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Thread: Talking To The Taliban: A Poll From The Front Lines

  1. #1

    Default Talking To The Taliban: A Poll From The Front Lines

    Interesting 6-part series I've been reading this week in regards to the Taliban that I thought some of you might enjoy; Sorry no cliff notes. Any articles not published yet will be added to the post as they appear online.
    Here's the link to the videos
    Portrait of the enemy
    They're ignorant about the outside world, indifferent to who will lead their country but zealously committed to one objective: ensuring Islamism prevails in Afghanistan. Meet the foot soldiers of the insurgency


    March 22, 2008

    KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- e looks like an ordinary Afghan in ragged clothes. He says he's young, 24 or 25 years old, but his eyes seem older. Somebody he knows, or loves, was killed by a bomb dropped from the sky, he says. The government tried to destroy his farm. His tribe has feuded with the government in recent years, and he feels pushed to the edge of a society that ranks among the poorest in the world.

    So he lives by the gun. He cradles the weapon in his arms, saying he will follow the tradition of his ancestors who battled foreign armies. He is not only a Taliban foot soldier, he says. He belongs to the mujahedeen, the holy warriors, who fight any infidel who tries to invade Afghanistan.

    He does not care where the foreigners come from. Maybe he knows the word Canada, but he cannot point to the country on a map. When he squints down his rifle at Canadian soldiers, he cannot imagine the faraway land that gave birth to those helmeted figures. He only wants to drive them away. He fervently believes that expelling the foreigners will set things right in his troubled country.

    This portrait of an average Taliban fighter emerges from groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail in Kandahar. The newspaper's staff, working with a freelance researcher, gained unprecedented access to insurgent groups in five districts of Kandahar province, and finished the dangerous assignment with 42 video recordings of fighters answering a standardized list of questions.
    Print Edition - Section Front

    It's not a scientific survey, but it's the first public attempt to look at the Taliban in a systematic way.

    The translation of the interviews, 517 pages long, suggests the Taliban are more complicated than might be guessed from their usual depiction as religious warriors; they are fierce and frightening, but proud and occasionally poetic. They use the language of radical Islam, but their message often consists of nothing more than xenophobia and a desire to protect their way of life.

    Uneducated and inarticulate, they mumble their way through monosyllabic answers and avoid hard questions. When asked about money, for instance, the fighters reveal few details about their sources of financing. With repeated questioning, they do eventually open up, however, about their political dreams and the economic rationale for the war. They even dare to question their own leadership.

    "These people are the heart of the problem," said a former mujahedeen commander in Kandahar who reviewed the interview footage. "These are the people you need to deal with: the guys with the guns."


    Strong patterns stood out in the fighters' answers, some of which will be explored in more detail in The Globe's series on the insurgents over the coming week.

    Almost a third of respondents claimed that at least one family member had died in aerial bombings in recent years. Many also described themselves as fighting to defend Afghan villagers from air strikes by foreign troops.

    Most of them admitted a personal role in the illegal opium industry, and half of them said their poppy fields had been targeted by government eradication efforts, suggesting they suffer more eradication than other Afghan farmers. Several of them voiced frustration that the government officials take bribes for turning a blind eye to the drug trade while punishing poor opium growers.

    They claimed origins in 19 different Pashtun tribes, but the largest numbers came from Kandahar tribes that have been disenfranchised by the current government. No foreigners or non-Pashtuns were encountered during the survey, supporting the impression that such fighters are extremely rare.

    Few of them claimed to be fighting a global jihad; most described their goal as the return of a stricter Islamic government in Afghanistan.

    They showed deep ignorance about the world, even making serious errors in their telling of Afghanistan's recent history. None of the fighters appeared to know anything about Canada; faced with a multiple-choice question, only one of them correctly guessed that Canada is located north of the United States.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, 24 of the fighters said it doesn't matter whether Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar returns to power as the head of Afghanistan's government. Most claimed to be fighting for principles, not a leader.

    Trying to understand the insurgency has become a daily topic of conversation in Afghanistan, as the growing violence increases demands for a negotiated peace.

    Some analysts say the opinions of front-line Taliban fighters aren't relevant in a feudal society where people usually obey their leaders, but others point to indications that the insurgency's momentum no longer comes from its top organizers. It's sometimes labelled a "franchise" expansion model, in which groups of Afghans who don't feel a strong allegiance to Mullah Omar decide to join the insurgency for their own reasons.

    "I think the answers of ordinary Taliban do matter, in the context of how strong are their beliefs and how motivated they are," said Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and other books on Islamic extremism in the region. "But it's most important in the context of, 'Can you divide the Taliban, and talk to more moderate ones?' "

    Many kinds of negotiations with the Taliban have sprung up as the insurgents assert their presence in the outlying districts. Aid agencies and cellphone companies regularly negotiate safe passage of their workers across Taliban territory, and negotiations with kidnappers have become chillingly frequent.

    Canada's government publicly refuses to talk with the Taliban, but the Dutch military makes such discussions an explicit part of its strategy in Uruzgan province. The British have tried, and so far failed, to negotiate local deals that will pacify Helmand province.

    President Hamid Karzai issued a public plea last year for one-on-one talks with Mullah Omar, and the United Nations's internal trend forecasting describes a negotiated political solution as the single thing most likely to dampen the conflict in the foreseeable future.

    Uncertainty hangs over all such negotiations, however, because, at the most basic level, the Taliban remain a mystery. Few analysts are willing to predict whether an average fighter would lay down his weapons, and under what circumstances.

    Two Western security officials who reviewed The Globe's survey said the sample reflects the fact that foreign extremists do not have a significant role in the Kandahar insurgency. That could make negotiation more feasible; local Afghan insurgents have a reputation for being more flexible in their allegiance than the Arab or Central Asian extremists who sometimes appear on the battlefield. "Their goals really aren't global jihad, and their connections with al-Qaeda aren't very strong," one security official said.


