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'Panic and revolt' hit Taliban
by Keith Dovkants in Islamabad
Fresh signs of rising panic within the Taliban emerged today as intelligence reports suggested dozens of commanders and up to 10,000 men are ready to desert.
Intelligence suggests support for the Taliban is dwindling As the prospect of a major US attack on Kabul moves closer, the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance confirmed claims from Pakistani intelligence that the Afghan regime is facing an impending revolt among its own supporters.
Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the Alliance's foreign minister, also claimed today that it has begun direct talks with the US about military cooperation against the joint enemy. "I have met American officials face to face within the past days," he said. "In the immediate term, it is a coordination of efforts in order to eradicate terrorism from Afghanistan." He confirmed that fresh arms supplies from Russia and Iran are expected soon.
Contacts operated by Pakistan's ISI - Inter-Services Intelligence - have monitored a series of incidents and movements in Afghanistan which indicate gathering threats to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his cabal of fanatical Islamic fundamentalists. Last weekend it was claimed that up to 1,000 men have already deserted and the Alliance now controls 20 per cent of the country.
The prospect of an implosion within the Taliban is being studied with great interest by America's CIA which has embarked on a lavishly-funded campaign to undermine Mullah Omar with bribes and defections. While America will welcome the sight of its enemy in increasing disarray, the unfolding political situation inside Afghanistan could also delay the timing of any military action. One concern is that if a strike is made too soon, it could push moderate or opposing factions into unity behind the leadership.
There is excitement that tribesmen in three areas near the Pakistan border are in open revolt. Delegations from the Taliban leadership have spent days talking to elders in Khost, Paktia and Patya and an unconfirmed report says they asked local chiefs to act against a group openly recruiting armed men to stage a rebellion.
The Taliban has accused outside influences of trying to foment unrest and large numbers of pamphlets, apparently smuggled in from Pakistan, have been circulated, calling for the overthrow of the regime.
The Taliban is deeply rattled and has been trying to woo important tribal leaders elsewhere, including those from Kandahar, its power base. Senior Taliban figures have tried to secure the loyalty of the Popalzai tribe, to which the exking belongs, and it appeared today that an agreement had been reached. Fractures inside the Taliban are opening along long-established fault-lines.
Mullah Omar and his closest supporters rely on the loyalty of the Pashtun majority but have had to do deals with other ethnic groups and factions which do not always share their enthusiasm for rabid interpretations of Islam, or terrorism.
The position of Foreign Minister Maulvi Wakeel Ahmed Mutawakkal is thought to be crucial. His voice has been silent over the Osama bin Laden issue and there is intense speculation here that he is gathering support for a coup. He and other moderates have long opposed Mullah Omar's policy of using Afghanistan as a training ground for terrorists.
Taliban field commanders have been purged and in many cases replaced with hardliners and trusted loyalists from Kandahar and Kabul. Taliban forces are now broadly ranged on two fronts, one in the north and another in the south-west.
They are already fighting incursions from the United Front opposition (formerly Northern Alliance) in the north and clearly want to be ready for any threat that may appear closer to the vital Kandahar heartland.
Interestingly, a governmentsponsored and stage-managed demonstration in support of the regime was held in Kandahar yesterday.
Further signs of Mullah Omar wriggling came with news that he has sent a delegation to Iran to beg the Iranians for assistance - after years of enmity.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 03, 2001
Remember the Gulf War when this same nonsense started to ooze out of Washington. The Kurds were ready to take Saddam, the whole Iraqi army is defecting, and Iraq is in a state of panic. These Washington nincompoops can't even find bin Ladin but they're putting an overwhelming coalition together that has the entire Afghanistan population terrorized.
-- David Willimas (DAVIDWILL@prodigy.net), October 03, 2001.
Cheers David! Well said.
-- Ken (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 03, 2001.
This situation is different from Iraq. Afganistan is in chaos, due to extreme poverty and misery. And, it may explain why U.S. military action hasn't hit, in the face of the rapidly approaching brutal Afghan Winter.
