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    South Asia
     May 9, 2007
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Pakistan gains from Taliban split
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - The Taliban are poised to launch Ghazwatul Badr to seize control of Kabul. The name of the offensive is a reference to the Battle of Badr commanded by the Prophet Mohammed in the Arabian Peninsula some 1,400 years ago.

The Battle of Badr was the key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Mohammed's struggle with his opponents among the Quraish tribe in Mecca. The battle has been passed

down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention and the genius of Mohammed.

In this century's version of the battle, more than 30,000 youths have been trained in the Pakistani tribal areas of North and South Waziristan as cannon fodder in a struggle that the Taliban believe will be the key turning point against foreign occupation forces and the Taliban's opponents in Kabul.

On the eve of the offensive, however, machinations within the ranks of the resistance have opened divisions among the field commanders. Plans to foment a mass uprising across Afghanistan will go ahead, but it could be that the offensive will have more than one leader and several movements, under the brand name of the Taliban.

Preparing for Ghazwatul Badr
Last year's spring offensive in Afghanistan saw a strengthening and regrouping of Taliban commanders, so much so that the resistance was the most successful since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

As the Taliban see it, they are fighting against the subjugation of the Afghan people by the infidel armies of the West. As such, any Afghan who supports the Western armies is considered an infidel. This notion was promoted across the country, and found considerable resonance in a society with strong memories of the 10-year jihad against the godless Soviets in the 1980s.

People have been urged to leave areas controlled by North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led (NATO) forces and resettle in isolated communities. From here they are encouraged to wage war against the infidels, which includes Muslims sympathetic to foreigners.

After 2001, many small groups of Taliban militants gathered in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and last year the tribespeople of southwestern Afghanistan welcomed them back into the heartlands. This saw the emergence of strong local warlords. With the onset of Ghazwatul Badr, the same phenomenon is likely to happen in western Afghanistan, in the east and in parts of the north.

Last year's offensive honed the command skills of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani and his sons Sirajuddin and Nasiruddin, as well as Mullah Dadullah and the leader of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and his commanders.

These would be the men, the Taliban believed, to expand the gains made in southwestern Afghanistan last year to other parts of the country, and ultimately to Kabul. But it will not be as clear-cut as that.

A mass uprising
With the spring offensive of 2006, the Taliban gained rapid support in southeastern and western Afghanistan with various warlords and tribal elders. The Taliban were no longer defined by their tunnel vision - they took on a messianic role against the destructive US war machine, notorious over the years for its indiscriminate aerial bombings and failure to deliver on promises for the reconstruction and well-being of the country.

The fierce NATO response to the resurgent Taliban led to the killing of hundreds of non-combatant tribespeople, including women and children. Tribal leaders had little or no moral ground to restrain the mounting anger among people to join in the retaliation against NATO.

This phenomenon helped the Taliban to expand their operations from the southwestern provinces of Zabul, Orzgan, Helmand and parts of Kandahar to the western provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghor and Baghdais, with the assistance of non-Taliban warlords. Similarly, they gained a foothold in the southeastern provinces of Kunar, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Gardez and Nangarhar.

It is from this platform that this year's mass offensive will be launched.

Haqqani, the legendary mujahideen commander against the Soviets, was appointed by Taliban leader Mullah Omar as the deputy chief of the Taliban movement and the all-powerful commander of last year's offensive.

The forces of resistance took some time to make an impression against the war machine of the US and its allies, especially in the 

Continued 1 2 

Anger over 'Taliban' deaths (May 2, '07)

Little to cheer on Afghan anniversary (Apr 28, '07)

Iran, US take their fight to Afghanistan (Apr 21, '07)


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