    The insurgents' apparent lack of loyalty to Mullah Omar might also be interpreted as a positive sign.

    The Globe's researcher initially refused to ask the question - "If foreigners leave Afghanistan, would you accept a government without Mullah Omar?" - because he feared the insurgents would threaten him for questioning the importance of the reclusive leader who calls himself Commander of the Faithful. But among the 32 insurgents who answered the question, 24 of them said they would be willing to accept different leadership under certain conditions.

    Those conditions varied: The most common demands were for an "Islamic leader" who would enforce "Islamic laws." The Taliban did not clearly define how such a leader and laws would be different from the present Muslim President and Afghanistan's current system of laws based on Islamic teachings.

    A few suggested that replacing Mullah Omar would require a decision by the leader himself, or even a sign from God. Another fighter declared that a president of Afghanistan would only be acceptable "if that person is like Mullah Omar." Others said that only the Taliban elders are qualified to choose Afghanistan's leader.

    But some said they're not demanding a Taliban government at all. "We are not saying that it should be our government," he said. "But we want only a Muslim king."

    Even Mr. Karzai, whose troops are fighting the Taliban, was sometimes considered acceptable if the foreign troops leave. "If it is Karzai or Mullah Omar it doesn't matter," one said.

    Other fighters vehemently disagreed, saying Mr. Karzai is a "slave" of foreign powers.

    This variety of opinion among the insurgents has been viewed as a weakness by their opponents. A spokesman for Mr. Karzai has said he's hoping to sow confusion in the Taliban ranks by pushing the issue of negotiations.

    One of the insurgents admitted it's a topic of debate among his comrades: "We have those who want peace and those who want to fight," he said.

    Their uncertainty about the importance of Mullah Omar may spring from an understanding that he's not deeply engaged in the day-to-day workings of the insurgency, a senior United Nations official said. The Taliban know their one-eyed master remains isolated somewhere far from the battlefields, he suggested, and this serves as another weak point that might be exploited by negotiators.

    But a lack of central authority could also make the Taliban more dangerous, a security analyst said, if their own leaders can't stop them from fighting.

    "They're not loyal to Mullah Omar, yes, but is that a good thing?" the analyst said. "Because maybe a Taliban leader cuts a deal, but he can't deliver the fighters because they're too fanatical."

    A former Afghan government official said the Taliban's lack of zeal for their leader reflects the same kind of false humility they displayed from 1994 to 1996, when they took power under the guise of a temporary regime. "It's a trick," he said. "It's crap. You can't believe them."

    The Taliban also seemed skeptical about the Afghan government as a negotiating partner.

    Several referred to the early days of the Karzai administration, in which some Taliban tried to join the new government but ended up in detention. Mr. Karzai must take orders from the U.S. forces, the insurgents said, and the Americans don't want to negotiate.

    Nor did there appear to be much desire for peace talks among the insurgents. None admitted any willingness to accept money, work, property or immunity from prosecution in exchange for a ceasefire. Only a handful of them added that they're willing to stop fighting if they get the order from their superiors.

    "I personally believe that negotiations are inevitable," said Thomas Johnson, director of the culture and conflict studies program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and a leading expert on the Pashtun tribal areas. "The problem of course is finding people willing to negotiate. Pashtuns generally will not negotiate when they sense they are winning. Hence, you see that the Taliban are 'willing' to negotiate, but only after international forces leave the country."


    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says insurgent attacks increased 64 per cent from 2006 to 2007, and very few of the Taliban surveyed showed any sign of respecting the military strength of the Canadians and their allies.

    Many claimed foreign troops lack personal courage, and repeatedly told stories of battle that mocked their opponents. "They are cowardly people," a fighter said. "If you take away their tanks and airplanes, they are nothing against Muslims."

    They also seemed offended by the suggestion that peace could be bought for a price. Many spoke about the corruption of the Afghan government, and tried to set themselves apart from the regime by claiming their loyalty could not be purchased.

    "Even if you give me so much money that I can't spend it in my entire lifetime, I will not stop," said one. Another promised to continue fighting even if offered "a million million."

    Their ferocity usually had a limited focus, however. A few talked about global jihad - "This is a world war" - but most of them gave their fight a narrow definition, usually aiming their rage at the foreign troops and their political opponents within the borders of Afghanistan.

    "Why are you fighting against this government?" The Globe's researcher asked a 25-year-old former driver. "Because they are with the non-Muslims," he replied. "If there were no non-Muslims, we would not fight with them, because one Muslim does not fight with another Muslim. But when we are fighting an Afghan soldier, it is because they are in an American convoy."

    "If they weren't in a convoy with Americans, you wouldn't fight with them?" he was asked.

    "No," he said. "Then we wouldn't fight."

    Some of the most revealing dialogue in the interviews happens when the Taliban stray from the original list of questions. Spontaneously, without prompting, two of them spoke out against the modern way of life that has started to appear in the bustling streets of Kabul. It's unlikely that these poor foot soldiers had much personal experience in the capital, hundreds of kilometres away, but they obviously had heard stories about how the city has changed since the fall of the Taliban regime.

    "There are some things forbidden by Islam and the Koran, like alcohol, adultery and cinemas," said a 27-year-old farmer, with a belt of machine-gun bullets draped around his neck. "Why don't they stop these things which are clearly going on in Kabul and some other provinces? Instead they beat those who are poor."

    Another man also singled out movies as a source of moral corruption. Street vendors in Afghanistan have started a black-market trade in recent years, selling video discs of Indian movies and hardcore *********** -- sometimes alongside Taliban propaganda videos that denounce the same foreign influences.

    "They are enthusiastic about the dollar and cinemas," a fighter said. "That's why we are fighting them."

