Archive for the ‘ Tehrik-i-Taliban ’ Category

Obama, Karzai Strive To Project Unity, Deny Serious Differences

By Jonathan Landay for The Kansas City Star

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai asserted Wednesday that progress is being made toward crushing the Taliban-led insurgency, but new studies on the Afghan army and police raise serious doubts about whether the strategy can succeed before a U.S. troop drawdown begins in July 2011.

Flanked by Karzai at a White House news conference, Obama urged Americans to have patience with the “joint strategy” that he unveiled in December to stabilize Afghanistan, defeat the insurgency and prevent the country’s reversion to a Qaida sanctuary. He warned, however, that “there is going to be some hard fighting over the next couple of months.”

He apparently was referring to the summer “fighting season” that’s traditionally racked Afghanistan and that this year will see a drive to clear the Taliban from the southern city of Kandahar that’s being supplemented by an additional 30,000 U.S. troops.

The joint news conference was the public high point of a tightly scripted four-day visit in which Karzai was feted, praised and lavished with the full red-carpet treatment by the U.S. administration, which is determined to reset a relationship scarred by feuding and anti-American tirades by the Afghan leader amid record bloodshed.

The administration concluded that the tensions were an obstacle to Afghan cooperation on a number of fronts central to Obama’s strategy, especially the operations to drive the Taliban from their strongholds in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, turn them over to government control and jump-start economic development.

Moreover, U.S. officials want to reassure Karzai and ordinary Afghans – as well as regional powers that already are jockeying for influence – that the U.S. troop drawdown doesn’t mean that the United States will abandon Afghanistan as it did after the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, which was followed by a vicious 12-year civil war.

“We are not suddenly as of July 2011 finished with Afghanistan,” Obama said. “This is a long-term partnership that is not simply defined by our military presence.”

Obama and Karzai sought to present a portrait of unity, saying that progress is being made by the U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign, by an American effort to avert civilian casualties and by Karzai on his vows to clean up narcotics-fueled corruption and boost public services, the rule of law and good governance.

“Our solidarity today sends an unmistakable message to those who would stand in the way of Afghanistan’s progress,” Obama said. “They will try to drive us apart, but we will partner with the Afghan people for the long term, toward a future of greater security, prosperity, justice and progress. And I am absolutely convinced we will succeed.”

Obama conceded that “there are going to be tensions in such a complicated and difficult environment and in a situation in which, on the ground, both Afghans and Americans are making enormous sacrifices.”

However, he said, a lot of “perceived tensions” between the sides “were simply overstated.”

“It’s a real relationship,” Karzai agreed. “It’s based on some very hard realities. We are in a campaign against terrorism together. There are days that we are happy. There are days that we are not happy.

“The bottom line is that we are much more strongly related to each other than we ever were before. That is a good message that I will take back to the Afghan people.”

U.S.-led international efforts have made considerable progress in helping to bring stability, education, health care and development to many parts of the country of 32 million people since the 2001 invasion drove the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership into neighboring Pakistan.

However, the Taliban and allied groups – aided by al-Qaida and the former Bush administration’s diversion of U.S. forces, time and money to Iraq – staged a major comeback that’s surged as U.S. commanders struggle to implement Obama’s strategy.

New reports on the Afghan army and police – each a crucial element of Obama’s plan to transfer responsibility for districts cleared of insurgents to Afghan government control as the U.S. troop drawdown begins – underscore the enormous hurdles that persist.

A report released Wednesday by the International Crisis Group, a respected conflict-prevention organization, says that the Afghan army is suffused with corruption, desertions, ethnic tensions and disputes between its highest leaders.

The report warns that Obama’s plan to expand the Afghan National Army to 240,000 troops from 90,000 by 2013 could worsen those problems and “risk the army’s disintegration after the withdrawal of international forces.”

A report by the Rand Corp. research center on the Afghan Civil Order Police, an elite unit that’s playing a key role in Helmand and Kandahar, found that the contingent is infected with the same problems of corruption and ineptitude that plague other police forces.

ANCOP members have set up checkpoints to shake down residents, been kicked out of the unit for drug use and been shunned in some areas as outsiders, according to U.S. officials briefed on the Rand Corp. analysis, who spoke to McClatchy only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Relations between Kabul and Washington have been brittle since Obama took office last year, shaken by U.S. criticism of Karzai’s failure to crack down on official corruption, his dubious dependability, his reliance on a patronage network of warlords and family members, and the massive fraud that marred his re-election to another term last August.

