The Taliban have quickly jumped on the Koran-burning controversy in Afghanistan. In addition to issuing an official statement signed by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban appear to have infiltrated the protests that have sprung up outside of Bagram Air Base. The New York Times reported that Taliban songs were being sung by the crowd and that “several Urdu speakers” gave speeches during the protests:
Protests began hours later, as Afghan workers who had seen the burning emerged from the base, one or two of them carrying damaged Korans hidden in their clothes. Protests swelled through the morning and became violent as hundreds of infuriated Afghans set tires on fire and burned an external checkpoint at one of the entrances to the air base.
Shouting “Death to America” and “We don’t want them anymore,” they closed the district government building and stopped people trying to go to the center of the town, witnesses said. Some in the crowd sang Taliban songs, and several Urdu speakers, described as Pakistanis, made speeches.
It should come as no surprise that “Pakistanis” are operating near Bagram in Parwan. Keep in mind that the May 2010 assault on Bagram Air Base was executed by a joint Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda strike team. And within the past six months, the Taliban and allied terror groups have carried out several major complex attacks in Parwan.
On Aug. 14, 2011, a Taliban suicide assault team launched a complex attack on the governor’s compound in central Parwan province, killing 22 people, including six policemen. On Oct. 23, a suicide bomber attempted to assassinate the Afghan interior minister in the province. And a few days later, on Oct. 26, terrorists attempted to blow up a fuel tank inside of Bagram Air Base; the tanker exploded outside the gates, killing 12 Afghans.
Despite ISAF operations against the terror cells in Parwan and surrounding provinces, this network appears to be alive and well and springing into action to take advantage of the Koran controversy. ISAF should expect additional complex attacks on Bagram in the near future.