    The comments often reflect a deeply insular view of the world, and a revisionist history that would be unrecognizable to outsiders. Many of the fighters would have been too young to fight alongside the Taliban as they conquered the capital in 1996, and they seem to be repeating a legendary version of the old regime as a way of stoking their own ambitions.

    "In the time of the Taliban, they captured all Afghanistan; only one corner remained out of our grasp," said a young man with bushy eyebrows visible between his black turban and the scarf wrapped around his face. He guessed his age at 21 and said he had been a religious student since he was 6.

    "Thus all the world's non-Muslims were afraid of us and afraid of the Taliban capturing all of Afghanistan," he said. "It would be a centre of Islamic government for the whole world. So they started a campaign against us and destroyed our government."

    None of the Taliban mention Sept. 11, 2001, in their explanations of the war. Nor do they talk about many other things that muddy their claims of moral superiority: the hundreds of civilians who have died in the conflict, a majority of them killed by the insurgents; the Afghans addicted to the opium that grows in their fields; and the prosperity that people have started to enjoy in the northern regions of Afghanistan that are not plagued by insurgency.

    Things are much simpler for the Taliban. "We are people of war," a fighter said, "and we want an Islamic government."


    The series

    Beginning today, and running through next week, we will probe the heart of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail. Based on video recorded interviews of 42 fighters connected with insurgent groups in five districts of Kandahar province, the research provides us with a glimpse of who they are, their motivation and goals.


    Graeme Smith's introduction to the project, and a GlobeDocs documentary to accompany each of the stories in his six-part series.

    Raw footage of the 42 video recordings of the Taliban fighters with translation.

    An interactive graphic that explains the history of the Taliban, from its beginnings to the present.

    Maps and graphics detailing tribal boundaries in Kandahar, data on air strikes and suicide bombings, plus areas of poppy cultivation.

    Links to leave comment on the series.

    In The Globe and Mail

    Today The Taliban defy conventional wisdom about the men opposing NATO forces in Afghanistan

    Monday What motivates the Taliban

    Tuesday The tribal clash underlying the conflict

    Wednesday The Taliban and Pakistan

    Thursday What the Taliban know about the outside world

    Friday Why the Taliban are embracing suicide bombing



    A closer look at the Panjwai valley shows generally pro-government tribes dominating the relatively secure corner of the district, while disenfranchised tribes hold enclaves in the southwest, where Canadian troops have repeatedly battled to gain control.


    With many of their home villages in the conflict zones, they are reportedly fighting to defend their opium business.


    Hafis Majid, an influential member of the tribe, is a senior Taliban leader. The Noorzai abound west of Kandahar city, the scene of recent battles.


    Abdul Razik, a flamboyant young police chief who controls the road crossing to Pakistan, is among this tribe's leading members.


    The late Mullah Naqib was President Hamid Karzai's biggest ally in the south, and the tribe formed an important bulwark around the city.


    Mr. Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, plays a major role as Kandahar's provincial council chairman.


    Little information has been published about the Sayyed tribe, but in Afghanistan a person who describes himself as Sayyed usually claims direct ancestry from the Prophet Mohammed.


    Former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Shirzai retains influence and business ties to the province through his tribe.




    Interviews with Taliban fighters explore several of their motivations for taking up arms: desire for an Islamic state, the poppy economy and internal Afghan politics.


    -Mullah Hayabullah (Farah)

    -Anwar Dangar (Parwan, Kapisa, Wardak and Kabul)

    -Maulvi Qadir (Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman)

    -Abdur Razak (Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand)

    -Akhtar Osmani

    KIA - Replacement unknown (Zabul)

    -Jalaluddin Haqqani

    (Ghazni, Paktia and Paktika)

    -Kandahar province

    Where Canada's provincial reconstruction team is based


    Last edited by tbk107; 03-26-2008 at 10:02 PM.

  2. #2


    Air strikes, war on drugs drive Taliban
    Insurgency's foot soldiers are motivated by loved ones lost to NATO planes and money lost to poppy-eradication programs

    GRAEME SMITH; Graeme Smith; Associated Press and The Canadian Press

    March 24, 2008


    Running through this week, we will probe the heart of the Taliban

    insurgency in Afghanistan in groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail. Based on video-recorded interviews of 42 fighters connected with insurgent groups in Kandahar province, the research provides us with a glimpse of who they are, their motivation and goals.


    The Globe and Mail

    Graeme Smith's introduction to the project, and a GlobeDocs

    documentary to accompany each of the stories in his six-part series.

    Raw footage of 42 video recordings of the Taliban fighters

    with translation.

    An interactive graphic that explains the history of the Taliban,

    from its beginnings to the present.

    Maps and graphics detailing tribal boundaries in Kandahar, data

    on air strikes and suicide bombings, plus areas of poppy cultivation.

    Links to leave comment on the series.

    In The Globe and Mail

    TODAY What motivates the Taliban

    TOMORROW The tribal clash underlying the conflict

    WEDNESDAY The Taliban and Pakistan

    THURSDAY What the Taliban know about the outside world

    FRIDAY Why the Taliban are embracing suicide bombing


    Air strikes and drug eradication are feeding the insurgency in southern Afghanistan, as those actions convince some villagers that their lives and livelihoods are under attack.

    In a unique survey, The Globe and Mail interviewed 42 ordinary Taliban foot soldiers in Kandahar and discovered 12 fighters who said their family members had died in air strikes, and 21 who said their poppy fields had been targeted for destruction by anti-drug teams.

    The results suggest an unusual concentration of first-hand experience with bombing deaths and opium eradication among the insurgents, analysts say. Despite the violence and expensive counter-narcotics campaigns in Afghanistan, most villagers have not been touched by these events themselves, and their prevalence among the Taliban highlights two important motives for the insurgency.

    "This is very interesting," said Sarah Chayes, an American author who lives in Kandahar.

