Taliban appears to be regrouped and well-funded
A new hierarchy of leaders has emerged across parts of Afghanistan.
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According to eyewitnesses, the men who captured an Ecuadorian Red Cross aid worker, Ricardo Munguia, in Urozgan Province last month, called up Mullah Dadullah on their satellite phone and under Dadullah's orders, shot Munguia dead.Skip to next paragraph
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The Taliban has commanders all across the country. In Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Ghazni provinces, Mullah Saifur Rehman is in charge. He was the commander of Taliban forces during the US coalition's indecisive battle, Operation Anaconda, in the Shah-e Kot mountains.
In Nangrahar, Laghman, and Konar provinces, the Taliban's former deputy prime minister, Mullah Kabir, is supreme commander, working along with activists of the Hizb-i Islami. According to Taliban watchers in Pakistan, Mullah Kabir is thought to have close ties with Pakistan's intelligence agencies, including the secretive Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Anwar Panghaz commands the Taliban guerrillas operating in the provinces that ring the capital city of Kabul - Parwan, Kapisa, Kabul, Wardak, and Logar. Afghan security officials say that operations there have been light in recent months.
In Pakistan, Taliban commanders are reportedly working in alliance with like-minded leaders of religious parties who now control two provinces along the Afghan-Pakistan border. In the tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, Qari Akhtar is the chief operations commander; in the Tor Ghar mountains near the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, Mullah Mohammad Ibrahim is the Taliban's top leader.
Shahzada Zulfikar, a Quetta-based political analyst, says that Taliban commanders continue to receive support from Pakistan's powerful and secretive intelligence agencies, as they did more openly during the Taliban government. "The Taliban were and are still friends of Pakistan," says Mr. Zulfikar. "Pakistan ditched the Taliban due to American pressure, for a while, but now there are fears that their relationship might be restored due to the increasing presence of Indians in Afghanistan."
The Indian government is Pakistan's chief rival, and among the largest aid donors to the new Afghan government. In the past year, India has reopened consulates in border cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad, raising fears among Pakistan's security analysts that Pakistan may find itself in a vise between two bitter enemies.
Taliban activists in Pakistan and Afghanistan say they are receiving direct support from Pakistan's powerful religious parties, including Jamaat-i Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i Islam, which control the government of two key border provinces. "We are at home as we were before (President) Musharraf hatched a conspiracy against us at the behest of the Americans," says Mir Jan, a Taliban fighter in Quetta. "But our brothers [the mullahs] are in power, so it means we are in power."
In Kabul, former Taliban Supreme Court Justice Salam says that the Taliban's chief support now comes from Afghanistan's powerful neighbors - Russia, Iran, and Pakistan - who are suspicious of America's continued presence in the region more than 18 months after the collapse of the Taliban.
"The Russians are not happy with the US presence here, and neither are Iran, Pakistan, and even China," says Salam, who has traded in his black and white Talib-style turban for a more common brown turban, to blend in with the townsfolk. Russia gives money and weapons to the opponents of the central government, he says, and so do the intelligence agencies of Iran and Pakistan.