For his part, Karzai has complained about civilian casualties caused by U.S. military operations and launched tirades against the United States and his other international backers, reflecting his unpopularity among ordinary Afghans, who are angry that the war is still raging nearly nine years after the U.S.-led invasion.

“We have an interest in reducing civilian casualties not because it’s a problem for President Karzai. We have an interest in reducing civilian casualties because I don’t want civilians killed,” said Obama, who noted that the Taliban have killed more civilians.

A Pentagon report last month said the overall level of violence in Afghanistan rose 87 percent from February 2009 to March 2010. More than 1,760 international troops – including 1,068 Americans – have been killed, according to, a website that tracks casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of Afghan security forces, officials and civilians have been killed and wounded. There are currently 102,000 troops from 46 nations, including the United States, in Afghanistan. There will be 98,000 U.S. troops there when the surge is completed later this summer.


Pressure Builds on Pakistan’s Military

By Omar Waraich for

“When in doubt, do nothing” could have served as the Pakistani military’s unofficial motto until now on the tricky question of tackling militant strongholds in the tribal badlands of North Waziristan. But doing nothing may no longer be an option, now that the Obama Administration is blaming the failed Times Square bomb attack on the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Washington has long cajoled the Pakistani army to extend its campaign against militants on its own soil into North Waziristan, where the TTP leadership has set up shop amid a viper’s nest of militant groups that include al-Qaeda, but the generals have until now demurred, claiming a lack of resources. Following reports that Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was trained by TTP elements in North Waziristan, the pressure on Pakistan from Washington has sharply increased, leaving the Pakistani military leadership in an increasingly uncomfortable position.

On May 7, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, met with Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, reportedly to coax Pakistan into moving into North Waziristan. And on May 9, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sternly warned of “very severe consequences” for Pakistan if an attack similar to the one tried in Times Square were to prove successful.

Pakistanis are already embarrassed at the fact that Shahzad was not only born in Pakistan and is alleged to have been trained there, but is also the son of a retired senior military officer. More alarming still is the apparent move by the TTP, until now a domestic insurgency directed at the Pakistani state, to target a U.S. city in retaliation for drone attacks in Pakistan. That leaves Pakistan’s political and military leadership to find a response sensitive to both the needs of a key ally and the concerns of a skeptical public.

Wary of U.S. motives at the best of times, Pakistani public opinion was rankled by Clinton’s warning. Even liberal newspapers committed to fighting militancy warned of the statement’s unintended effects. “Ms. Clinton’s comments are unfortunate and will rekindle suspicions here that America is no real friend of Pakistan,” said an editorial in Dawn, Pakistan’s leading newspaper. The fear is that those who oppose the campaign against jihadist militancy will turn Pakistani ire at Clinton’s perceived bullying to their advantage in the battle for Pakistani hearts and minds.

But while an offensive launched under pressure from the U.S. could antagonize the Pakistani public, there could be an even greater backlash should the U.S. decide to take matters into its own hands. This year alone has seen at least 32 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, principally at targets in North Waziristan, and that program — which infuriates many Pakistanis — is set to continue. While the authorities may be able to absorb the political fallout from the increasingly accurate drone strikes, their real worry is that Washington might decide to send its own ground forces into North Waziristan. “[The presence of U.S. troops] would be truly disastrous,” says Aftab Sherpao, who served as Interior Minister under former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The mere presence of foreign soldiers, he believes, would inflame public opinion to dangerous proportions, weakening the hand of the civilian government and the army. In September 2008, the only known case of an American boots-on-the-ground operation triggered a chorus of outrage, led by General Kayani himself.

Even if the U.S. refrained from expanding its own actions on Pakistani soil, the generals and politicians also fear that failure to act could jeopardize the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in civilian and military aid from Washington. Given the risks that follow from doing nothing, Pakistan will have to take action. “The army realizes that it must go into North Waziristan,” says retired Pakistani general and analyst Talat Masood. “They have been looking at this option for quite some time, but they have been hesitant, as they are overstretched.” Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are already fanned out across the northwest and the tribal areas in an effort to consolidate gains made in recent offensives. “Washington should appreciate that we have covered a lot of area,” insists Sherpao, the former Interior Minister. “There have been operations in Swat, Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan. We cannot move troops from the eastern border because there’s no comfort as far as India is concerned.” As the military’s decision to test-fire two ballistic missiles at the weekend demonstrates, India remains its principal focus.