    The Taliban may exaggerate their claims of civilians killed in air strikes, she said, "but I do think civilian deaths, and the cultivated impression of civilian deaths, is playing an increasing role."

    Some analysts have described senior Taliban leaders reaping large profits from the opium industry, but Ms. Chayes said the ordinary fighters are simply trying to protect a meagre source of income in a place where other jobs are scarce.

    "It's not profit motive at these guys' level - it's bare livelihood," she said. "Anybody would defend that."

    Aerial bombings and civilian deaths have both increased: the United Nations estimates that more than 1,500 civilians were killed last year.

    That figure as compares to the 900 to 1,000 civilian deaths counted by two studies of the previous year. An analysis of the first nine months of 2007 found the number of air strikes was already 50-per-cent higher than the total for 2006.

    Civilian bombings emerged as a major theme of the war last year. President Hamid Karzai shed tears in public as he spoke about civilian deaths. In June, a coalition of Afghan aid agencies published a controversial report suggesting that the rate of civilian casualties had doubled from the previous year, and that international forces were starting to rival the Taliban as the greatest source of civilian deaths.

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization disputed the aid groups' figures, but quietly took action to reduce the likelihood of killing civilians. A report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month said international forces had reviewed standard operating procedures for aerial engagement with a view to reducing collateral deaths caused from the air.

    Still, some countries, such as the United States, have been reluctant to curtail their use of air power.

    "The United States views this as the tragic but bearable cost of a successful operation against insurgents, without understanding that the Taliban has deliberately traded the lives of a few dozen guerrilla fighters in order to cost the American forces the permanent loyalty of that [bombed] village," wrote Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in California, in an academic paper last year.

    The Taliban are usually reluctant to admit that they're fighting for any causes other than religion, but they have recently embraced civilian deaths as a rallying point. Insurgents have helped journalists arrange interviews with victims in the aftermath of air strikes in southern Afghanistan, and NATO soldiers have repeatedly witnessed the Taliban forcing civilians into dangerous situations in hopes of getting them killed by foreign troops, thus evoking the wrath of the village.

    The Globe and Mail's survey was not scientific, but it offers a sample of the insurgents' views on the topic. Asked specifically about bombings by foreign troops, almost a third of respondents said their family members had died in such incidents during the current war.

    Some insurgents complained about bombings by Russian aircraft in the 1980s in addition to recent air strikes under the Karzai government, suggesting that memories of the Soviet invasion fuel some of the current opposition to U.S. and NATO troops.

    Even those who have not lost relatives in the bombings clearly identify themselves as defending Afghanistan against such attacks. In response to the question, "Has your family been bombed by foreigners?" four fighters offered fatalistic responses such as: "No, not yet." Two others gave variations on a declaration of solidarity. "No," one fighter said. "But the families of my friends have been bombed, and other Muslims are like my own family." Others described the air strikes hitting closer to home: "No, but our neighbours and relatives have been bombed."

    About half of those who cited bombing deaths in their family said they joined the Taliban after the killings occurred: six joined afterwards, five joined before and one was not asked.

    Those for whom the bombings was a trigger for joining the Taliban generally fell into two categories: young men replacing older relatives who died fighting in the Taliban ranks ("call-ups"); and men who took up arms against the government after their civilian relatives were killed.

    An example of the call-up mechanism was the case of a 25-year-old farm worker who said three older members of his family were killed in air strikes. He specified that all of his slain relatives were Taliban fighters, and that it was his duty to replace them.

    "All of them were with the Taliban and when one of them was killed in war, after that another was killed and then the third one was also killed," he said. "So after that I decided to join the Taliban."

    "But what is your goal? Do you want to take revenge or what?" he was asked.

    "No, no, no," the fighter said. "I would never fight to take revenge for my family or something else. I am fighting only to remove the non-Muslims from my country because they are here to destroy our religion."

    Others did not dwell on the rhetoric of jihad. A 22-year-old farmer initially said he abandoned his farm work because foreign troops arrived in his area, but later specified that three of his relatives - two elders and a child - had been killed in an aerial bombing in the previous year, and that he joined the Taliban after the bombing.

    "Are you fighting because of that bombing?" he was asked. "Yes," he said. "Because of the bombing, and also because the foreigners are here."

    Bombing was the only reason given when an older farmer, perhaps in his 40s, described his motives: "The non-Muslims are unjust and have killed our people and children by bombing them, and that's why I started jihad against them," he said. He said his family was bombed several times. "They have killed hundreds of our people, and that's why I want to fight against them."

    International troops sometimes complain that they're fighting three wars in Afghanistan: the war on terrorism, a war against insurgents, and a war on drugs. The first two conflicts are viewed as inescapable, but the counter-narcotics campaign is often seen as hurting the rest of the war effort.

    With opium production soaring to record levels, however, many Western politicians are pushing for a new crackdown on poppy farmers. The International Crisis Group predicted in February that such an effort would be disastrous: "Insurgents would exploit local alienation to recruit more soldiers," the ICG report said.

    Most of the insurgents in the Globe survey admitted a personal role in the opium industry, with more than 80 per cent of respondents saying they farm poppies themselves and a similar percentage saying the plant is farmed by their family or friends.

    Those numbers aren't surprising in rural Kandahar, where poppies rank among the most common crops. The more significant number, in the view of some analysts, was that half those surveyed said their fields had been targeted by government eradication efforts, sometimes more than once.

    Eradication was not widespread in Kandahar in the years before the survey was conducted; it appears the Taliban either exaggerate the government's counter-narcotics program, or there is a connection between farmers who face crop eradication and those who join the insurgency.

    The Taliban did not seem inclined to admit an economic rationale for the war, saying it's a secondary reason for fighting after the primary concept of religious war, but a few described the connection bluntly: "Previously they were cutting them [poppies] down, but now those areas are controlled by mujahedeen and now they cannot cut them down," said a 26-year-old who described himself as a former religious student.

