[A-List] Afghanistan: the blowback continues
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Mar 5 06:33:36 MST 2002
A whole new war game in Afghanistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times, March 6, 2002
KARACHI - The past few days have seen surprise ambushes, raids and
resistance by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in most parts of eastern
Afghanistan, and in some areas in the south, with the United States and
its allied troops sustaining more losses than they had expected.
Since Saturday, when heavy ground and air fighting began in eastern
Afghanistan, US forces have encountered their fiercest opposition since
stepping into the country toward the end of last year. Indeed, they
helped push the Taliban from control of the country in less than two
months, watching almost as bystanders as major towns fell with hardly a
As previously reported in Asia Times Online, the reason for this was
simple. The Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters were saving themselves for
another day, and that day has now arrived.
After retreating from Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and so on, the top
Taliban leaders either fled to the border tribal areas of Pakistan or
took refuge in remote and isolated areas in Afghanistan, while middle
and lower-rank Taliban easily melted into the local population, from
where many of them had come in the first place.
Some local commanders who had sided with the Taliban when they took
power in 1996 returned to their pre-Taliban party disciplines, such as
the Jamiat-i-Islami, the Ittehad-i-Islami and the Hizb-i-Islami. Here
they were accepted without question, and they were given protection.
These Taliban remained in close contact with one another, waiting for
the weather to warm up toward the end of March, at which time they had
planned a major guerrilla campaign in the country.
In anticipation of this, United States forces, with the support of
soldiers from a number of other countries as well as Afghans loyal to
the administration of interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, began a major
offensive in the rugged terrain around Gardez in Paktia province on
suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds.
Their target in this operation, code-named Anaconda, was Mullah Saifur
Rehman Mansoor and his troops, who had become active with sniping raids
on US positions in the area. But unlike previously, this time around the
US has found a very determined and deadly opponent.
Previously, the boundaries between the Taliban and their opponents were
clearly defined. As a result, the Taliban were easy to point out and
easy to target by US planes. But now there are no clear boundaries.
In addition to Saturday's clashes near Gardez, when US forces and the
Taliban squared off, US-led forces also faced assaults in regions
controlled by pro-Karzai forces.
According to Taliban sources, the Taliban have established small pockets
across the country, particularly in eastern areas. And given the
mountainous terrain, it is nearly impossible to locate bands of 10-15
people, even with the help of the local population. And passing
helicopters or military convoys become easily targets in such
Apart from this guerrilla strategy, information this correspondent has
acquired from Afghanistan appears to be in contrast to what is being
projected in the US media.
According to sources, the war has now begun on all fronts in Paktia and
Khost provinces, with US military installations coming under attack from
the small bands of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters that had been in hiding
By Tuesday the US had reported seven of its soldiers killed and more
than 40 wounded, although the figures could be higher. On Monday, the
first US helicopter in the five-month-old war was shot down in Zarmat, a
second was destroyed between Sata Kundao and Mata Chena (Khost), while
two more helicopters were destroyed during a raid at Khost Airport.
Taliban sources claim that about 160 US, Afghan and allied soldiers have
killed in these incidents. Taliban and al-Qaeda fatalities are believed
to run into hundreds.
Fierce fighting has erupted in Logar province adjacent to Kabul.
Different group of fighters from the Taliban, the Hizb-i-Islami and
other factions have banded together to take control of many areas.
According to sources, US planes had to come to the rescue of the
pro-Karzai administration in Logar, but the million-dollar question now
is where to drop the bombs as it is impossible to tell who is friend and
who is foe.
Similarly, the Taliban have taken positions in Orguzan and Himand
provinces in the south, but the administration of Kandahar, previously
the Taliban headquarters, is reluctant to take action against them
because once the fighting begins in earnest in southern Afghanistan,
pockets of resistance are likely to mushroom all over Kandahar and
Sources in the Taliban say that the next fighting is likely to be in
eastern Wardaz province, from where they will strive to take control of
Kunhar from the pro-Karzai administration that is currently in place.
Full article at:
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michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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