However, even if true, and the Taliban does fall "under its own weight" and bin Laden is thereby cut off; he will go down fighting: It will be followed by a massive terrorist action, with horrible results --- "Use it or lose it!"
-- Robert Riggs (email@example.com), October 03, 2001.
Hyperlink: http://www.portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml? xml=/news/2001/10/03/wtal03.xml&sSheet=/news/2001/10/03/ixhome.html
Taliban commanders 'about to mutiny'
By Alex Spillius in Peshawar (Filed: 03/10/2001)
Taliban military commanders in key border provinces of Afghanistan are plotting to mutiny against the regime, former allies from the guerrilla war against the Soviet Union said yesterday. Anti-Taliban leaders based in neighbouring Pakistan say they are in touch with the commanders, who are their tribal cousins or former brothers-in-arms in the struggle against the Soviet occupation. The commanders are reported to be holding regular meetings in their villages and camps and are ready to move against the Taliban at any time. The threat of American military action and the Taliban's refusal to give up Osama bin Laden means the commanders are no longer willing to operate under Taliban command as they have for five years. Former unit leaders based in Peshawar are also said to be preparing to come out of retirement and cross the border to combat the Taliban in a belt of eastern provinces bordering Pakistan.
"These provinces are very vulnerable. They are in walking distance of the border and we can easily get our weapons in. They are the gateway to Kabul, and once we start, the Taliban will easily fall apart," said Qazi Amin Waqar, a former mujahideen leader and minister in the government ousted by the Taliban in 1996. He and other exiled opposition leaders communicate regularly with associates inside Afghanistan by satellite telephone or via messengers travelling up to 12 hours by foot across the mountainous frontier. "It is just a matter of timing; they are ready for the word to go," said Qazi Amin. The uprising would probably begin in and around Jalalabad, his home city and capital of Nangarhar province, and spread west into Kabul and south into Paktia and Paktika provinces, where the Taliban has already agreed to devolve authority to tribal elders to try to hold on to power. The provinces are dominated by the same Pathan ethnic group as the southern-based Taliban, but have an independent tribal tradition that has never more than tolerated the militia's control.
The movement's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, recognises that his regime may soon be ousted and forced into fighting a guerrilla war. The Taliban's adversaries realise that fear of American military attacks has created an unrepeatable opportunity to topple the puritanical regime. Pakistani newspapers have reported efforts by Ismail Khan, another former anti-Soviet leader now exiled in Iran, to attack Kandahar, the headquarters of the Taliban in the south. Western powers are said to have encouraged him to use old contacts to exploit divisions within the Taliban. Afghans based in Peshawar have been told in telephone calls from friends in Kandahar that most Taliban officials have fled to the hills and that Mullah Omar has left the city in fear of his life and never spends two nights in one place.
The Americans have made it clear that they do not want to be seen as the sponsor of any one particular force, especially the Northern Alliance. Though it has provided the only active resistance to the Taliban for the past five years, the alliance, thanks to its support from the hated Russians, has scant credibility in areas beyond its control.
Qazi Amin said: "Once we have got rid of the Taliban the other problem, Osama bin Laden, will be taken care of. We will not tolerate foreign terrorists on Afghan soil." Sayed Ishaq Gilani, an Afghan patrician and major supporter of efforts to bring back former King Zahir Shah to lead a government of national unity, said: "People are mobilising. The commanders are meeting day and night. They are planning attacks on the Taliban. "They have the guns and ammunition. They have contacted me and asked for political and financial support. I have passed this message on to representatives of Western countries here. "We don't need much. For the price of two to three cruise missiles we could take care of this. It would be so much cheaper for the US and better for our country than if they invade. There is a danger that any new government would be seen as a new puppet and we don't want any more puppets in Afghanistan." Mohammed Nadir, 75, a village head from Paktia, arrived in Peshawar by road at the weekend to consult Mr Sayed. He said: "Everyone opposes the Taliban. We never liked them but we accepted them for the sake of peace. "But now there are no schools, no hospitals, no order to life, and little food. I have come here to discuss the crisis but the people are ready to rise up."
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-- Robert Riggs (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 03, 2001.