    Under the previous Taliban regime, Afghanistan briefly witnessed one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar declared that growing poppies is un-Islamic. Some historians say the Taliban cynically cut production to increase the values of their own stockpiles, but the effects in the fields was dramatic: a year's crop was almost entirely wiped out.

    The idea of opium as a religiously forbidden product has lingered in Afghanistan, and is often reinforced by the current government. But many of the Taliban in the survey gave a new rationale when asked to explain why they have reinvented themselves as protectors of the drug trade.

    "We grow it because it damages the non-Muslims," one fighter said, repeating the line used by many others, sometimes parroting the phrase verbatim.

    "Before this drug reaches the non-Muslims, won't it destroy our own people first?" he was asked by the Afghan researcher, expressing concern about Afghanistan's growing population of drug addicts.

    But the fighter shrugged off this argument, saying the opium is mostly consumed in foreign countries.

    "Islam says that it isn't permitted," the fighter conceded. "But we don't care whether it is permitted or forbidden. But we are only saying that we will grow poppies against non-Muslims."

    A private security consultant in Kabul who reviewed the videos of the Taliban who were surveyed said the recurrence of this argument among the fighters seems to suggest an indoctrination campaign by Taliban leaders.

    "If you read between the lines, some higher commanders have figured out a good excuse to cultivate poppy," the consultant said. "Those farmers are quite well brainwashed."

    Taliban funding

    The Taliban revealed very little about their financing when asked by The Globe and Mail's researcher. Other sources suggest that their biggest cash inflows arrive from supporters in Pakistan, sometimes originally from donors in the Middle East, but the front-line insurgents didn't seem to know much about those transactions, or else kept them secret.

    "All the Muslims give us money, whether they are Afghans or from Saudi Arabia or somewhere else," one fighter said.

    Other insurgents described voluntary payments by ordinary Afghans and implied that the insurgents get a cut of the local drug trade. Such payments were always couched in the language of traditional Islamic payments to charity, usually in two forms: usher and zakat.

    Usher literally means one-tenth, but can refer to any portion of agricultural crop that is set aside as a donation. Zakat is another kind of obligatory charity, usually 2.5 per cent of annual profits from business.

    These payments are regularly shared with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan; farmers sometimes give half their donations to the insurgents and the other half to the local mullah for charitable causes.

    Prominent local drug dealers and businessmen in Kandahar are known to make donations beyond the requirements of zakat and usher, sometimes in the form of cash, opium, vehicles, cellphone-recharge card numbers, or even warm clothing in winter.

    Graeme Smith

    Latest developments

    Afghan and NATO forces killed more than 40 insurgents in an air and ground battle in southern Afghanistan, a security official said yesterday.

    Troops seized dozens of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, after Saturday's battle in Dihrawud, a district in Uruzgan province, the Afghan Defence Ministry said in a statement, adding many militants were killed, including a commander, but provided no figures. An official at the ministry put the number of dead at more than 40.

    U.S.-led coalition troops hit a roadside bomb in Kandahar province Saturday as they were conducting a security patrol with Afghan troops, the coalition said in a statement. Two soldiers died, it said. Coalition officials say the dead are not Canadians but their nationalities have not yet been released.

    There have been at least eight instances in the past two years in which the Canadian government has dipped into its own pocket to compensate Afghan civilians or their families for accidental deaths or injuries. But the figures and details of the settlements remain a closely held secret, despite calls in the Manley commission report for the Conservative government to be more open and forthright.

    The Justice Department, which shares responsibility with the Defence Department for ex-gratia payments, refused to release any details. The payments ranged from $1,971 to $31,584.

    Under the arrangement, civilians can submit damage claims and lawyers deployed with the troops are allowed to make payments up to $2,000.

    Twenty-five trucks carrying fuel to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have been destroyed in a possible bomb attack on the Pakistani border. Officials say that dozens of people have been injured.

    Mohammed Sadiq Khan, a local government official, said that the explosions and blaze occurred on the Pakistani side of the Torkham customs post late yesterday. At least 50 people were injured, eight of them seriously.

    Fida Mohammed, the commander of a paramilitary force that helps provide security at the crossing, said 25 trucks carrying fuel to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan were destroyed.

    Afghanistan's intelligence agency said it had arrested a 14-year-old Pakistani boy who was planning a suicide car bombing in the eastern city of Khost. The teenager was arrested Thursday, Khost province deputy intelligence chief Mira Jan said. A car fixed with bombs was also found.

  3. #3


    Tribal animosity drawing Taliban recruits
    According to The Globe's survey, the majority of insurgents in the south do not come from tribes well-represented in local government


    March 25, 2008

    Canadian troops and their allies have been drawn into an ancient tribal feud that simmers beneath the conflict in southern Afghanistan.

    In a sample of ordinary insurgents, 42 fighters in Kandahar province were asked by The Globe and Mail to identify their own tribe, and the results point to a divide within the Taliban ranks: Only five named themselves as members of the three major tribes most closely associated with the government, suggesting that tribal animosity has become a factor that drives the recruitment of insurgents.

    "This government is a family business," said a prominent Afghan aid worker in Kandahar. "The other tribes get angry when a few tribes have all the power."

    Afghan tribes often share the same ethnicity, religion, language and culture, but they're divided along ancestral lines that resemble the branches of a huge family tree. Little except bloodlines distinguishes most tribes from each other, but struggles for power among the tribes have been a source of bloodshed for centuries in this harsh land.
    Print Edition - Section Front

    The small survey did not include enough interviews to draw firm conclusions about the tribal makeup of the Taliban, and the results may be biased by the tribal identity of the researcher who conducted the interviews since it would have been easier for him to find his fellow tribesmen in Taliban-controlled districts.

