More evidence that Pakistan, the USA’s closest ally in the region, is ironically serving as a staging ground for the destabilization of US-occupied Afghanistan. First this, from The Guardian, Sept. 19:
A chain of suicide bombings killed 19 people, including four Canadian soldiers, across Afghanistan yesterday, in guerrilla violence bearing an increasing resemblance to the conflict in Iraq. The blasts came a day after Nato claimed it had scored a victory after killing more than 500 insurgents in two weeks of fighting in the Taliban’s southern heartland.
But yesterday’s first attack occurred in the same area when a bicycle-mounted bomber attacked Canadian troops distributing gifts to local children. The blast tore through the crowd, killing four Canadian soldiers and injuring 14 more, Nato officials and security sources said. About 25 Afghans were injured in the attack in Panjwayi district, western Kandahar. They included two girls, aged six and 10, who were flown by helicopter to a hospital in Kandahar.
The greatest carnage occurred in the normally peaceful western city of Herat, near the Iranian border, when a bomber on a motorcycle killed 11 people, including four policemen, outside a mosque.
A third suicide attacker struck a busy market in Pul I Charki, on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, killing four policemen.
Last night it was too early to judge if the attacks were coordinated. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility only for the Kandahar killings, warning that attacks on Canadian, British and Dutch forces in the south would continue.
Still, the timing of the attacks suggested a calculated rebuke against Nato. On Sunday Lieutenant General David Richards, commander of the 20,000-strong Nato force, declared that the two-week drive into western Kandahar, known as Operation Medusa, had been a “significant success”. Although Nato officially claims to have killed more than 500 Taliban during the two-week sweep, some officers privately said the figure could be more than 1,000, making it the bloodiest battle Afghanistan has seen since 2001.
Gen Richards said a “secure environment” had been created in Panjwayi and Zheri districts, clearing the way for the rebuilding of battle-damaged houses and the return of thousands of displaced civilians. “The Taliban had no choice but to leave,” he said. But yesterday’s attack underlined fears that reconstruction will be neither safe nor easy. “How do you reconstruct with hostilities still going on?” said a western official in Kandahar.
Now this, from Pakistan’s Pajhwok News, via Afgha.com, Sept. 18:
ISLAMABAD, Sep 17 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Taliban military commander Mulla Dadullah Akhund has said he visited North Waziristan and South Waziristan in Pakistans tribal areas about three months ago and advised the Taliban there not to fight their countrys armed forces.
“I told the Pakistani tribal militants that fighting in Waziristan was in the interest of America. My argument was that we should fight the US, UK and armies of other Western countries,” he told Pakistani newspaper in a satellite phone call from an undisclosed location.
Mulla Dadullah, who is the most wanted Taliban leader after Mulla Mohammad Omar, argued that the Taliban fight was with the Americans and their allies and not with the Pakistan Army.
As for President General Pervez Musharraf, “we know he has been siding with President Bush against fellow Muslims. At the behest of the US, he waged war against the Taliban in Waziristan and is now publicly proposing to Mr Karzai to jointly fight the Taliban and Talibanisation,” he maintained.
The Taliban commander said the Pakistan Taliban would be justified to retaliate if President Musharraf broke the truce and went back on his word for peacefully resolving the conflict. Violation of the terms of the recent peace agreement in Waziristan would cause problems and destabilize the area, he stressed.
Mulla Dadullah, who lost a leg while fighting the Northern Alliance some years ago, claimed 500 suicide bombers were at his disposal to launch them any time. Other Taliban commanders have their own list of fedayeen and it is growing with names of more and more volunteers, he said. He also claimed 12,000 Taliban fighters were resisting US-led foreign forces under his command in four southwestern provinces.
“We have no shortage of fighters. In fact, we have so many of them that it is difficult to accommodate and arm and equip them. Some of them have been waiting for a year or more for their turn to be sent to the battlefield,” he contended.
According to Mulla Dadullah, the Taliban would be launching new and bigger attacks in Afghan cities from spring next year. “Presently, we are focusing on guerrilla attacks. But by spring, we would have sufficient strength to launch even bigger attacks,” he said. He felt Kabul would be specially targeted as it was Afghanistans capital and the headquarters for the US and other Western forces.
Asked about the possibility of holding talks with US, Nato and Afghan authorities, Mulla Dadullah said “all foreign forces should first withdraw from Afghanistan and apologise for attacking and destroying our country and people. They attacked us; we didnt go to the US to fight them. We are fighting for our religion and homeland,” he said.
As for Hamid Karzai, Mulla Dadullah stressed that he had abandoned Islam and joined the ranks of non-Muslims. “Once the Americans and their allies leave Afghanistan, we and Karzai would sit together as Afghans and sort out our problems,” he said.
Mulla Dadullah said deployment of more NATO troops in southern Afghanistan would not make any difference to the Taliban. He opined that the US had cleverly handed over dangerous provinces to the British, Canadian and Dutch troops and withdrew their own troops from there.
He said only 14 Taliban fighters, and not 500 as claimed by Nato, were killed in the recent fighting in Panjwai district in Kandahar. “You know in an earlier battle the Afghan government announced my capture from Panjwai. They tell lies to raise the morale of their demoralized soldiers,” he maintained.