The Pakistani military has long drawn a distinction between the Taliban, and related insurgent groups, using its soil as a base from which to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan and those waging war on the Pakistani state. The Afghanistan-oriented groups have been allowed to operate largely unmolested in keeping with Pakistan’s desire to recover lost influence in Afghanistan, while the military has gone after the TTP. But as the army pushed into the TTP’s strongholds in South Waziristan, the group moved north, into territory controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur — a militant leader who enjoys a fragile nonaggression pact with the Pakistan army. “It’s a very complex area,” says Masood, “particularly because there are elements there that are not so hostile to the Pakistani military.” By that he means the Haqqani network, an al-Qaeda linked Afghan Taliban group deemed one of the most dangerous confronting the U.S. in Afghanistan but viewed as a strategic asset by Pakistan’s intelligence services. “The army will prefer to take a limited operation, one that is confined to the Mehsud areas,” says Masood, referring to TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

But North Waziristan is only one part of the jihadist infrastructure that enables terror attacks beyond Pakistan’s borders. As Shahzad’s alleged story — making contact with militant elements in Karachi before heading off to North Waziristan for training — demonstrates, there are jihadist groups seeded throughout the country, and they’re strengthening their cooperative ties with one another.

Dismantling that infrastructure will take years, say Pakistani analysts and politicians. “You can’t start operations against all these groups simultaneously,” says Sherpao. “You have to proceed step by step. You have to consolidate your gains first, then move on to the next target.” But the Shahzad case, says Sherpao, should serve as a wake-up call. “The political and military leadership have to sit down now and devise a serious response,” he says. “Otherwise, it will become very difficult.”

Militant Factions With Global Aims Are Spreading Roots Throughout Pakistan

By Karin Brulliard and Pamela Constable for The Washington Post

KARACHI, PAKISTAN- Terrorism suspect Faisal Shahzad’s alleged path to Times Square reflects what experts say is a militant support network that spans Pakistan and is eager to shepherd aspiring terrorists from around the globe. In this teeming southern metropolis, authorities are focusing on a domestic militant outfit that might have escorted Shahzad to distant northern peaks where U.S. investigators allege he received training with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Pakistani Taliban. In Pakistan’s heartland, extremist organizations freely build compounds and campaign with politicians, while their foot soldiers fight alongside the Taliban in the borderlands, intelligence officials say.

The overall picture is one of a jumbled scaffolding of militancy that supports al-Qaeda and the Taliban with money and safe houses, and can provide entrance tickets to mountain training camps for aspiring terrorists, one U.S. counterterrorism official said. Although the planners of most serious terror plots against the West in recent years have received direction or training from groups in the Afghanistan Pakistan border region, the reach of extremist organizations across Pakistan underscores the limits of Pakistani military offensives and of U.S. airstrikes that target the Taliban and al-Qaeda only along the frontier.

“Our cells are working everywhere,” one Pakistani Taliban fighter said in a telephone interview. New foreign recruits, among them Europeans and Americans, undergo days of isolation and “complete observation” by militants outside the tribal areas before gaining access to camps, he said.
Many such aspirants do not make it, the Taliban fighter said, because they are deemed to be spies. That happened to five Northern Virginia men, who were rebuffed by Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Taiba last year despite the reference of an online recruiter, according to Pakistani authorities. However, those aspirants deemed sincere represent a “one in a million” opportunity for militants to strike in the West, said Masood Sharif Khattak, a former Pakistani Intelligence Bureau chief. Their first stop is typically not the mountains of Waziristan, where Shahzad told U.S. investigators he had trained, but 1,000 miles south in Karachi, the Taliban fighter said.

An Arabian Sea gateway of 18 million people, the city is awash in weapons and dotted with mosques where, police say, jihadist literature is freely distributed and clerics deliver vitriolic anti-American sermons. Among them is the Bath’ha mosque and seminary, an unassuming building known locally as a bastion for Jaish-e-Mohammed, a banned Kashmir-focused group. Authorities said they have arrested a man at the mosque who escorted Shahzad to the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Operatives from Pakistan’s array of jihadist groups find haven in Karachi’s multiethnic sprawl; Afghan Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested in the city earlier this year.

The groups form a nexus, according to recent local intelligence reports. One report, obtained by The Washington Post, warns of coordinated plans by the Pakistani Taliban — a group based in the tribal areas that has focused its attacks inside Pakistan — and the traditionally anti-India militant groups of Punjab province. The target: NATO supply convoys in Karachi.