    But the findings appear to support the impression of many analysts that the Kandahar insurgency draws fighters most heavily from the tribes outside of the Zirak Durrani tribal federation, which dominates the local government.

    The Taliban interviewed claimed origins from 19 different tribes, all of them part of the Pashtun ethnic group that occupies most of southern Afghanistan. The largest numbers came from the Noorzai and Eshaqzai tribes, which accounted for 16 of the 42 surveyed. Many members of those two tribes live in the most dangerous parts of the Panjwai valley, where Canadian troops have been fighting for the past two years, and they often complain about being alienated from Kandahar's government, with little representation in the administration.

    The Popalzai tribe of President Hamid Karzai, by contrast, had relatively few members in the sample of insurgents. Only two Taliban identified themselves as Popalzai, and they appeared to have personal reasons for participating in the insurgency: One said his family had been bombed by foreign troops and the other said the government repeatedly eradicated his opium fields. There was a similar lack of insurgents from other tribes usually aligned with the government.

    "Currently there is war between the tribes," said a former Afghan intelligence officer, whose experience in Kandahar spans three decades.

    But another observer said the friction between tribes still hasn't reached that point.

    "We don't have a true tribal war here, yet," said Neamat Arghandabi, head of the National Islamic Society of Afghan Youth, who said he remembers such feuding during the period of chaos in the early 1990s that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces. "It's the worst," he said. "It has no borders, everybody fights each other and you have to hide your roots. But for now, it's like competition among political parties."

    The fact that certain tribes are more heavily represented than others within the Taliban appears to be a touchy point with the insurgent leadership, which prefers to describe religion as the group's unifying force. The Globe and Mail's researcher was sharply criticized by Taliban when they learned he had been surveying the tribal background of insurgents.

    Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, scoffed at the idea of a tribally motivated insurgency as he watched The Globe's videos at his home in Kabul. "Among the Taliban, there is no difference between the tribes," Mr. Zaeef said. "The tribe issue among Taliban is not important."

    But academics who monitor Afghanistan are paying increasing attention to the issue. Thomas Johnson, director of the Culture and Conflict Studies program at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, was among the first academics to describe the tribal underpinnings of the war.

    Three tribes that dominated Kandahar in the years after the Soviet withdrawal, the Popalzai, Barakzai and Alokozai, all from the Zirak Durrani group, lost significant power when the Taliban swept the country from 1994 to 1996, Mr. Johnson said. In their place, the tribal groups aligned with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar installed themselves in the seats of government. The Taliban leader's own tribe, the Hotak branch of the Ghilzai federation, occupied seven of the senior positions in Mullah Omar's regime, according to Mr. Johnson's analysis.

    The latest government in Kandahar has largely returned the Zirak Durranis to power, Mr. Johnson said, which reflects a tribal struggle that goes back hundreds of years.

    Afghan government officials vigorously disagree with emphasizing the tribal element of the conflict, framing the war as a struggle against terrorism, but Mr. Johnson said they are playing down the role of the tribes.

    "[They] can't face reality, and it is a recognition that the real conflict runs much deeper and will be much more difficult to resolve," Mr. Johnson said.

    But many experts say it's wrong to view the tribal aspect of the war as a reason for despair, because the notion that the tribes always fight each other is false. Afghanistan has enjoyed decades of peace among the tribes, as recently as the 1960s and 1970s.

    "Power dynamics have something to do with it; there were relatively more Ghilzai in the Taliban government, and that gave the current Durrani leadership an excuse to under-represent them in government," said Sarah Chayes, an American author who lives in Kandahar. "But I think it is wrong to characterize this conflict as a manifestation of age-old tribal conflicts, or as a kind of fight for the spoils among groups eagerly trying to loot Afghanistan. Treating it that way will be a self-fulfilling prophesy."

    The tribes have gained power as an alternative political force only because the central government is weak, Ms. Chayes said, and bringing a clean and responsible government to the province would likely dampen Afghans' enthusiasm for the tribal system.

    "Tribes that feel themselves to be mistreated by the government may act in a concerted way, like the Alokozais in Khakrez district deserting en masse to the Taliban, but this has been a reaction to the very tribal dimension of the actions of certain Kandahar leaders," Ms. Chayes said.

    But a wealthy member of the Noorzai tribe, a group that often complains of being disenfranchised, said he thinks the cycle of tribes squabbling for power has already gained its own momentum and will be difficult to stop.

    "Some warlords were against our tribes, and they wanted revenge against them," said Din Mohammed, a grey-bearded elder who owns a construction company. "They wanted to push these tribes out of the new government, put pressure on them, so these people went to Pakistan. And Pakistan supported them and sent them back to Afghanistan, and now the fighting is more and more."

    Tribes of Kandahar

    The Kandahar insurgency draws fighters most heavily from the tribes outside the Zirak Durrani tribal federation, which dominates the local government.


    An estimated 13 million Pashtuns live in Afghanistan, mostly in the south and east. In Kandahar, they have two main branches: The Durrani and Ghilzai.



    Tribal identity often influences a person's politics, and whether he or she supports or opposes the government of President Hamid Karzai. Zirak Durranis tend to favour the government, while Panjpai Durranis and Ghilzais often feel disenfranchised.

    Government-aligned tribes


    President Hamid Karzai rules in the capital, while his brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, plays a major role in Kandahar as chairman of the provincial council.


    The late Mullah Naqib was the President's biggest ally in the south, and his tribesmen remain an important bulwark around the city.


    Former Kandahar governor Gul Aga Shirzai retains influence and business ties to the province through his tribe.


    Abdul Razik, a flamboyant young police chief who controls the road crossing to Pakistan, is among this tribe's leading members.

    Non-government-aligned tribes


    The politician Arif Noorzai may lead this tribe officially, but arguably its most influential member is Hafz Majid, a senior Taliban leader. The Noorzai are heavily represented west of Kandahar city.


