Al Qaeda massing for new fight
Afghan spies say the group has two new bases in Pakistan and is acquiring missiles.
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One Arab man, dressed in Afghan salwar kameez, but wearing the traditional white headdress of a Saudi preacher, was seen this week standing in the center of the main square of Asadabad, before being led away by two young religious students toward a local mosque.Skip to next paragraph
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Another man, who teaches primary school in Asadabad, told the Monitor there are plenty of Al Qaeda supporters in Kunar.
"I'm proud to be Al Qaeda," says Abdur Rahim, a soft-voiced man who studied Islam for 16 years at a hard-line Islamic seminary in Peshawar, Pakistan. "I'm 100 percent sure they will come back here. It will be very soon, and the Taliban were 100 times better than these warlords who rob us on the streets."
"The jihad is compulsory against the kaffirs [unbelievers], but we cannot fight against their planes," he adds. Speaking of American special forces based in Asadabad, he says, "These are infidels and they have destroyed our religion. Jews and Christians, all of them, we want Muslim forces, we don't want infidels."
As a crowd gathers, cautioning the Al Qaeda member to be quiet, Mr. Rahim becomes even more outspoken. "Everyone here feels like me, but some people have big hearts and others have little faith. These people are quiet because they have little faith."
Other Afghans seem more pragmatic. Mohammad Malang, a timber merchant in Asadabad's massive lumber market, says hundreds of Arabs came through Kunar late last year, after the bombing campaign began on the mountain hideout of Tora Bora, south of Jalalabad. Now, when he carries wood to the border of Pakistan on his logging truck, he sees plenty of Al Qaeda fighters coming and going through the Afghan checkposts.
"The Americans pay us money and we give them Al Qaeda," he says with a smile. "The Al Qaeda give us money and we give them shelter. Nowadays we are not giving them shelter because of the US troops here, but up there on the border, they are there right now up in the forests. They come and go and nobody stops them."
Even some border security officials admit that it would be easy for Al Qaeda to enter Kunar Province. "This is a long border, and we don't have enough forces to patrol it," says Wazir Mohammad Sadiq, deputy commander of checkpoints for the Kunar Border Security Force. "We need the Americans there. They only come once a month, and they never stay long. They just have a cup of tea, chat, and leave."
Haji Said Amin Khan, commander of a checkpost on the border, says that his men used to stop every car coming from Pakistan, but was ordered to stop this practice by Commander Jandad, the former governor of Kunar.
"We were told not to stop certain people, like armed men, and even now, people can come and go without questions," says Mr. Khan.
"But the problem is that we need thousands of men to patrol the border in Kunar. There are four main roads into Kunar, and we have checkposts on those roads, but there are lots of other smaller roads. Al Qaeda is not stupid enough to come on the main roads, so they take the other roads."
Commander Zaman, the military chief, says that his men are preparing for a long war against Al Qaeda, even if they have to continue fighting without any salaries or coordination with US forces.
"You can't defeat an ideology with a gun, so the best we can do is create a new ideology, and make people feel that we are making the situation better than before," he says. "If that works, that's great. But if not, then we already have our enemy and their guns here among us."