In search of the Taliban's missing
link By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - Despite spending many millions
of dollars, US intelligence, five years after the
ouster of the Taliban from Kabul, remains in the
dark over the command structure of the Taliban.
The Taliban have a tight high command from
where - and this is the mystery - precise orders,
such as targets, are relayed to the fighters in
the field. Cracking this code is key to putting a
brake on the insurgency that gathers strength by
When the Taliban's spring
offensive began in June, the US-led
identified the people in the Taliban's command
council and their usual modus operandi and
location in the guerrilla war.
coalition tactics were based on this information,
such as search operations, troop postings,
logistics and arms allocations. The primary aim
was to net Taliban leader Mullah Omar and close
aides, such as Maualana Jalaluddin Haqqani, Mullah
Dadullah and Mullah Gul Mohammed Jangvi.
Months later, these men have not even come
close to being captured. That leaves the questions
unanswered: How (and from where) do they manage to
relay their instructions into the battlefield?
Asia Times Online has learned that this year
alone, international intelligence operations in
Afghanistan have spent millions of dollars trying
to find out, even as fighting in the past month
has been the heaviest ever.
the Taliban are now drawing increasing support
from the Afghan population. These additional
numbers have allowed them for the first time to
conduct their own large-scale search operations
against NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
troops in the south.
As a result, NATO
this week requested additional troops, with no
success. The alliance, which took command of
military operations in southern Afghanistan on
July 31, had wanted 2,000 extra soldiers to
reinforce the 19,000-strong International Security
Throwing more troops
into a conventional battle (artillery and air
strikes especially) might not be the best way to
go as long as there remains a basic lack of
understanding of where the enemy's command center
is and how the mujahideen receive orders. What is
known is that among the rank and file of the
mujahideen there is a strong system of
communication, with instructions flowing freely
And despite claims by
coalition forces to the contrary, the Taliban are
not obsessed with taking control of provinces or
districts. They abandoned that tactic at the end
of July, and a lull in fighting followed.
Since then, the new policy has been that
the local population join in the fight against
NATO, especially hunting down its convoys.
What is worth noting is that what is
happening in Afghanistan has happened before,
against the British many years ago and against the
Soviets more recently. This latest battle against
a foreign invader is being fought as a classic
Afghan war, although the sequence of events is
In the past,
resistance leaders migrated to neighboring states
early in the campaign. This time it is happening
much later. Previously, command councils were
formed at the end, and the mass mutiny started
earlier. This time it is the other way around.
Of one thing the Taliban are convinced,
blindly some might say: Afghan tradition dictates
that foreign forces will be resisted to the last.
Further, the Taliban believe that by the end of
the spring offensive, Mullah Omar will again
declare himself head of the Islamic Emirate of
Taliban for a final battle against the foreigners.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia
Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.