Taliban leaders based in Pakistan and their Afghan comrades have agreed to bury their differences and close ranks to prepare for a new offensive in Afghanistan as the US readies to send another 17,000 troops to the country this year, a media report said on Friday.
A number of new younger commanders have been preparing to step up a campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks to greet the Americans, several Taliban fighters based in the border region with Pakistan were quoted as saying.
In interviews with the New York Times, the fighters said preparations for the anticipated influx of American troops were already being made.
The refortified alliance, the paper said, was forged after reclusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar sent emissaries to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to join forces and turn their attention to Afghanistan.
Mullah Omar’s overture, it said, is an indication that with the prospect of a US buildup, the Taliban feel the need to strengthen their own forces in Afghanistan and redirect their Pakistani allies towards blunting the new American push.
The Pakistani Taliban, an offspring of the Afghan Taliban, are led by veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan who come from the border regions.
They have always supported the fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan by supplying fighters, training and logistical aid, the paper said.
In recent years the Pakistani Taliban have concentrated on battling the Pakistani government, extending a domain that has not only threatened the country but has also provided an essential rear base for insurgency in Afghanistan, Times said.
At the same time, American officials told the New York Times this week that Pakistan military intelligence continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave.
The new Taliban alliance, the paper said, has raised concern in Afghanistan, where NATO generals warn that the conflict will worsen this year. It has also generated anxiety in Pakistan, where officials fear that a united Taliban will be more dangerous and would draw more attacks inside Pakistan from the US drone aircraft.
“This may bring some respite for us from militants’ attacks, but what it may entail in terms of national security could be far more serious,” an unidentified senior Pakistani official told the paper.
“This would mean more attacks inside our tribal areas, something we have been arguing against with the Americans.”