AND AFGHANISTAN The changing face of
resistance By Syed Saleem
KARACHI - A charcteristic of a successful resistance
movement is its ability to switch tactics
as circumstances change, and the insurgencies
in both Iraq and Afghanistan are proving to
be capable in this respect.
the US killing of the leader of al-Qaeda in
Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has provided
the opportunity for al-Qaeda for the first time to
take over the central command of the resistance,
with the overall goal of fomenting a popular Arab
uprising against the US presence.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan,
the Taliban, after a highly organized and fruitful - though costly
in terms of casualties - mass offensive in the south of
the country, is reorganizing somewhat to wage a
campaign involving carefully selected attacks.
In both countries, strong new leaders are
calling the shots - Abu Hamza al-Muhajir in Iraq
and Jalaluddin Haqqani in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda is proving to be
flexible in other areas as well, such as in its
choice of weapons and targets. Normally credible sources
familiar with al-Qaeda have told Asia Times Online of
a buzz within the group of plans to strike
the United States with electromagnetic bombs ("e-bombs", or high-power
microwave weapons). Theoretically, these could shut
down telecommunications networks, disrupt power
supplies and disable computers and electronic
"It is true about the e-bomb and
a plan to cripple US satellite systems. A section
of Arab fighters is working on this," retired
squadron leader Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times
Online. "I actually overheard such conversations
with those who interact a lot with Arab fighters
in Afghanistan." Khawaja worked for Pakistan's
secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI), and was a friend of Osama bin Laden.
"I never heard Osama or [his deputy] Dr
[Ayman al-]Zawahiri, or anyone else, discuss
nuclear attacks on the US. To me, this idea is
ridiculous. Only states can use nuclear technology
to destroy a country. Also, I never heard anyone
discussing with any depth a gas attack on America.
"However, I have now overheard
conversations which strongly suggest that there is
a section in the anti-American resistance which is
seriously pursuing a project aimed at taking
America back to the Stone Age without harming
human lives," Khawaja said.
Consolidation in Iraq
Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who
cut his teeth on the battlefields of Afghanistan,
will take over the whole command of the Iraqi
resistance infrastructure, according to contacts
who spoke to Asia Times Online.
as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was eliminated, a command
council took over control. Most of the members are
former veterans of the Afghan jihad. As soon as a
decision was communicated from Waziristan [in
Pakistan, from Zawahiri] for Muhajir to be
appointed as Emir-ul Jihad, a whole structure fell
into place for a well-defined jihad in Iraq," said
a source connected with the Iraqi resistance.
Previously, the command structure of the
resistance was scattered. Various Islamic groups
fought the Americans from the northern city of
Kirkuk to Basra in the south. Each one had a
separate command and organization.
Ba'athist elements also merged into many
of these groups, in addition to the Ba'ath Party's
own central command. Zarqawi gained prominence
because of his high-profile activities among the
various groups, but he did not represent a
central command of the resistance.
the past two years, hundreds of Arab Afghans left
Afghanistan to go to Iraq, where they merged with
various groups. As they were like-minded in their
conviction that US forces should be expelled from
the country, they formed a central mujahideen
With Zarqawi's death, this council, under Muhajir, who is
said to have an "encyclopedia-like"
knowledge of mujahideen all over the world,
has gained preeminence, largely because he has the
widespread respect and support of the resistance,
unlike Zarqawi. Muhajir, said the sources,
will use his influence and contacts to galvanize
support from across the Islamic world, especially
from Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt.
plan is to flood human resources into the Iraqi
that it can take on the
government-backed militias, as well as US and
At the same time,
instead of haphazard groups mounting attacks, the
resistance will attempt to dictate the rules of
the game. Effective intelligence operations will
be put in place in an effort to make attacks more
coordinated, effective and coherent. And
insurgents also plan to make more use of
Afghanistan, the elevation of Jalaluddin Haqqani
as head of military operations (see Taliban's new commander ready for a
fight, Asia Times Online, May 20) had
an immediate effect on the resistance. Haqqani has
deep roots across the country, is well respected
and is a proven tactician and coordinator.
Hide and seek in Afghanistan Soon after Haqqani took over, the Taliban
launched their biggest offensive since being
ousted from power in 2001. More than 600 people,
mostly militants, have been killed in the past
month in numerous full-scale battles in the south
of the country, often involving Taliban groups
more than 100-strong.
These attacks were
complemented with the use of improvised explosive
devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks in various
parts of the country.
At the same time,
the Taliban appealed to the masses to take control
of local administrations. This happened in the
provinces of Urzgan, Helmand, Zabul and Kandahar,
besides Kunar, Paktia and Paktika, where the
Taliban have taken over partial control in some
This appeal to the masses was
repeated in a new video message from Zawahiri,
posted on Islamic websites on Wednesday evening.
He called for "young men in Kabul's universities
to rise up and join in with the mujahideen forces
in attacking the invaders and freeing Muslim
Contacts familiar with the
resistance say that now the Taliban will scale
back the big attacks and concentrate on precision
targeted attacks and ambushes, while still using
IEDs and suicide bombers.
explained that this was part of a cat-and-mouse
game to wear down coalition forces by constantly
switching tactics. Just as the coalition was
adjusting to deal with large groups of fighters,
the Taliban have retreated to the mountains.
Commented Hamid Gul, a retired
lieutenant-general of the Pakistani army and
former director general of the ISI, "The
resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq has very much
attained a level which the anti-Soviet resistance
[in Afghanistan] attained in 1987. The resistance
beset the Soviet forces from all sides. By 1987,
the Soviets had flexed their maximum muscle and
they lost control and ultimately agreed to an exit
"The same is true with
the Americans. They will apply maximum pressure by
November, if only to win Congress elections [for
the Republican Party of President George W Bush].
After that, you will see a Soviet-like policy in
which they will steadily lose their grip and
finally they will devise an exit plan," Gul said.