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    South Asia
     Aug 17, 2012

Defections test NATO's and Karzai's nerves
By Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud

Five deadly attacks against foreign troops in the past week carried out by Afghan law enforcement personnel have being claimed by a South Waziristan-based militant commander as the work of Taliban splinter cells.

The claim by the commander, who is believed to have been leading Taliban recruitment of rogue elements within Afghan security forces for the past two years, bolsters Taliban assertions that it has infiltrated the rank-and-file of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The Pakistani Taliban are deeply aligned with the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan regions.

"Our foremost objective is to ideologically transform the maximum


number of Mili Urdu [Afghan National Army] members and make them realize that the foreign troops have invaded Afghanistan under the pretext to destroy Islam and the very code of Afghan nation's honor and dignity," the commander, affiliated with Mulla Nazeer group in South Waziristan, told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.

The ongoing spate of "green-on-blue" attacks against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops by local security forces reflects the perplexing nature of the decade-long Afghan war and of the conflict's end-game as the international contingent prepares to withdraw by 2014. In the past week, the five attacks by rogue elements of the Afghan security apparatus killed seven American soldiers.

The attacks this month came in rapid succession - one US soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan last Tuesday, while last Thursday US troops killed an Afghan soldier attempting to gun them down at in Laghman province and three US soldiers were killed in Sangin district in Helmand province. Three more US soldiers were killed in Helmand the next day while on Monday two more US soldiers were wounded in Nangarhar when an Afghan police volunteer opened fire on them.

As the attacks intensify, the South Waziristan-based militant commander says coordinating them is being made increasingly difficult by the US's high-precision drone strikes.

Speaking exclusively to Asia Times Online, he said all militants are now keeping their true rank in respective organizations secret to evade the attention of US spies who guide US drones by placing an electronic homing device, locally known as "patrai", near the target.

"The day you reveal your importance at organizational level to media you come under American surveillance," the commander said. "We have changed our strategy. We keep a low profile but remain active operationally in our fight against the crusaders".

In section 1 of the Taliban's "Book of Rules" issued by the self-proclaimed "leader of the faithful", Mullah Omar, it states that the Taliban must provide full protection and other support to defectors, unless they have harmed fellow Afghans or mujahideen.

A credible militant source, affiliated with Hafiz Gul Bahadur's militant faction, which holds sway across North Waziristan, said a perception is growing among Afghans that Western forces are losing the war. This, he said, is why there are so many defectors from military and civilian sections of Afghan government.

"People have now realized that Americans are faced with humiliating defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahideen. Now they are switching their sides and joining Taliban because they see them as their future rulers," he told Asia Times Online.

A decade of war against the mighty West has refined the Taliban's strategy. Once a rag-tag militia relying solely on the use of force, the movement now has many tactics at its disposal to provoke an ill-educated but fervently religious and nationalist Afghan population into striking the international coalition and the "puppet" Karzai administration.

A key means of exploiting Afghans' religious and nationalist sentiment is through propaganda, with radio, printing material and religious sermons being used to sway hearts and minds.

Public relations calamities for Western allies such as the burning of the Koran at Bagram Air base, increasing collateral damage as the result of indiscriminate aerial shelling and atrocities like US forces urinating on dead Taliban bodies, have fueled these efforts. The West's failure to punish any culprits in these cases has further inflamed public sentiment.

Meanwhile, the Karzai regime has failed to deliver law and order, with the average Afghan left with no option but to look towards the Taliban to get problems solved. Taliban-established courts, though applying extreme measures to deliver justice, have had no shortage of work in ruling on matters ranging from tribal feuds to family's vendettas.

"People prefer to get their disputes resolved through Taliban courts because they deliver swift and cheap justice," a local Afghan elder, hailing from Afghan Khost province, told this correspondent last month.

"We are left with no option but to take arms and start fighting the foreigners and their local puppets. They have insulted our Koran and women, killed our elders and kids, destroyed our property and also supported the extreme corrupt and brutal regime of Karzai," said another tribal elder from Afghan Paktika province.

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud is Islamabad based investigative journalist. He can be reached at ihsantipu@yahoo.com

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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