[A-List] Afghanistan: the blowback continues
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Mar 11 06:10:40 MST 2002
Taliban find unlikely allies
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times, March 12, 2002
KARACHI - With fighting in the eastern Afghanistan region of Gardez in
Paktia province well into its second week as United States and allied
troops hunt down pockets of al-Qaeda and Taliban resistance, the ground
realities in the country are rapidly changing.
Signals are emerging that an anti-US alliance comprising local
commanders and small tribal chiefs is being developed, but in the near
future there is a strong chance that some big names will add momentum to
Well-placed sources in Afghanistan have confirmed that the leader of the
former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is
regrouping in southern Orguzan province, and that he is trying to muster
support from tribes there.
This approach shows that the Taliban are aware that they cannot
single-handedly raise any significant opposition, and that considering
the new political map in the country, they are now prepared to join with
local commanders and tribal chiefs to wage war against foreign troops
and the interim administration of Hamid Karzai.
The sources also suggest that lines of communication are being
established between leaders of the Northern Alliance, including
Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf, General Mohammed
Fahim and Mullah Omar and former Taliban minister Maulana Jalaluddin
Haqqani (Haqqani is said to have been injured in the bombing in Gardez.)
The Taliban reportedly have sent messages to the Northern Alliance
leaders urging them to forget all past differences (the alliance was at
the forefront of driving the Taliban out of power) and join hands to
oust US troops from the country.
This is said to be the first time since the emergence of the Taliban as
a power in 1996 that Mullah Omer has shown any flexibility in his
attitude towards the Northern Alliance, but clearly he has struck while
the iron is hot to extend the hand of "friendship".
Rabbani and Sayyaf were the most important resistance leaders during the
Soviet invasion that ended in 1992, but in the current political
situation in Afghanistan they have been left out in the cold. Although
Fahim is the defense minister, the presence of foreign troops in the
country - to which he is opposed - leaves him with little real authority
on important defense issues.
At the same time, the Northern Alliance leaders realize that support for
former monarch Zahir Shah is widespread and growing at all levels - and
that these supporters are largely more reliable and pro-West than any
other faction in the country.
Zahir Shah is due to return to Kabul on March 21 for Nouroze
celebrations to mark the Zoastrian new year, which will see other
factions left even further out of the limelight. He is expected to be
welcomed in the Afghan capital with full royal honors. Karzai will join
him in Rome - where he has lived in exile since abdicating in 1972 - and
escort him to Kabul.
Leaders such as Rabbani and Sayyaf, who live in Kabul where they attempt
to play the role of "fixers" by exploiting what access they have into
the corridors of power, will be sharply shown that their support among
the warlords is limited. Zahir Shah is still loved and respected among
Afghans, irrespective of ethnic affiliations, and they are expected to
demonstrate this support by flooding into Kabul.
The day that the former monarch steps into Afghanistan he will become an
unequivocal "Afghan elder". In this capacity, as is the Afghan
tradition, he will play a key role in the loya jirga (grand council)
that is to meet to map out a more permanent political future for the
Rabbani and Sayyaf, as well as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a premier during the
days of the Afghan communist regime in Kabul, have branded such a
council as un-Islamic. There is little chance, therefore, of Northern
Alliance people having any significant representation at the council, as
pro-Zahir Shah elements, whether they be Pashtun or not, will rule the
roost in Afghan politics.
Many people loyal to the former king live in exile in Europe and
America. They are generally wealthy and educated, and in good positions
to influence events against the likes of Rabbani and Sayyaf. The latter,
as well as Fahim, will have little option, then, if they want to have
any influence, but to ally with Mullah Omar either overtly or covertly.
Sources say that under the command of Mullah Saifullah Mansoor, the
mastermind of on-going fighting around Gardez, small groups will remain
hidden in the mountainous terrain around Shahi Kot and Zurmat. In the
past week these groups have launched scores of hit-and-run operations
against US and allied troops.
Taliban sources claim that they have captured several US soldiers, whom
they have detained in caves in the area. They are said to be prepared to
negotiate conditions for the release of these prisoners.
Taliban sources have also confirmed that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have
sustained heavy casualties as a result of the US bombing in Operation
Anaconda, but they have reinforced their positions with both men and
ammunition through the support of tribes and local commanders in the
Full article at:
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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