A triangle of militants regroups in Afghanistan
Intelligence officials say Al Qaeda and Taliban are tied to a radical Islamist party.
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In the massive Shamshatoo refugee camp, just 15 miles from Peshawar, in a guardhouse that bears the sign "Hizb-i Islami Afghanistan Education Committee," some Hizb members politely share their ambivalence toward the new Karzai government, the US troops, and about the rumors of their own party's newly announced jihad.Skip to next paragraph
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"Yes, we've heard about this jihad, but we don't know what is really happening in Afghanistan," says Noor Mohammad, head of the Hizb guards at Shamshatoo camp. "What we know we have read in the newspapers."
"Right now we don't know where [Hekmatyar] is, and he doesn't know where we are," says Noor Mohammad, coyly. "If Hekmatyar announces good policies, we will welcome him. But whosoever continues any of the old mistakes, whether he's Hekmatyar or Karzai, we will fight him."
Sultan Mehmud, editor of Shahadaat, a pro-Hizb-i-Islami newspaper in Peshawar, says he's not sure how much of the talk of Hizb regrouping is either propaganda by Afghan authorities or wishful thinking by Hizb itself. Still, he concedes there is substantial anger among Afghans and Afghan refugees.
"If the government left all those Taliban people alone, they would shave their beards and come back to enjoy the peace," says Mr. Mehmud. "But now the Americans are coming to your homes, capturing your brothers, humiliating your sister, and saying 'You are Taliban.' By their own hands, they are forcing the Taliban to regroup again. If America had one opponent before, they have two or three opponents now."
Like most ethnic Pashtuns, who make up the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan as well as a significant minority in Pakistan, Hamid says he has lost faith in the Karzai government.
Part of this loss of faith is based on a desire to impose an Islamic-style government in Afghanistan, instead of a democracy, and also on a popular Pashtun belief that Karzai relies too heavily on the power of the ethnic Tajik minority. The Tajiks control the Northern Alliance, a private army which helped US forces to oust the Taliban regime.
"Everybody has a consensus in Afghanistan that the job of the foreign forces is finished and the Northern Alliance cannot rule Afghanistan," Hamid says.
Traveling in a day from his home base in the Afghan province of Laghman, Hamid easily entered Pakistan under an assumed name, using the legal border crossing of Torkham in the famed Khyber Pass.
He confirms rumors that Hizb, Taliban, and Al Qaeda leaders have formed an alliance of their own, in which each group operates in areas where their strength is greatest. Hizb's strength is greatest in the Afghan provinces of Konar, Nangrahar, Laghman, Logar, Paktia, and Khost.
The Taliban's strength is greatest in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabol, Uruzgan, and Nimroz. Al Qaeda's positions are more fluid, filling in gaps and constantly moving.
Yet Hamid admits that the uprising still has its problems to confront. "We do have difficulties," he says. "The biggest hurdle is to counter the B-52s that fire at us and all we can do is watch helplessly. That is why we are targeting the US bases or ambushing their convoys."