Taliban regroups - on the road
Mobile Taliban training camps along Afghan border provinces point to a coordinated effort with other groups like Al Qaeda.
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The Taliban began planning its comeback last year in a Kandahar safe house. There, 70 or so "trusted" Taliban men attended a secret meeting around midnight, according to sources in the militia, where the one-legged Mullah Dadullah administered an oath and assigned duties. Malang, along with nine other men trained in Al-Qaeda camps, were appointed as commanders of the new Taliban guerrilla force.Skip to next paragraph
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Their Al Qaeda-style regimen calls for 40 days of physical and spiritual training. The leaders lecture the young fighters on the need for jihad, while training them in handling rockets, grenades, and remote-control devices.
"We keep on changing the places, and the training process continues while we are on the move," says Malang. The militants transport disassembled weapons via mule, donkey cart, and itinerant gypsy. "We get dollars from Arabs once we run out of funds, then Afghan currency from the local community leaders," says Malang.
New recruits are primarily drawn from Pashtun Afghans between the ages of 18 and 30. Some are picked from Pakistani madrassahs in the tribal areas of Baluchistan and the frontier provinces, where Pakistani extremists have recently introduced a Taliban-style Islamic system.
Abdur Razzaq recently joined the resurgent Taliban after his father, Mullah Rehman, was killed by US and Afghan forces. "My father's colleagues appealed to me to follow my father's footsteps since he was killed by infidels," says the new recruit, who studied at a madrassah in Quetta, Pakistan. He is now being trained in mobile camps near Kandahar.
"We are taught to make explosives in case we run out of weapons," Razzaq says. Molotov cocktails are made by filling glass jars with a mixture of lime and iron scraps. "We hurl the jars at checkposts in the dark," he says.
Another Taliban strategy is to attach explosives to live dogs and donkeys and then turn them loose near coalition checkpoints. When the animal is close enough, the explosives are detonated by remote control.
The renewed activity of the Taliban is a worrisome development, according to Shahnawaz Tanai, a former communist Afghan general now living in exile in Pakistan.
"It is a dangerous situation in Afghanistan right now. But the Taliban's guerrilla warfare lacks coordination and it seems unlikely that they can take Kabul again," says Mr. Tanai.
The forces of former Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who now heads Hizb-i Islami, add an additional destabilizing agent. While the Taliban are making inroads in the south, Mr. Hekmatyar's forces are fighting US forces in eastern Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
Both groups are financially assisted by Al Qaeda through extremist groups in Pakistan, says an Afghan intelligence official, adding, "some elements within Pakistan's security agencies are turning a blind eye."
"Peace and security in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan," says Pakistan's interior minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat. "If there is violence, then we fear the spillover." Pakistan is investigating a possible link between the Kabul bombing and a suicide attack in Pakistan last year that killed 11 French engineers and three others.
Malang, meanwhile, counts the days until he can return to the guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan. "Pray for my wife's death so I get liberated from worldly affairs and have no burden on my mind in the battlefield," he says. "I have pledged to sacrifice my life and go to heaven as a jihadi."