[Marxism] Pakistan said to tolerate Taliban refuge, training

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Aug 4 05:44:02 MDT 2004

The US attempt to impose by armed force a made-in-USA political
structure on Afghanistan, a long-independent semicolonial country that
(with massive imperialist and Pakistani arms and money) defeated a
ten-year Soviet attempt to occupy the country and determine its
government, is tending to fail in Afghanistan as has been happening in
Iraq.  The specific characteristics of the resistance reflect the
different levels of social, economic, and political development in the
two countries.

And as has happened previously, the failure to stabilize Afghanistan is
drawing Pakistan deeper into the war -- on both sides.
Fred Feldman

Pakistan Allows Taliban to Train, a Detained Fighter Says

Published: August 4, 2004 NYTimes.com

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 3 - For months Afghan and American officials
have complained that even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against
Al Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and
sending them into Afghanistan to attack American and Afghan forces.

Pakistani officials have rejected the allegations, saying they are
unaware of any such training camps. Now the Afghan government has
produced a young Pakistani, captured fighting with the Taliban in
southern Afghanistan three months ago, whose story would seem to back
its complaints about Pakistan.

The prisoner, who gave his name as Muhammad Sohail, is a 17-year-old
from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, held by the Afghan authorities
in Kabul. In an interview in late July, in front of several prison
guards, he said Pakistan was allowing militant groups to train and
organize insurgents to fight in Afghanistan. Mr. Sohail said he hoped
that granting the interview would increase his chances of being freed.
Mr. Sohail described his recruitment through his local mosque by a group
listed by the United States as having terrorist links, his military
training in a camp not far from the capital, Islamabad, and his dispatch
with several other Pakistanis to Afghanistan. 

He did not give all the details that intelligence officials said they
gleaned from him in interrogations, but he talked easily about his party
and its leaders, and said they had high-level support from within the
establishment. He said he was recruited and trained within the past
eight months by Jamiat-ul-Ansar, the new name for the
Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen party, which was designated a terrorist group by
the State Department and banned by President Pervez Musharraf of
Pakistan in January 2002. Under its new name it is functioning, if more
discreetly, and its leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, moves around freely. 

Mr. Khalil has been involved in recruiting and training militants since
the 1980's. In 1998, American planes bombed his training camp in
Afghanistan when they were targeting Osama bin Laden after the bombings
of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The bombing killed a
number of Pakistanis, and Mr. Khalil at the time vowed to take revenge
against America for the attack. 

It is an open secret in Pakistan that groups supporting separatism in
Kashmir have not stopped their activities, despite official
declarations, and have continued to train men and infiltrate them into
Indian Kashmir. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said
during a visit to the region last month that Pakistan had not dismantled
all the camps used to train militants for Kashmir. And while he praised
Pakistan for its efforts against Al Qaeda, he urged the country to do
more to stop Taliban militants carrying out attacks from Pakistan.

Mr. Sohail is not the first Pakistani to be captured fighting alongside
the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan over the past two years.
On at least one occasion, Pakistanis who were captured in a joint
American-Afghan military operation last year were handed back to
Pakistan. But he is the first made available for an interview by the
Afghan government. Intelligence officials said they found on him a
Jamiat-ul-Ansar membership card and a list of phone numbers of
high-level party officials.

A Pakistani official interviewed recently described Mr. Sohail as a
"one-off case," and denied that Pakistani militants were showing up in

The Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, said he
thought Jamiat-ul-Ansar and its network had been dismantled. "There is
no ambiguity in our policy," he said. "The government does not sponsor,
nor create, nor is aware of training camps. If they were aware of any,
they would go and dismantle them." 

Zalmay M. Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, has stated
publicly that Pakistan has not done nearly enough to stop the Taliban
and other militants from using Pakistan's border areas as operational
and recruiting bases. 

In a speech in Washington in April, he warned that if Pakistan did not
do the job on its side of the border, American forces would have to do
the job themselves. 

A Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview
last month in Kabul said: "When you talk about Taliban, it's like fish
in a barrel in Pakistan. They train, they rest there. They get support."

Western diplomats in Kabul and Pakistani political analysts have said
that Pakistan has continued to allow the Taliban to operate to retain
influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan supported the Taliban in the 1990's
as a way to create an area where Pakistani forces could retreat to the
west if war erupted with its the country's longtime rival and neighbor
to the east, India. Pakistan has also long tried to maintain influence
over Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, because of its
wariness of its own Pashtun minority in the border areas. 

