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2 How the Taliban prepare for
battle By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - After the Taliban's successful
spring offensive there are calls from Kabul for
reconciliation with them, indications from the US
and recognition of the fact from Pakistan that
without striking a major deal with the Taliban,
there can be no peace and stability in
The Taliban, though, forced
out of power by the US-led invasion of 2001 for
harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, are
planning for next year's
offensive, the central aim of which is to retake
Kandahar, their previous spiritual capital.
Afghans know their traditions well and are
aware that the current insurgency has the ability
to turn into a mass rebellion against foreign
forces, but most people do not know exactly how
this will happen.
Asia Times Online
traveled deep inside Taliban territory to get some
Huge swaths of the Pashtun
heartland in southwestern Afghanistan are now
sympathetic to the Taliban-led resistance against
foreign troops and the Hamid Karzai-led
administration in Kabul. The Taliban have
strongholds in most villages and they prove their
presence through daily attacks. More than 4,000
people, mostly civilians, are believed to have
died in fighting this year, including more than
100 foreign soldiers.
The soul of the
southwest is the town of Kandahar, in the province
of the same name. All surrounding districts are
highly volatile, especially the Panjwai area, the
strategic center of the Taliban near Kandahar.
There have only been a few isolated
attacks in Kandahar itself, and driving through
the city it appears to be very much a stronghold
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO
vehicles are everywhere, and when they pass
through the main arteries they occupy both lanes
to cut off potential suicide vehicles. Taxi
drivers and private motorists immediately pull off
the road when they see NATO vehicles approaching.
All major roads and intersections are
manned by Afghan police and the Afghan National
Army. On the surface, Kabul appears to be in full
control of Kandahar and its administration under
Appearances can be deceptive,
A son of the soil Abdul
Jalil lives in a middle-class neighborhood of
Kandahar, although he is regarded as a true son of
the soil. He was a middle-ranking official during
the Taliban regime of 1996-2001.
fall of Kandahar he chose to lie low; when he did
visit his family he did so in secret. Over time he
started to move around Kandahar more openly, but
always declined any renewed association with the
Taliban. In the past few months, though, the
situation changed dramatically.
to avoid visiting public places. We were afraid of
speaking in favor of the Taliban. Now you can see
I move all around. I go to the marketplaces and
openly introduce myself as a Talib," Abdul Jalil
told Asia Times Online at his home, where several
other Taliban also live.
But these men are
not fighters. They have been assigned by the
Taliban's command center in Panjwai district to
provide logistical support.
reasons, Abdul Jalil was not prepared to go into
too much detail about precise Taliban activities.
But what can be gleaned is that hundreds of others
in Kandahar like Abdul Jalil have been drawn back
into the ranks of the Taliban.
reason for this is the change in mood in the
Pashtun areas, from being ambivalent - if not even
hostile - toward the Taliban, to fully supporting
Almost all the tribes of the Pashtun
heartland of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan
provinces, the traditional rulers of modern
Afghanistan since the 18th century, feel that they
are now politically deprived and that the
occupying forces do not trust them.
Repeated aerial bombings of civilians have
also played right into the Taliban's hands and
ordinary people, tired of being innocent targets
over the years, now welcome the Taliban's foot
Thus people like Abdul Jalil,
who had been prepared to abandon the Taliban, are
once again active in the movement.
Abdul Jalil's house guests were Mehmood and Hamid,
both in their late 20s, about the same age as
their host, who appeared to be senior to them in
matters related to the Taliban. All three were
educated in Kandahar madrassas (seminaries)
and, from their appearance, were obviously
Mehmood and Hamid had been
assigned to collect donations from Afghan
philanthropists, traders and businessmen and
arrange money, satellite-telephone pre-paid cards,
blankets, clothes and food for Taliban fighters in
various districts around Kandahar and Panjwai.
"Brother, the situation has changed now,"
said Mehmood. "We go out and ask for contributions
for the resistance and come back with our pockets
full of money and resources. Some traders have
taken on the responsibility of recharging credit
in satellite phones and they supply prepaid cards
worth Rs3,000 [US$50] every month. Others purchase
blankets and jackets, vegetables, meat and flour,
and some contribute cash. We supply all this to
Hamid and Mehmood
pointed out that the restoration of these networks
had made the Taliban much more effective,
organized and in good morale.
bigger picture Abdul Jalil is also
associated with the Taliban's logistics, but his
responsibilities are more tactical in that he is
helping prepare for next year's primary objective,
the capture of Kandahar, and then in mobilizing
all major forces in southwestern Afghanistan to
unseat the Kabul government.
Abdul Jalil is well suited. He is trained in
guerrilla urban warfare, especially in the use of
improvised explosive devices, a skill he learned
in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area.
Abdul Jalil's multiple roles include
coordinating between the Taliban and those
government officials who are sympathetic to the