Farther north in the expanse of Punjab, experts say the major anti-India militant groups and other radical Sunni organizations need little cover: They are tolerated and even supported by the state. Banned groups such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have formed organizations with new names that operate freely. Some of their leaders have been arrested for alleged links to terrorist attacks, then released by the courts.
The groups have in recent years increasingly focused attacks within Punjab as provincial officials have tried to placate them, both to capitalize on their popularity and in hopes of moderating their views.

The chief provincial minister, Shahbaz Sharif, was widely criticized in March for calling on the Pakistani Taliban to “spare Punjab,” which he suggested had common cause with the militants by rejecting Western dictates. Another provincial minister visited the seminary of a banned group and campaigned for office with the leader of another. Jaish-e-Mohammed recently built a large walled compound in the southern Punjabi city of Bahawalpur.

“These groups have not been touched,” said Ahmed Rashid, a leading Pakistani expert on the Taliban and Islamist extremism. “They have been through a metamorphosis and turned their guns inward and linked up with other groups in the northwest, but no one is acknowledging it. The word is out that if you hang with them, you’re safe.”

The counterinsurgency tactics used in the tribal areas — missiles and military operations — are widely thought to be unfeasible in Pakistan’s populous mainland. But critics say Pakistani police, security agencies and officials could at least start to clamp down on extremist organizations by vocally condemning them, monitoring mosques and madrassas and denying public space and private property to militant-linked groups.

Pakistan says it is still investigating the extent of Shahzad’s militant links; some security officials have said that he definitely had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed. Terrorism analyst Muhammad Amir Rana said that what appears to be a lack of political will to tackle militant organizations in Pakistan’s heartland is actually rooted in a problem with far greater implications for the global battle against terror: The groups’ reach and presence in cities has made them a beast that cannot easily be dismantled. “It’s very complex,” Rana said. “They have infrastructure in all different areas.”


Behind the Scenes of a Pakistani Suicide Bombing

By Chris Brummit and Asif Shahzad for The Associated Press

Abdul Baseer sent the grenades and explosive vest ahead, then boarded a bus that would take him to his target, accompanied by the 14-year-old boy he had groomed as his suicide bomber.

But before they could blow up their target, a luxury hotel in Lahore where they believed Americans would be staying, the two were arrested and are now in jail — Baseer unrepentant about having plotted to send a boy to his death, and the boy saying he never knew what was in store for him.

The story that unfolded in an interview with The Associated Press offers a rare insight into the world of a Pakistani militant, from his education at hard-line Islamic schools, through his professed participation in an attack on a U.S. patrol in Afghanistan, up to his arrest by Pakistani police along with the the boy, Mohi-ud-Din. His tale shares much with that of the thousands of other foot soldiers who make up the Taliban-led insurgency that is ravaging Pakistan, experts say. It also shows how the wars here and in neighboring Afghanistan bleed into each other.

The Associated Press, after several requests, was allowed to interview the two detainees, with police present for most of the meeting at a police interrogation center in Lahore, a political and military power center in eastern Pakistan. Baseer was born in 1985 close to the Swat Valley, which last year was overrun by Taliban and recaptured by the Pakistanis. The eldest of seven children, his father was a wheat farmer and earned barely enough to feed the family. Meat was reserved for guests, he recalled.

Like many who cannot afford a regular education, Baseer attended three Islamic boarding schools where children learn the Quran by heart and spend little time on secular subjects. The religious schools provide free board and lodging, but are widely criticized for indoctrinating students with an extreme version of Islam. At least one of the schools Baseer attended, Jamia Faridia in the capital, Islamabad, has been linked to terror.

“Through my studies, I became aware that this is the time for jihad and fighting the infidels, and I saw that a jihad was going on in Afghanistan,” said Basser, a rail-thin man speaking just louder than whisper. “I looked for a way to get there.” “A trip to Afghanistan is considered part of the profession for a militant,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “It is almost like you need to do it for graduation. “The American troops are there, and it’s a cause of resentment.”

Baseer said he spent three summer vacation periods in Kunar, an Afghan province just across the border from northwest Pakistan, which he reached through a network of sympathetic clerics. On his first trip, in his mid-teens, he cooked for around 30 or 40 other militants, most of them Afghans, who were living in a large cave complex. On his second stay he had military training and learned to make suicide jackets. On the final trip he took part in the ambush of a U.S. patrol after he and other fighters had lain in wait in the snow for two days.”I was happy to be in place where I could kill unbelievers,” he said. “I thank God that we all returned safely and had a successful mission.”