General Musharraf may also fear that a crackdown on the Taliban will
provoke protests from an alliance of hard-line Islamist political
parties that are now the third largest block in Parliament, the Western
diplomat in Kabul said. And Pakistani officials may fear that the United
States will abandon the region if Mr. bin Laden is captured. 

In interviews along the border over the past two years, Pakistani
government officials have made statements that they do not see the
Taliban as a threat to Pakistan. They have also, at times, said the
Taliban have a legitimate political grievance in Afghanistan.

Mr. Sohail was probably chosen to fight in Afghanistan because he is a
Pashtun, the dominant group in the Taliban. Born in Swat, near the
Afghan border, he grew up in Karachi, left school at 15 and went to work
in a confectionary shop. 

"I was going to the mosque every Thursday, and they were saying you
should go and do jihad," he said. "In Palestine, Chechnya, Cuba, France
and a lot of places all over the world, they are mistreating Muslims. So
I decided to do it and got training for one month." 

He traveled with a group of 15 others from his mosque to a training camp
near Mansehra, north of Islamabad. It was a remote place, in the
mountains with lots of trees, he said. There he received one month of
training in explosives and weapons. 

An uncle of Mr. Sohail's, reached by telephone in Karachi, said the
family recently received a letter via the Red Cross from Mr. Sohail
saying he was in an Afghan jail.

After their training in Mansehra, Mr. Sohail and his group went to
Islamabad and met Mr. Khalil, the leader of Jamiat-ul-Ansar, at his

Three months later, Mr. Khalil went to speak at their mosque and called
the group up to fight, Mr. Sohail said. "He said, 'Go and fight the
Americans.' " 

They went to the Pakistani border town of Quetta, and then Mr. Sohail
set off with four other fighters. They crossed over the main border and
drove to the city of Kandahar. They went to a designated hotel and in a
room found a bag with weapons. The next day they headed to a mountain
base near the town of Panjwai, not far west of Kandahar, where they
joined some 50 fighters and rapidly became involved in combat operations

Mr. Sohail's account becomes vague after that. He said he only fought
for one night and returned to Pakistan. Sent back into Afghanistan to
gather information about casualties, he approached some Afghan police,
thinking they were Taliban. They arrested him.

He is accused of taking part in an attack on the Panjwai District center
in April, in which a police officer and two aid workers were killed,
security officials said. 

Other militants who have been captured are Afghans from the refugee
community in Pakistan. They have described receiving training in large,
walled residential compounds in and around Quetta, rather than in
military camps, according to Sher Muhammad Akhundzada, the governor of
Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.

One Afghan prisoner interviewed recently in Kandahar, who spent 10 years
in a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan from the age of 14,
complained that the arrival of American troops in Afghanistan brought
behaviors that were against the Koran, including drinking alcohol and
prostitution. "They are destroying Islam," the prisoner said.
Mr. Sohail has received a 20-year sentence from a judge in Kabul. His
appeal is in progress. 

"I'm very sad," he said mournfully. "The jihad is over for me." But he
showed flashes of fanaticism, too. "I wish I was a prisoner of the
Americans," he said. "Then I could die a martyr at their hands, or kill

Heavy Fighting Against Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 3 (Reuters) - Afghan forces backed by American
attack aircraft engaged in heavy fighting with suspected Taliban
guerrillas near the border with Pakistan, the United States military
said Tuesday. The military said as many as 50 guerrillas had been
killed, but both an Afghan commander and a former Taliban official in
the area said only 2 had died.

The military's casualty figure was based on estimates by pilots flying
in support of Afghan soldiers in the battle, which started when the
Taliban attacked the force on Monday morning. If confirmed, the total
would be one of the heaviest losses the insurgents have suffered in a
single battle in recent months.

But Abdul Rauf Akhund, the former governor of Khost under the Taliban,
said by satellite phone that 2 Taliban fighters had died and 8 had been
wounded, and that 10 Afghan soldiers had been killed.

Gen. Khialbaz Sherzai, an Afghan military commander in Khost, said
Monday that he only knew of two Afghan soldiers and two Taliba

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