Taliban lay plans for Islamic intifada
THE PASHTUN HEARTLAND, Pakistan and Afghanistan - With the snows approaching, the Taliban's spring offensive has fallen short of its primary objective of reviving the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, as the country was known under Taliban rule from 1996-2001.
Both foreign forces and the Taliban will bunker down until next spring, although the Taliban are expected to continue with suicide missions and some hit-and-run guerrilla activities. The Taliban will take refuge in the mountains that cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they will have plenty of time to plan the next stage
of their struggle: a countrywide "Islamic Intifada of Afghanistan" calling on all former mujahideen to join the movement to boot out foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The intifada will be both national and international. On the one hand it aims to organize a national uprising, and on the other it will attempt to make Afghanistan the hub of the worldwide Islamic resistance movement, as it was previously under the Taliban when Osama bin Laden and his training camps were guests of the country.
The ideologue of the intifada is bin Laden's deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has assembled a special team to implement the idea. Key to this mission is Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar. Asia Times Online was early to pinpoint Haq Yar as an important player (see Osama adds weight to Afghan resistance, September 11, 2004).
Oriented primarily towards Arabs, especially Zawahiri, Haq Yar speaks English, Arabic, Urdu and Pashtu with great fluency. He was sent by Taliban leader Mullah Omar to northern Iraq to train with Ansarul Islam fighters before the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. He returned to Afghanistan in 2004 and was inducted into a special council of commanders formed by Mullah Omar and assigned the task of shepherding all foreign fighters and high-value targets from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan.
He is an expert in urban guerrilla warfare, a skill he has shared with the Taliban in Afghanistan. His new task might be more challenging: to gather local warlords from north to south under one umbrella and secure international support from regional players.
A major first step toward creating an intifada in Afghanistan was the establishment of the Islamic State of North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal area this year. This brought all fragmented sections of the Taliban under one command, and was the launching pad for the Taliban's spring offensive.
Subsequently, there has been agreement between a number of top warlords in northern Afghanistan and the Taliban to make the intifada a success next year. Credit for this development goes mainly to Haq Yar.
Haq Yar was recently almost cornered in Helmand province in Afghanistan by British forces. Before that, he spoke to Asia Times Online at an undisclosed location in the Pashtun heartland straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Asia Times Online: When are the Taliban expected to announce the revival of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: Well, the whole Islamic world is waiting for the revival of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, but it will take some time. But sure, it will ultimately happen, and this is what the Taliban's struggle is all about.
ATol: Can you define the level of Taliban-led resistance in Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: It has already passed the initial phases and now has entered into a tactical and decisive phase. It can be measured from the hue and cry raised by the US and its allies. Daily attacks on NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] forces are now routine and suicide attacks are rampant.
ATol: To date, the Taliban have been very active in southwestern Afghanistan, but traditionally success comes when a resistance reaches eastern areas, especially the strategically important Jalalabad. When will this happen?
Haq Yar: Well, I do not agree that the Taliban movement is restricted to southwest Afghanistan. We have now established a network under which we are allied with many big and small mujahideen organizations, and in that way we are fighting foreign forces throughout Afghanistan. In a recent development, the deputy chief of the Taliban movement, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, is now positioned in the eastern zone, including Jalalabad, from where he is guiding attacks on coalition forces. This eastern zone is also part of the Taliban's stronghold.
ATol: What is the role of bin Laden and Zawahiri?
Haq Yar: We are allies and part and parcel of every strategy. Wherever mujahideen are resisting the forces of evil, Arab mujahideen, al-Qaeda and leaders Osama bin Laden and Dr Zawahiri have a key role. In Afghanistan they also have a significant role to support the Taliban movement.
ATol: Is the present Taliban-led resistance against the US and its allies a local resistance or is it international? That is, are resistance movements in other parts of the world led from Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: Initially it was a local movement, but now it is linked with resistance movements in Iraq and other places. We are certainly in coordination with all resistance movements of the Muslim world.
ATol: What is the Taliban strategy with groups like Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (Khalis)?
Haq Yar: The Hezb-i-Islami of Hekmatyar and the Taliban are fighting under a coordinated strategy and support each other. The leadership of the Khalis group is now in the hands of his son, who is coordinating everything with Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.
ATol: What is the Taliban's weaponry? Is it old Russian arms or they have acquired new ones - and if so, where are they getting them?
Haq Yar: The Taliban have all the latest weaponry required for a guerrilla warfare. Where does it come from? Well, Afghanistan is known as a place where weapons are stockpiled. And forces that provided arms a few decades ago - the same weapons are now being used against them.
ATol: The Taliban contacted commanders in northern Afghanistan. What was the result?
Haq Yar: About one and a half years ago these contacts were initiated. Various groups from the north contacted us. We discussed the matter with [Taliban leader] Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund and then, with his consent, I was assigned to negotiate matters with the Northern Alliance.
The first meeting was held in northern Afghanistan, where I represented the Taliban. Many individuals from various groups of the Northern Alliance attended the meeting and they all condemned the foreign presence in the country, but insisted that the Taliban should take the lead, and then they would follow suit. Another meeting was held after that in which various individuals come up with some conditions, and there was no conclusion. There was no collective meeting, but there are contacts.
ATol: What is the role of the tribal chiefs?
Haq Yar: The tribal chiefs have always been supportive of the Taliban and still are. How could they not be? The US bombed and killed thousand of their people and the puppet [President Hamid] Karzai government is silent. All Afghans are sick and tired of US tyrannies and daily bombardment, whether they are commoners or chiefs, and that is why they are all with the Taliban.
Actually, we have also worked on organizing that support. On the instructions of Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund, I met with tribal chiefs last year and prepared the grounds for this year's battle [spring offensive], and all tribal chiefs assured me of their support. And now there is support - it is there for everybody to see.
ATol: It is said that the Taliban are now fueled by drug money. Is this correct, and if not, how do they manage their financial matters?
Haq Yar: It is shameful to say that the Taliban, who eliminated poppies from Afghanistan, are dependent on the drug trade to make money. This is wrong. As far as money is concerned, we do not need much. Whatever is required, we manage it through our own limited resources.
ATol: Are you satisfied with the media's role?
Haq Yar: Not at all. They do not publish our point of view. They never tried to talk to the genuine Taliban. Rather, they go after not genuine people who are basically plants and rejected by the Taliban leadership.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at [email protected].