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‘Taliban depend on Pak havens’

world Updated: Sep 22, 2009 00:58 IST

While the insurgency is predominantly Afghan, it is clearly supported from Pakistan, says the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

In an confidential assessment of the war, US Army General Stanley McChrystal says that without additional forces and a new strategy, the mission will likely result in failure.

In a 66-page document McChrystal writes: Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with Al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI,” which is its intelligence service.

Al-Qaeda and other extremist movements “based in Pakistan channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers, and technical assistance into Afghanistan, and offer ideological motivation, training, and financial support.”

A three-headed insurgency

McChrystal identifies three main insurgent groups “in order of their threat to the mission” and provides significant details about their command structures and objectives.

The first is the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) headed by Mullah Omar, who fled Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and operates from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

“At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Omar announces his guidance and intent for the coming year,” according to the assessment.

Mullah Omar’s insurgency has established an elaborate alternative government known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, McChrystal writes, which is capitalizing on the Afghan government’s weaknesses.

“The QST has been working to control Kandahar and its approaches for several years and there are indications that their influence over the city and neighboring districts is significant and growing,” McChrystal writes.

The second main insurgency group is the Haqqani network (HQN), which is active in southeastern Afghanistan and draws money and manpower “principally from Pakistan, Gulf Arab networks, and from its close association with Al Qaeda and other Pakistan-based insurgent groups.”

At another point in the assessment, McChrystal says, “Al Qaeda’s links with HQN have grown, suggesting that expanded HQN control could create a favorable environment” for associated extremist movements “to re-establish safe-havens in Afghanistan.”

The third is the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin insurgency, which maintains bases in three Afghan provinces “as well as Pakistan,” the assessment says. This network, led by the former mujaheddin commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, “aims to negotiate a major role in a future Taliban government. He does not currently have geographical objectives as is the case with the other groups,” though he “seeks control of mineral wealth and smuggling routes in the east.”

Overall, McChrystal provides this conclusion about the enemy: “The insurgents control or contest a significant portion of the country, although it is difficult to assess precisely how much due to a lack of ISAF presence. . . .”

The insurgents make money from the production and sale of opium and other narcotics, but the assessment says that “eliminating insurgent access to narco-profits — even if possible, and while disruptive — would not destroy their ability to operate so long as other funding sources remained intact.”