Shi'i until they have control of the entire agency for additional access routes into Afghanistan.
Government role: On 15 August, the Pakistan PM's Advisor on Internal Affairs, Rehman Malik, gave a strong warning to the warring tribesmen asking them to remain peaceful or face an operation by the security forces. He set a 72-hour deadline for them to end the clashes and announced the setting up of a grand jerga of Shi'i and Sunni tribal elders to negotiate a settlement. (Associated Press of Pakistan [APP] news agency, 15 August). Six tribes, including the Turi and Bangash, announced their support for government efforts towards peace on 18 August. (Geo TV website, 18 August). However, clashes continued in the region and Geo website reported on 24 August that large number of people had migrated from Kurram due to continued fighting.
Afghan role: An Afghan government role in fuelling unrest in Kurram Agency was alleged by Bangash tribesmen after they arrested two members of the Afghan National Army. The two Afghans, the tribesman alleged, had been sent by Kabul to promote sectarian violence in Pakistan. (Khabrain, 22 August). Dawn News reported on 23 August that the tribesmen had executed one of the two arrested soldiers. The Pakistani government also alleged a foreign role in the clashes.
Cease-fire: The Turi tribe announced a cease-fire reportedly on the appeal of a peace jerga on 27 August (PTV, 27 August). The clashes continued despite the cease-fire announcement as the Bangash tribe carried on with its offensives. (The News website, 30 August). Following the cease-fire by the Turi tribe, clashes took a more direct form of fighting between anti-Taleban Qaumi Tribal Lashkar (army) and Taleban. The APP reported on 1 September that the local tribal lashkar formed to end the militancy in Kurram agency, on Monday [1 September] captured Bagzai area, stronghold of the Taleban, while six militants among nine were killed and 26 other injured in fresh clashes. The APP report also said that the local tribal elders of Kurram Agency had approached the elders of other agencies in order to convince them to make efforts for expulsion of the non-local Taleban from the Kurram Agency.
Fighting still continues in Kurram Agency with reports of over 700 deaths, including 400 pro-Taleban militants despite the unilateral cease-fire announced by Turi tribe and the federal government's ultimatum to halt the clashes, which has also long expired. The Turi tribe has also criticized the government for doing nothing to stop the influx of "outsiders". (Dawn website, 4 September)
Military operation: Pakistani security forces launched an operation in Bajaur Agency on 6 August following reports of Taleban fighters consolidating their hold on this tribal region. In July, it was reported that Taleban had set up Islamic courts in Salarzai sub-district in Bajaur Agency. (Daily Times, 17 July). Following this, on 25 July, the Taleban reportedly captured four checkposts vacated by paramilitary troops. The checkposts on the Pakistan-Afghan border near Afghanistan's troubled Kunar Province, were vacated by the paramilitary troops due to growing attacks on military convoys by the Taleban. (The News, 26 July). The News also reported that there were fears amongst tribesmen in the region of an attack by US warplanes "as the Taleban had got control of the border areas with Afghanistan".
Taleban consolidating: The consolidation by Taleban over the tribal area was also hinted at by a report in The Nation on 26 July which said Tehrik-i-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mehsud had "trained and lined up a whole new bunch of diehard commanders all set and ready to take on the security forces in case of any major offensive". Among these, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who is said to be Mehsud's deputy, hails from Bajaur. The same report also quoted a Pakistani official as saying that "TTP had become a major force in Waziristan, Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies, whereas it was increasing its influence in Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai Agencies."
Attacks: The federal government's decision to launch an operation was reported by Khyber TV on 1 August. On 5 August, a Pakistani parliamentarian from Bajaur asked the government to avoid military operation in the region and resolve disputes through tribal councils. (Khyber TV, 5 August). However, the troops began their operation on 6 August. Khyber TV reported on 8 August that Pakistani military was using its warplanes to attack Taleban camps. The fighting intensified on 10 August as Khyber TV reported that thousands of Bajaur Agency inhabitants had fled to neighbouring Mohmand Agency. The Frontier Post reported on 11 August that over 100 militants and 13 soldiers had been killed in four days of fighting in Bajaur.
Jang newspaper reported on 12 August that the alleged leader of Al-Qai'dah in Afghanistan Abu-Sa'id al-Masri alias Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid had been killed in Bajaur clashes on 8 August.
On 13 August, Daily Times reported that the Pakistani military dropped pamphlets in Utmankhel, Khar and Mamoond areas of Bajaur Agency to move to safer areas as more bombing was expected. Geo News website reported on 15 August that 135,000 had moved out of Bajaur to escape the clashes. On the same day, Daily Times quoted NWFP chief minister Amir Haidar Hoti as saying that the Bajaur operation was launched to target foreign militants including Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs.
Geo TV reported on 21 August that after three weeks of operation the death toll in the operation had reached over 600. On 24 August, The News reported that TTP had declared a unilateral cease-fire in Bajaur which had been rejected by the government. "The military operation was started for achieving some basic objectives. We wanted to ensure protection to lives and property of the people and dispel the impression from the minds of residents that the government had lost its writ in Bajaur". The military would continue its operation till the government authority was restored, the paper quoted a senior military official as saying.
The paper also reported that peace talk efforts were being made in Bajaur through tribal parliamentarians belonging to Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F). According to this report, the government wanted Taleban fighters to vacate security posts along the border with Afghanistan, close their "Islamic courts", quit control over several government girls' schools and allow female students to continue their education.
On 2 September, The News website reported that the Pakistan army had killed 560 Pakistani and foreign fighters in the operation "but found no sign of Usamah Bin-Ladin or Al-Qa'idah number two Ayman al-Zawahri."