    A bitter conflict between this tribe's leader in Kandahar, Habibullah Jan, and Ahmed Wali Karzai was a source of instability in the province until the two men reached a negotiated truce.


    With many of their home villages in the conflict zones of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, they are reportedly fighting to defend their opium business.








    The series

    Running through this week,

    we will probe the heart of the

    Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail. Based on

    video-recorded interviews of 42 fighters connected with insurgent groups in Kandahar province,

    the research provides us with

    a glimpse of who they are,

    their motivation and goals.


    A GlobeDocs documentary to accompany each of the stories in Graeme Smith's six-part series.

    Raw footage of 42 video

    recordings of the Taliban fighters.

  4. #4


    Pakistan's brutal beneficiaries betray their refuge
    Globe survey finds Taliban have only harsh words for nation that allegedly supports them, claiming large parts of it belong to them


    March 26, 2008

    KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Despite a long history of using Pakistan as a safe haven, Taliban on the front lines of the insurgency say they have no loyalty to their neighbouring country.

    A survey of 42 insurgents in Kandahar found most were critical about Pakistan, where they are reported to have headquarters and supply lines, and most were critical of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, often using the harshest language to describe him.

    Some insurgents claimed they want to fight for the seizure of vast swaths of Pakistan's territory in the name of expanding Afghanistan to include the major cities of Quetta and Peshawar. Every fighter asked said those two cities belong inside Afghanistan, and all of them rejected the existing border as a legitimate boundary between the countries.

    The Globe and Mail's modest sample of Taliban opinion may only reflect an effort by the insurgents to hide their sources of support in Pakistan, analysts say, or it may point to something more troubling: the growing indications that parts of the insurgency are no longer controlled by anybody.
    Print Edition - Section Front

    "If they are supported by ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency], why are they attacking Pakistan?" said Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, after reviewing The Globe's raw video footage. "Why would the ISI want these kinds of activities in Pakistan? It's out of control. Nobody is able to control it."

    "This is Afghan government propaganda, about the Pakistan government controlling the Taliban."

    Few historians dispute that Pakistan's intelligence services played a decisive role in establishing the Taliban movement in 1994, and Islamabad appeared to retain a strong influence over the regime that seized Kabul two years later.

    President Musharraf formally cut ties with the Taliban in 2001, but in recent years a growing number of observers have accused Pakistan's agents, or former agents, of continuing their assistance for the radical movement.

    "With the collaboration of elements within one of Pakistan's ... intelligence services, the ISI, the Pashtun borderlands have become a safe haven for the Taliban," write Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, of the Naval Postgraduate School in California, in a coming issue of the journal International Security.

    The Afghan government strongly endorses that view, often helping journalists arrange interviews with captured insurgents who tell stories of training centres in Pakistan.

    During one such interview session last year at the Kandahar Governor's Palace, an Afghan intelligence official paraded out a group of prisoners who described themselves as Pakistanis persuaded to wage jihad against foreign troops in Afghanistan after attending madrassas in Pakistan. They gave details of an informal training camp in Chaman, Pakistan, that suggested the insurgents were making little effort to hide their activities from local authorities.

    If the Taliban are creatures of Pakistan, however, The Globe and Mail's survey suggests they are not a particularly obedient creation.

    Some parts of the Taliban in particular, such as the recently created Pakistani Taliban group led by Baitullah Mehsud, have proven themselves more of a threat within Pakistan than anywhere else.

    "The Islamist extremist Frankenstein is no longer confined to the whims of political power games," wrote Irm Haleem, a South Asian expert who teaches at New York's Seton Hall University, in an article this month that devoted itself to the comparison between the Taliban and Mary Shelley's mythical creature.

    Every insurgent asked by The Globe researcher said huge parts of Pakistan belong to Afghanistan, but they offered varying ideas about how much territory should be claimed and how it is historically justified.

    One fighter said that only half of Pakistan's provinces, Sindh and Punjab, rightfully belong in the country.

    "Those areas of Pakistan were small," the fighter said. "In the time of Zahir Shah or someone else, then they made this line [the new border]." Another gave a similar explanation for the loss of Quetta and Peshawar: "The King Zahir Shah sold them, but when Mullah Omar was in Kandahar, he saw the contracts and the contracts were expired."

    In fact, the Durand Line agreement established the southeastern border of Afghanistan in 1893, long before the reign of King Zahir Shah, which lasted from 1933 to 1973. Pakistan and Afghanistan still formally disagree about whether the agreement has expired.

    Some of the Taliban seemed to be appropriating the nationalistic cause of reclaiming the Durand territory as part of the insurgency's agenda.

    "They [Quetta and Peshawar] absolutely belong to Afghanistan, and if we become successful in our war we will take it back from Pakistan, because it is a part of our holy Afghanistan," one insurgent said.

    "Unfortunately, at the moment, Afghanistan is in a big pressure: Non-Muslims are here," another fighter added. "But when the non-Muslims leave Afghanistan, then it [the Durand territory] can never be a part of Pakistan. We will erase the Durand line."

    Others blamed the government of President Hamid Karzai for failing to raise the issue with Islamabad, implying that Mr. Karzai cannot take action because he is controlled by foreign powers.

    One fighter, asked why Pakistan retains control of the territory, said, "Because there is no Islamic government, all of them are non-Muslims, and the government of Pakistan is also a non-Islamic government, and that's why."

    "The British handed it over to them," another said. "Where is the government? It belongs to the Americans now."

    "So the Americans don't want it to be a part of Afghanistan?" he was asked. "He [Mr. Musharraf] is also a son of the Americans, and Karzai is as well. So if he [President George W. Bush] takes it from one son and gives it to another, what does he gain here?"

