A status update on developments in Afghanistan & Talibanistan
In Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Kandak (battalion), 1st Brigade of the 205th Corps killed six Taliban fighters after striking a Taliban “command cell” in Uruzgan province. Equipment “intended for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices” was also seized in the assault. CENTCOM reports this is the fourth operation this battalion conducted in the past month “deep in what had been the insurgents’ safe haven.”
The border crossing incident at Spin Boldak, where the Afghan National Army claimed to have killed 15 Taliban has become even more confused. Yesterday, the vice-governor of Khandahar claimed these were civilian Afghanis. Today Pakistan has lodged a protest and stated those killed were Pakistani citizens. Although one of those killed was wanted by the Pakistani government, the claim is they were not Taliban. Husain Haqqani looks at the historical and recent events which have contributed to the decline in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Across the border in Talibanistan, formerly known as Waziristan, the Taliban continues to consolidate power. In South Waziristan, a telephone exchange was destroyed, and a cleric was murdered. Maulana Sibghatullah, pro-government cleric, was assassinated by “attackers, who were masked.” Dawn notes that “that the cleric had been associated with the Taliban in the past. However, during the unrest in the agency he dissociated himself from the group and entered into an agreement with the government.” In a conversation with counterterrorism expert Dan Darling, he notes that murdering clerics who do not tow the party line is a common tactic of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and an age-old tactic as well:
Keep in mind that one of the first things al Qaeda does whenever they take over an area is to co-opt, kill, or silence any clerics who aren’t sold on their program and I expect that someone decided that Sibghatullah wasn’t holy enough. This is more or less how the communists dealt with any rival leftist parties that they didn’t control as soon as they took over an area.”
The Asia Times’ Syed Saleem Shahzad reports there is a “Revolution in the Pakistani mountains” as the three main tribes of the regions, the Wazirs, the Mehsuds and the Dawar have, for the first time in history, united and a backing the Taliban. This report should be tempered with the fact that there are still large segments of the tribes which back the Pakistani government, or are ambivalent to the Taliban’s goals, however, as recent event have born out, the pro-Taliban factions certainly have the upper hand in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Daily Times provides a small ray of hope and reports the Council of Islamic Ideology “has made 22 recommendations to the government on how to end terrorism in the country, along with the recommendation that incidents of terrorism should not dubbed as jihad.” The CCI is an influential group established by the Barelvi sect of Islam, which makes up the majority of Pakistani Muslims and founded Pakistan’s ruling Muslim League. The CCI confronts the problem of terrorism and its association with Islam head on in a report titled ‘Islam and Terrorism.’
The CII recommended that all camps training militants or terrorists should be shut down immediately. It says that an overall review of intelligence organizations including the Federal Investigation Agency, the Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence should be conducted and these organizations should be strengthened to eliminate the political-backing of terrorists.
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Musharraf issued a threat to the foreign ‘miscreants’ during a speech, “All foreign militants should leave Pakistan, otherwise they would be crushed.” The terrorist in Pakistan are not all foreign, however, and the Taliban was largely a Pakistani movement. The Council of Islamic Ideology understands this, and Musharraf, while he may recognize this as well, has not addressed this publicly.