Page 1 of 2 Pakistan makes a deal with the Taliban By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The Pakistani establishment has made a deal with the Taliban through
a leading Taliban commander that will extend Islamabad's influence into
southwestern Afghanistan and significantly strengthen the resistance in its
push to capture Kabul.
One-legged Mullah Dadullah will be Pakistan's strongman in a corridor running
from the Afghan provinces of Zabul, Urzgan, Kandahar and Helmand across the
border into Pakistan's
Balochistan province, according to both Taliban and al-Qaeda contacts Asia
Times Online spoke to. Using Pakistani territory and with Islamabad's support,
the Taliban will be able safely to move men, weapons and supplies into
The deal with Mullah Dadullah will serve Pakistan's interests in re-
establishing a strong foothold in Afghanistan (the government in Kabul leans
much more toward India), and it has resulted in a cooling of the Taliban's
relations with al-Qaeda.
Despite their most successful spring offensive last year since being ousted in
2001, the Taliban realize they need the assistance of a state actor if
they are to achieve "total victory". Al-Qaeda will have nothing to do with the
Islamabad government, though, so the Taliban had to go it alone.
The move also comes as the US is putting growing pressure on Pakistan to do
more about the Taliban and al-Qaeda ahead of a much-anticipated spring
offensive in Afghanistan. US Vice President Dick Cheney paid an unexpected
visit to Pakistan on Monday to meet with President General Pervez Musharraf.
The White House refused to say what message Cheney gave Musharraf, but it did
not deny reports that it included a tough warning that US aid to Pakistan could
be in jeopardy.
A parting of the ways
The Taliban saw that after five years working with al-Qaeda, the resistance
appeared to have reached a stage where it could not go much further.
Certainly it has grown in strength, and last year's spring offensive was a
classic example of guerrilla warfare with the help of indigenous support. The
application of improvised explosive devices and techniques of urban warfare,
which the Taliban learned from the Iraqi resistance, did make a difference and
inflicted major casualties against coalition troops.
However, the Taliban were unable to achieve important goals, such as the fall
of Kandahar and laying siege to Kabul from the southern Musayab Valley on the
one side to the Tagab Valley on the northern side.
Taliban commanders planning this year's spring uprising acknowledged that as an
independent organization or militia, they could not fight a sustained battle
against state resources. They believed they could mobilize the masses, but this
would likely bring a rain of death from the skies and the massacre of Taliban
sympathizers. Their answer was to find their own state resources, and
inevitably they looked toward their former patron, Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda does not fit into any plans involving Pakistan, but mutual respect
between the al-Qaeda leadership and the Taliban still exists. All the same,
there is tension over their ideological differences, and al-Qaeda sources
believe it is just a matter of time before the sides part physically as well.
Pakistan only too happy to help
Ever since signing on for the US-led "war on terror" after the September 11,
2001, attacks on the US, Pakistan has been coerced by Washington to distance
itself from the Taliban. The Taliban were, after all, enemy No 1 for harboring
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's training camps.
So when the opportunity arose, Islamabad was quick to tap up Mullah Dadullah.
This was the perfect way in which Pakistan could revive its contacts in the
Taliban and give the spring uprising some real muscle, so the argument went
among the strategic planners in Rawalpindi - in fact, so much muscle that