He said he was in the rear of the attack, in which automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were fired. He said the vehicles were left smoldering and that later the assailants were told two U.S. soldiers were killed, but there was no way of confirming that.

Back in Pakistan, Baseer worked as a mosque preacher in the Khyber region, not far from the northwestern capital, Peshawar. He said it was there that he hooked up with a man named Nazir, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, who was plotting the attack in Lahore. Baseer said he made 10 suicide vests for Nazir.

Lahore, a city of around 9 million, has suffered scores of attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers over the last 1 1/2 years. Last month, two suicide bombers killed 43 people in near-simultaneous blasts. Baseer boarded a passenger bus along with the boy, Mohi-ud-Din, heading down the smooth highway to Lahore, where they were supposed to pick up the bomb and grenades.

Police officer Waris Bharawan, as well as Baseer, said the plan was to hook up with other militants and storm the PC International, one of Lahore’s grandest hotels. They said the suicide vest for the attack was sent to the city before the strike. Baseeer gave only a rough outline of the plan: He and others were to hurl the grenades around the lobby or entrance gate of the hotel, and then Mohid-ud-Din was to run in and detonate his explosive belt. Did he feel any guilt about what lay in store for his traveling companion? No, he said. “I was feeling good because he was going to be used against Americans.”

As he sat in Bharawan’s office, handcuffed and dressed in robe and baggy pants, an officer brought in the vest, dropping it on the floor with a thud. The explosive pads studded with ballbearings looked like slices of honeycomb. Also in the evidence bag were 26 grenades. Baseer obliged with a demonstration, miming the yanking of a white cable that would detonate the vest. “My instructors used to say this was the most important weapon in the fight against the enemy,” he said. In the same lockup, a crumbling building built when Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent, police also briefly presented Mohi-ud-Din to the AP. He seemed nervous and tongue-tied, claiming only that he knew nothing about the alleged attack.

The pair were arrested as they arrived at the house of another suspect, just days before the attack was due to have taken place, said Bharawan, who led the arresting officers. He said they acted on surveillance work in Lahore, but declined to give details. Torture and beatings are common inside Pakistani jails, according to rights groups. During a short time when no police were present, Baseer was asked how he was treated. He said he was beaten, but by members of Pakistan’s shadowy and powerful intelligence agencies soon after his arrest, not by the police. Police said Baseer and the boy would be tried for terrorist offenses behind closed doors and without a jury, as is customary in Pakistan


Taliban 201- The Rise of The Pakistani Taliban

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Peshawar, Pakistan- Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, using  powerful bombs and rocket launchers in a sophisticated and daring attack killing 8 people, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 48 people elsewhere in the Swat valley. The attacks came as the United States has increased its airstrikes on targets both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nearly decade long war waged against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan since 9-11 has created safe areas inside Pakistan for these militants to regroup and band with Pakistani militants sympathetic to their cause. Often, the militants on the Pakistani side and the Afghani Taliban share the Pashtun tribal and ethnic links among the border areas of both countries.

The US bombing of Afghanistan since late 2001 had pushed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants to the mountains near the border with Pakistan. With help from sympathetic militant tribal warriors from the Pakistani side, the Taliban were able to dig in and have been able to fight the American forces for nearly a decade now. The onslaught by US and NATO forces continues in Afghanistan, but now for most of last year and certainly this year, the war has shifted to the streets and cities of Pakistan.

Now, much like Afghanistan, Pakistan too is a country that finds itself engulfed in the flames of religious extremism at the hands of determined and highly disciplined thugs. It used to be back during the Soviet-Afghan War, the only place perhaps not entirely safe inside Pakistan was Peshawar. Now, not one city or town of Pakistan has been spared from the violence by the Taliban. Back then, Peshawar was a city where attacks would happen frequently and often. During the 1980’s, the city became a haven for both jihadi militants fighting against the godless system of communism, and a base for spies as both the United States and Saudi Arabia funded a mujahedeen guerrilla war to defeat the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. President Reagan and General Zia of Pakistan used the fervor of religion to incite able bodied boys and men of Afghanistan and their distant cousins from the border area in Pakistan, along with thousands of volunteer Muslim fighters from across the Arab and Muslim world, to come and fight the Soviet Red Army. It was seen as a duty to come defend a Muslim land from occupation by a regime that would not allow the worship of Allah as communism discourages religion and encourages a sectarian society.

