05 Oct 2006

Pakistan Assisting Taliban

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The Telegraph reports:

Commanders from five Nato countries whose troops have just fought the bloodiest battle with the Taliban in five years, are demanding their governments get tough with Pakistan over the support and sanctuary its security services provide to the Taliban.

Nato’s report on Operation Medusa, an intense battle that lasted from September 4-17 in the Panjwai district, demonstrates the extent of the Taliban’s military capability and states clearly that Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is involved in supplying it….

It is time for an ‘either you are with us or against us’ delivered bluntly to Musharraf at the highest political level,” said one Nato commander.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001 America gave Mr Musharraf a similar ultimatum to co-operate against the Taliban, who were then harbouring Osama bin Laden.

“Our boys in southern Afghanistan are hurting because of what is coming out of Quetta,” he added.

The Taliban use the southern province of Balochistan to co-ordinate their insurgency and to recuperate after military action.

The cushion Pakistan is providing the Taliban is undermining the operation in Afghanistan, where 31,000 Nato troops are now based. The Canadians were most involved in Operation Medusa, two weeks of heavy fighting in a lush vineyard region, defeating 1,500 well entrenched Taliban, who had planned to attack Kandahar city, the capital of the south.

Nato officials now say they killed 1,100 Taliban fighters, not the 500 originally claimed. Hundreds of Taliban reinforcements in pick-up trucks who crossed over from Quetta — waved on by Pakistani border guards — were destroyed by Nato air and artillery strikes.

Nato captured 160 Taliban, many of them Pakistanis who described in detail the ISI’s support to the Taliban.

Nato is now mapping the entire Taliban support structure in Balochistan, from ISI- run training camps near Quetta to huge ammunition dumps, arrival points for Taliban’s new weapons and meeting places of the shura, or leadership council, in Quetta, which is headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the group’s leader since its creation a dozen years ago.

Nato and Afghan officers say two training camps for the Taliban are located just outside Quetta, while the group is using hundreds of madrassas where the fighters are housed and fired up ideologically before being sent to the front.

Many madrassas now being listed are run by the Jamiat-e-Ullema Islam, a political party that governs Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province. The party helped spawn the Taliban in 1994.

“Taliban decision-making and its logistics are all inside Pakistan,” said the Afghan defense minister, General Rahim Wardak.

A post-battle intelligence report compiled by Nato and Afghan forces involved in Operation Medusa demonstrates the logistical capability of the Taliban.

During the battle the Taliban fired an estimated 400,000 rounds of ammunition, 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 1,000 mortar shells, which slowly arrived in Panjwai from Quetta over the spring months. Ammunition dumps unearthed after the battle showed that the Taliban had stocked over one million rounds in Panjwai.

In Panjwai the Taliban had also established a training camp to teach guerrillas how to penetrate Kandahar, a separate camp to train suicide bombers and a full surgical field hospital. Nato estimated the cost of Taliban ammunition stocks at around £2.6 million. “The Taliban could not have done this on their own without the ISI,” said a senior Nato officer.

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One Feedback on "Pakistan Assisting Taliban"

Dominique R. Poirier

During the time when the Talibans ruled Afghanistan, the Pakistani intelligence service would have recruited numerous Pakitstani Pashtuns in order to make infiltration operations in Afghanistan easier. For the record, Pasthuns are an ethno-linguistic group living primarily in eastern and southern Afghanistan and in the North West Frontier Province, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan. The Pashtuns are typically characterized by their language, adherence to Pashtunwali (a pre-Islamic indigenous religious code of honor and culture), and Islam.

Pashtuns played also a pivotal role during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as many joined the ranks of the Mujahideen. They also gained notoriety with the rise and fall of the Talibans since they were the main ethnic contingent in the movement, as I aforesaid. Modern Pashtuns have been prominent in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and are an important community in Pakistan where they are the second largest ethnic group. Hamid Karzai, today’s President of Afghanistan is hismelf an ethnic Pashtun.

So, in short, it just happens that Talibans and many Pakistanis are members of a same tribe. According to the World FactBook 42% of the Afghan population, and 15% of the Pakistan population, would be ethnic Pashtuns. This suggests a total of roughly 40 millions. The exact measure of these figures remains uncertain, particularly those for Afghanistan, and are affected by approximately 3 million Afghan refugees (of which 81.5% or 2.49 million are ethnic Pashtuns) that remain in Pakistan; another fact that deserves further consideration..

While attempting to find an explanation justifying the laxism, or straying, of the Pakistani intelligence service on Taliban issue, one may hazard the hypothesis that the existing of this ethnic Pashtun community could, to some extent, be responsible of it. But, prior stating anything like this, some questions would deserve to be asked. Do the Pashtun have gained any influence in the Pakistani intelligence service during the two last decades? Is there a schism or an internal conflict of interest between Pashtuns and other ethnic groups (Punjabi, Indi) in this organization? Do intelligence reports suggest that Pakistani involved in the arming of the Talibans and providing them logistical and other forms of help are more often Pashtuns that anything else? Is the Pakistan government fully in control of its intelligence apparatus?



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