Ramadan: On 2 September, PM's Interior Adviser Rehman Malik announced that the military operation in tribal areas would be suspended for the month of Ramadan. However, on 6 September, The News reported that security forces were continuing to target suspected hideouts of militants in their strongholds - Mamoond and Salarzai subdivisions. On 8 September, The News reported that the military had restored state writ in areas surrounding the Bajaur Agency headquarters, Khar and that the tribal leaders in the area had raised a tribal army to keep the Taleban out.
Military operation: Pakistan's security forces launched "the second phase" of military operation against Taleban in the Swat district of the NWFP (Dawn News, 1 August). The operation began at end-July after the NWFP government decided to resume anti-Taleban operations that had been halted following a peace deal in May.
May peace deal: According to the 15-point peace deal signed on 21 May, following months of fighting, the Taleban had agreed to close their training camps, hand over lethal and heavy weaponry and not attack barber and music shops and girls' schools. The Taleban also agreed to allow women to work. The government in return had agreed to implement Islamic Shari'ah law and gradually withdraw its forces from Swat. (APP news agency, 21 May)
Second phase: The NWFP government decided to resume its military operation as the Taleban continued with their "spree of destruction and terrorism which had resulted in complete destruction of 61 girls' schools". (The News, 2 August). Geo News reported on 30 July that the militants had stepped up activity after accusing the government of failing to honour the accord.
Clashes: The APP reported on 4 August that the military had killed over 94 militants in five days of operation. The same report quoted a military official as saying "the local Taleban, in violation of the pact, kept on resorting to burning girls' schools besides killing three officials of the intelligence agency and abducting Frontier Corps [paramilitary forces] and policemen. The Taleban had in fact deviated from their original demands and were stressing only on the withdrawal of security forces."
Another report in The News on 5 September quoted a government official as saying that "the military leadership, angry at the killing of three military officials followed by the kidnapping of security forces personnel, firmly decided to deal with the militants with force as they were constantly violating the peace deal." The official further said: "The NWFP government had released 50 per cent of the Taleban prisoners, paid compensation to all and the draft of the Shari'ah Regulation was also in final stages... However, the militants did not honour their part of the agreement which included a halt to attacks on schools and government buildings, security forces and disbanding of militia, etc."
As the operation continued, The Taleban reportedly took 14 more security personnel hostage on 8 August taking the total number of abducted government employees to 39. (Daily Times, 9 August).
On 11 August, Dawn reported that the military was using helicopters to attack Taleban positions in Swat. Geo TV anchor Kamran Khan reported on his show on 21 August that security forces and Taleban continued to confront each other, but the military had not achieved any major success in recent days and civilians had casualties. On 31 August, Dawn News TV reported that the military had again used air strikes in which 40 Taleban were reportedly killed.
Ramadan: Pakistan government adviser Rehman Malik announced the suspension of military operation in Swat during Ramadan. However, the Taleban rejected government's offer and demanded a permanent cease-fire. (Khyber TV, 31 August). In the continuing clashes 30 militants were reported killed on 4 September and 10 more on 8 September. ARY One World website reported on 9 September that the security forces were continuing their operation against the militants with heavy bombardment in Kabal and Koza Bandai areas.
North and South Waziristan
The tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan have witnessed over six missile strikes, since July 2008, conducted by US drone and predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying over Pakistani territory from Afghanistan. According to Mashriq newspaper (8 September), US reconnaissance flights over Pakistani tribal areas have increased in the past six months. The most recent strike, which killed over 20, was reportedly conducted by US drones on the house of Afghan commander Jalaluddin Haqqani's son in Danday Darpakhel area near Miranshah in North Waziristan. (Geo News website, 8 September) On 4 September, six people were killed, including two suspected Arab nationals, in Achar Khel villages near Miranshah. The attack was condemned by "pro-government" militant leader Maulana Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who said that he considered Pakistani security forces equally responsible for the killing of innocent tribesmen in the US air strikes. (The News, 5 September). In the same report, The News said that militant groups, one led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan and another led by Maulvi Nazeer in South Waziristan, had agreed to fight such attacks in future. The paper said that both the factions were considered to be pro-government.
Following the strike, Pakistan was reported to have blocked supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, linking it with growing concerns over the situation in Waziristan. (Pajhwok news agency, 6 September) However, Pakistan denied this by saying that the supply had been only "temporarily suspended" due to security reasons and was later restored. (APP news agency, 6 September)
On 30 August, "a missile fired from Afghanistan" hit a compound near Wana in South Waziristan killing five people. ARY One World website quoted (on 30 August) a military officer as saying that "the missile had struck the house of a tribesman in the Zelli Noor area... The owner of the house had recently rented it out to some "foreigners", a term used in Pakistan to describe Al-Qa'idah fighters." The ARY One World report also said that the series of missile attacks on militants in Pakistan in recent weeks had been attributed to US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan.
The News website reported on 25 August that the militants belonging to the "pro-government Pakistani Taleban" commander Maulvi Nazeer clashed with security forces in South Waziristan Agency. The report said that Maulvi Nazeer and his lieutenants had accused the military of siding with the US and NATO forces.
On 20 August, 12 people were killed, "most of them alleged foreign fighters", when a US Predator fired two Hellfire missiles on a house in Zari Noor village of the South Waziristan, The News reported (21 August). According to the report, "tribal sources based in Wana said the majority of those killed in the air strikes were reported to be Arab fighters staying as guests with the Wazir tribal elder."