The Growing Talibanization of Pakistan and Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

The news is replete with reports of Taliban casualties most days, but the queue of fighters waiting to join the jihad is long.

KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan — Here in the remote mountains of Pakistan, a deep, mostly dry riverbed has been turned into a training camp where about two dozen young men, most in their teens, receive rigorous training for the war against NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Their day starts at 4 a.m. with prayers, followed by a six-mile run along the riverbed, swimming where some water remains, and weapons training. “One has to go through this rigor to prepare for the tough life as a fighter,” said a 27-year-old who introduced himself as Omar Abdullah. He says he fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan before returning home to Pakistan a few weeks ago to organize training for new recruits.

The camp is just a few miles from Peshawar, the regional capital of Pakistan’s conservative tribal belt. The existence of the camp and dozens like it is a major reason why the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, just across the border, is foundering. Pakistan’s military is struggling to locate the camps and eradicate them, in part because many locals are sympathetic to the jihadis.

This camp, protected by a low hill, has no formal or permanent structure. The boys live in a nearby village. “The villagers look after us,” said Mr. Abdullah, a lean man with a sparse beard and a Kalashnikov rifle. Finding the camp requires an armed escort on a 20-minute walk from the village along a muddy track …

The Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt are organized under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an organization that has effectively established its own rule in the area. It is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by Pakistani authorities of masterminding suicide attacks including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December. He has denied any involvement in Ms. Bhutto’s murder.

The war in Afghanistan isn’t only attracting Pashtun jihadis but recruits from across Pakistan, some of whom had been fighting in Kashmir. “Jihad against American forces in Afghanistan is more important to us at this point,” said Mr. Abdullah.

One young man said he was a student at a business school in Peshawar and recently completed his 40 days of fighter training. He said he is waiting to join the war in Afghanistan. “There is a long queue, but I hope my turn would come soon,” he said.

The fighters are not just Pashtun, but are coming from all across Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud who leads the Tehrik-i-Taliban has created the most compelling and important organization of jihadist fighters in history, including al Qaeda. The effects are currently being seen in Afghanistan.

Militants fighting Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan have increased their activities, spokesman of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Wednesday. “There has been an increase in insurgents’ activities in south and east Afghanistan over the past two months or so,” Mike Finney told a joint press conference with Afghan defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi.

In addition to terming the summer and warming weather as ” fighting season” in Afghanistan, the spokesman said peace talks with Baitullah Mehsoud’s militants in Pakistan’s tribal area has led to 40 percent increase in insurgents’ activities in Afghanistan.

Baitullah Mehsoud, the commander of Taliban insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan adjoining Afghanistan, inked a peace deal with Pakistani government two months ago.

Since inking the peace deal with Pakistan, Mehsoud, according to Afghan government, has ordered his men to fight in Afghanistan against Afghan and international forces based there in the post-Taliban nation.

Mehsud’s influence is even expanding into the Pakistan South. It appears as if the port city of Karachi is now at risk.

… tensions are rising in the southern port city of Karachi, the financial capital of the country said to have the biggest Pashtun population in the world.

After 9 pm, armed Pashtu-speaking youths take to the streets of middle-class Gulshan-i-Iqbal and search vehicles. In the Pashtun slums of Banaras, any person wearing modern trousers and shirts is beaten up. Political leaders in the city, including elected representatives of the Muttehida Quami Movement (MQM), call it “Talibanization”.

MQM member parliament Dr Farooq Sattar said in an interview, “Elements who were forced out from the Waziristans and other tribal areas took refuge in Karachi, where they settled on empty land, mostly at the northern and southern entry routes of the city. The city is virtually under siege from these elements.”

A senior official from the Ministry of Interior commented, “They are not 100% Taliban, but ethnic Pashtuns who have increased their activity in the city and they have received ammunition from North-West Frontier Province. A big clash is imminent in the coming days between the non-Pashtun residents of the city and ethnic Pashtuns. This is not Talibanization but an organized bid to take over the resources of the city.”

The MQM, however, insists that the majority of the people in these Pashtun areas are directly connected with the Taliban. It is claimed they raise resources for the Taliban and plan to create chaos in the city to weaken the state writ.

The Talibanization of Pakistan is proceeding apace, while fighters are being sent into Afghanistan to undermine the already weak national government of Karzai. Pakistan’s answer is more talk, and while the high value individual or high value target initiative by the U.S. shouldn’t be closed down, it isn’t likely to net the most senior members of the movement, even if it nets some mid-level commanders. The movement must be militarily engaged and defeated. This cannot be done with black operations, special operations, intelligence gathering, surreptitious operations, and hidden and secret agreements or policing operations.


You are currently reading "The Growing Talibanization of Pakistan and Afghanistan", entry #1219 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Pakistan,Taliban,Tehrik-i-Taliban and was published July 30th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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