    Despite their talk about Pakistan's unfair seizure of the Pashtun lands, the Taliban were strongly reluctant to accept the idea of "Pashtunistan" as a separate country, a concept raised by some ethnic nationalists in the border region. Only four respondents said they favour the creation of a new country for Pashtuns.

    These front-line fighters likely don't realize the close relationship between Pakistan's government and the insurgents, said one Western expert in Kandahar.

    "How many idealists have been manipulated by Machiavellian masters who kept themselves hidden in world history?" the observer said. "They almost certainly are not aware of the Pakistan government's involvement in their movement."

    A former Afghan intelligence officer, whose experience in Kandahar spans three decades, agreed that the Taliban are unaware of their masters.

    "The ISI co-ordinates Taliban activities, for sure," the retired officer said. "But the ISI has a few members who are leading the Taliban and the Taliban don't always understand the Pakistan role behind them. If the Taliban were aware they are puppets, they would stop fighting."

    During a long afternoon of discussion last year in Kandahar, a Taliban sympathizer chuckled at the idea of the insurgents as unwitting pawns.

    "The Pakistanis have two faces," said the full-bearded man, with an ample belly and a quick laugh. "They're friends with Talibs and Americans at the same time. They are betrayers of Islam."

    He continued: "Pakistan gets money from Americans and uses many tricks against the Taliban. They give the Taliban money, training and places to stay. On the other side, they arrest them and sell them. ... The small Taliban don't understand this."

    The series

    The Globe and Mail's groundbreaking six-part series probes the heart of the Taliban

    insurgency in Afghanistan.

    Based on video-recorded

    interviews with 42 fighters

    connected with insurgent groups in Kandahar province, the research provides a glimpse of who they are, their motivation and their goals.

  5. #5


    Taliban foot soldiers deeply ignorant of the world

    Survey reveals Kandahar fighters know next to nothing about Canada or U.S., contradicting view Taliban are sophisticated terrorists

    March 27, 2008

    KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The typical Taliban foot soldier battling Canadian troops and their allies in Kandahar is not a global jihadist who dreams of some day waging war on Canadian soil. In fact, he would have trouble finding Canada on a map.
    A survey of 42 insurgents in Kandahar province posed a series of questions about the fighters' view of the world, and the results contradicted the oft-repeated perception of the Taliban as sophisticated terrorists who pose a direct threat to Western countries.
    Faced with a multiple-choice question about Canada's location, only one of 42 fighters correctly guessed that Canada is located to the north of the United States, meaning the insurgents performed worse than randomly.
    None of them could identify Stephen Harper as the Prime Minister of Canada, and they often repeated the syllables of his name - "Stepheh Napper," "Sehn Hahn," "Steng Peng Beng," "Gra Pla Pla" - that reflected their puzzlement over a name they had never heard.

    Nor did they seem to associate the word "Canada" with anything except, in some cases, the soldiers now serving in Afghanistan. Most could not distinguish between the French- and English-speaking rotations of troops.
    One of The Globe and Mail's questions offered the Taliban a chance to volunteer any information about Canada: "Do you know about this country? What kind of people are there? Is it a big country or a small country? Poor country, rich country? Cold or warm? Do Muslims live there?" None offered any meaningful responses, and most of them simply declined to answer. One of the few who guessed, a 21-year-old farmer, seemed to think the word "Canada" indicated a faraway city.
    "It might be an old and destroyed city," he said.
    The results show the depth of ignorance among front-line insurgents in Kandahar. In a previous visit to the tribal areas of Pakistan, a reporter for The Globe and Mail personally met with more sophisticated Taliban who demonstrated a keen grasp of politics and appeared to know the latest news of the war. But those politically astute Taliban were hundreds of kilometres away from the battlefields, and it remains unclear how much control such organizers exert over the day-to-day operations of the insurgency.
    Last edited by tbk107; 03-27-2008 at 08:51 PM.

  6. #6


    Article will be posted Friday

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mu-Meson's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    May 2001


    You know, isn't against copyright, or fair use, or something to be posting an article in its entirety? If people want to read it fully, then they should go to the Globe and Snails website.
    Not too mention taking forever to scroll though. Just a paragraph or three, and then a link, plz.

  8. #8
    Hellfish Junior gaijinsamurai's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005


    Still, it's an interesting article. Thanks, tbk107.

  9. #9


    Although it is respectable that they made the effort to compile all this information, I feel it wasn't necessary.

    These (the Taliban) are extemely ignorant individuals we are dealing with here. Most of them don't know how to read or write. It shouldn't be a surprise that they cannot agree on even the most basic of political issues. The only "goal" they seem to agree on is "driving the foreigners out" because of some falsely perceived benefit. They answer with an inconsistency reminiscent of someone with a memory disorder.
    For example:
    "If they weren't in a convoy with Americans, you wouldn't fight with them?" he was asked.
    "No," he said. "Then we wouldn't fight."
    They WERE fighting against an Afghan who had no Americans or Canadians fighting alongside him.......Massoud. They arrested and beat up Panjshiris in Kabul for simply being from Panjshir thus automatically guilty of association to Massoud. The Taliban onslaught against the civilians of Mazar, Bamian and the Shamali plains is a testament to their savagery. There were NO Americans or Canadians then. Yet, they not only fought against Afghans, but they brutalized entire cities and the Afghan population.

    I don't think anywhere here was expecting the Taliban to start debating quantum physics and talk about Islamic theology and Judaism and Christianity and other religions and their views on those faiths and surprise us all with their "hidden" and "profound" insight into the world that we were completely unaware of. The results of the article only reinforced what was blatantly obvious: we are dealing with armed idiots.

  10. #10
    Senior Member socom6's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005


    Rebel 7 speaks the truth. Those buggers were doing brutal stuff before the Americans came. What we have here are some medievalists using modern weapons and aided by some murderous Arabs.

    A million curses and bad luck upon these Taliban scum.

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