resistance By Syed Saleem
KARACHI - The onset of winter and
the heavy snows that go with it have traditionally
brought Afghanistan's civil wars to a halt over
the past 25 years.
But in the last two
years, the Taliban-led resistance has bucked the
trend. Two years ago, the winter was marked by the
country's first-ever suicide attacks, which took
place against US bases. And last year they
continued with sporadic guerrilla activities
throughout the long, cold months.
winter, the Taliban had planned to draw warlords
further into their struggle, luring them with
promises of protection for their drug-growing and
smuggling activities. The overall aim is to spread
as much chaos as possible across the country.
Now their cause has received a significant
boost from an unexpected quarter following reports
that US soldiers desecrated
bodies of Taliban fighters by burning them.
Islam traditionally forbids the cremation
or embalming of corpses. Further, as a spokesman
for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, "We
strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies
regardless of whether they are those of enemies or
An Australian television report
from a journalist who had been embedded with US
troops in Afghanistan, including video footage,
purportedly shows US soldiers standing by the
burning corpses of two suspected Taliban fighters
with their bodies laid out, facing Mecca.
The footage was filmed outside the
southern village of Gonbaz near the former Taliban
stronghold of Kandahar. It included a propaganda
message taunting Taliban fighters to retrieve
their dead and fight.
In the complex
tribal structure of Afghanistan, where Afghan
traditions (Pakhtoon wali) compliment
Islam, such an incident can be blown to
This happened in
the 1980s, during the Soviet occupation, when
Soviet authorities launched anti-traditionalist
policies, such as discouraging the role of Muslim
clerics in mosques and encouraging women to take a
lead role in society.
The result was the
wrath of the Afghan rural masses from north to
south and among Tajiks and Pashtuns, Shi'ites and
Sunnis. The reaction was far greater, and more
damaging, than the intended objective, and the
mujahideen resistance gained further popular
Both the Afghan and US
governments have expressed strong revulsion over
the footage, and have launched inquiries.
However, the incident gives the resistance
a perfect propaganda tool for rabble-raising and
widening its support to create the utmost
The Taliban have
achieved some success on this count recently.
The Jaishul Muslim was created to split
the Taliban by turning some against their leader,
Mullah Omar. The main purpose was to create an
organization that could control those warlords and
tribes siding with Mullah Omar by bringing them
into the Jaishul Muslim's fold, especially in
southern and southeastern Afghanistan.
Last year the Jaishul Muslim joined with
the Taliban, but soon the Taliban found them to be
unreliable and contact was broken off.
Asia Times Online contacts in Afghanistan say that
recently some powerful commanders who were with
Jaishul Muslim have agreed to join Taliban. These
commanders have each been assigned to particular
regions to carry out operations against US-led
Similar deals have been struck
with other commanders in places such as Kunar,
Ghazni, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
resistance point of view these developments have
come at a perfect time as the Pakistan Army is
tied up with relief operations in the Kashmir
region following the massive earthquake there last
This means that the resistance can
use Pakistani territory on the rugged border area
with Afghanistan with impunity.
be a long, cold and bloody winter.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau
Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be
reached at [email protected]