That strategy by General Zia ul Haq to promote the fight against the Russians as a holy war or jihad was brilliant at first. It mobilized not just every Muslim male in Afghanistan to stand and fight for his faith and their way of life, while also defending the country from invaders, but it also garnered the sympathy and enlistment of thousands upon thousands of Pakistani and Arab Muslim fighters to join the cause of these mujahedeen, as one who engages in jihad is called. The riling up of religious fervor and militant Islam was deemed necessary by both Reagan and Zia at the time as they sought to defeat the communists at all costs from succeeding in Afghanistan. It would not seem likely at the time, that this very same entity would become enemy number one of both the US and Pakistan a decade later.

It was monumental, it was historic,” retired Pakistani general Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI military spy agency from 1987-1989, said of Reagan’s role in defeating the Soviets. “We were receiving arms and logistics from the CIA, we were partners in this struggle,” Gul said, estimating the CIA spent up to $7bn in supplying arms and logistics to Islamic fighters or “jihadis.” “The jihadis he supported. It was their resistance against the forces of occupation and repression – that’s what jihad is – that Reagan identified himself with,” Gul said. “His greatest achievement was that he stood behind the Islamic world when it was arrayed against the Soviet empire.”

Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari Rivzi stated that “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban took shape later on, but they grew from this period of jihadism against the Soviets and with the initial help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia along with the military and economic assistance from the United States to fight the Soviets during the ‘80’s. Rizvi sees the roots of the militancy that now ravages Pakistan and Afghanistan as having its beginnings from this period of war against the Soviets army.

That war with the Russians lasted almost 10 years. By the time the USSR pulled out all its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had been completely destroyed. What was left of any government or authority of any sort was now held in the hands of a few militias and various warriors who commanded thousands of tribal and other ethnic fighters under them. These militias immediately started warring amongst themselves for more and more control of the country. The already weak, nonexistent central government of Afghanistan, post Soviet pullout was not able to cope and quickly capitulated. During the power vacuum that resulted, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, realized the chance to wield power inside Afghanistan and threw its support behind a religious student movement based out of Kandahar. The ISI had previously assisted the cause to fight the Soviets by helping gather and organize radical Muslims from around the world to come and assist the Afghani mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets and had therefore developed good contacts with various religious groups including the young Taliban students and the fast growing movement.

The Afghani population initially welcomed the Taliban as they represented fairness and a rule of law over the notorious corruption, brutality and constant infighting of the warlord militias. Soon, with popular citizen support, along with Pakistan’s help, the Taliban became the dominant group within the country and soon held the seat of power in Kabul. Its leader Mullah Omar, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and when the US forces came to Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden, he gave the Al Qaeda leader refuge and in essence, became a fugitive of the US in the process for harboring America’s Most Wanted.

Fast forward to nearly nine years later as the war in Afghanistan continues against the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda responsible for the 9-11 attacks. However, the Taliban have grown and laid roots inside Pakistan also now as the nearly decade long war at the border with Afghanistan has ratcheted up sympathy by locals Pakistani Pashtun tribes for their brethren being bombed by both Pakistani and American forces. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan known as the Pakistani Taliban formed soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Pakistani army’s offensive at the tribal areas near the border to combat the militants. The Pakistani Taliban led by the recently killed Baitullah Mehsud, has been largely responsible for hundreds of attacks in all major cities of Pakistan including Monday’s bombing of the American consulate in Peshawar.

The war in Afghanistan by the US against the Taliban that harbored and sheltered Bin Laden and the 9-11 killers of Al Qaeda is much the same as the war between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley and the North West Frontier Province as well as in various cities of the country. This war has been brought home to the citizens of Pakistan. Over the last few months, bomb blasts in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and various other cities have now personalized this conflict for the average Pakistani as no longer a battle or skirmish at the border far away in the northwest of Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan.

No, the nearly daily attacks all over the country by the militants on government installations, public institutions like universities, factories and residential areas as well as markets and restaurants has made the country much less safer than at any time in its 63 year history. Many Pakistanis now are beginning to realize that the Taliban, operating with impunity all over Pakistan, pose a much bigger threat to the sovereignty and republic of Pakistan than any threat from anywhere else, including from that eternal archrival to the east, India. It is now well understood by both partners in this fight that only a sustained and vigorous fight taken to the militants inside both countries by the US and Pakistan over a long period of time can hope to defeat this disease known as the Taliban.

For an earlier report titled Taliban 101- Origins and History, Please click on this link:

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