The Nationalist View Wed, 20 Oct 2021 09:02:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maharishi Valmiki – Beyond the realm of time Wed, 20 Oct 2021 09:02:16 +0000 By Vinay Nalwa Maharishi Valmiki’s Ramayan was arguably the first chronicled history of Bharat. And Maharishi Valmiki was the first poet who shared accounts and memories of events of the life of Sri Ram by turning them into an epic.…

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By Vinay Nalwa

Maharishi Valmiki – Beyond the realm of time

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Maharishi Valmiki’s Ramayan was arguably the first chronicled history of Bharat. And Maharishi Valmiki was the first poet who shared accounts and memories of events of the life of Sri Ram by turning them into an epic. He was also the contemporary of Sri Ram.

Maharishi Valmiki was also a learned astronomer. He has made sequential astronomical references on important dates related to the life of Sri Ram indicating the position of planets, the zodiac constellations and the other stars (Nakshatras). Sri Ram was born on January 10, 5114 BC (7123 years back). As per the Indian calendar, it was the ninth day of Shukla Paksha in Chaitra month. It is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana’s Ayodhya kaand(canto) that King Dashrath wanted to make Sri Ram the king because Sun, Mars and Rahu surrounded his nakshatra and normally under such a planetary configuration, the king dies or becomes a victim of conspiracies. Dashrath’s zodiac sign was Pisces and his nakshatra was Revathi. This planetary configuration was prevailing on the January 5, 5089 BC, and it was on this day that Sri Ram left Ayodhya for 14 years of exile. He was 25 years old at that time. Valmiki’s Ramayana refers to the solar eclipse at the time of war with Khara and Dushan in later half of the 13th year of Sri Ram’s exile. On the basis of planetary configurations described in various other chapters, the date on which Ravan was killed works out to be December 4, 5076 BC, and Sri Ram completed 14 years of exile on January 2, 5075 BC. Incidentally, that day was also Navami of Shukla Paksha in Chaitra month.

Maharishi Valmiki mentioned the position of stars when Sri Ram was born, the location of sun was in Aries, Saturn was in Libra, Jupiter and the moon were in Cancer, Venus was seen in Pisces while Mars was in Capricorn. It was the ninth day of the increasing phase of the moon in the lunar month of Chaitra. Pushkar Bhatnagar in his book ‘Dating the Era of Lord Rama’ wrote that these unique astral conditions were present in the sky on 10 January 5114 BC. Pushkar Bhatnagar, an engineer and officer of the Indian Revenue Service, had acquired a unique software from the USA in which he entered the relevant details about the planetary positions as mentioned by Maharishi Valmiki and obtained very interesting and convincing results, which determined the important dates starting from the birth of Sri Ram to the date of his coming back to Ajodhya after 14 years of exile.

There is an episode related to Maharishi Valmiki in the Mahabharata period. When the Pandavs win the battle with the Kauravs, Draupadi holds a yajna, for which the blowing of the conch was necessary, but all efforts including Krishna’s could not produce the sound, then everyone prays to Maharishi Valmiki at the behest of Krishna. On the appearance of Maharishi, the sound itself starts emanating from conch shell and Draupadi’s yajna gets completed.

In the ancient scripture Vishnudharmottara Purana Maharishi Valmiki is mentioned as a God. It is written that People who want to enhance their knowledge and wisdom should offer prayers to Maharishi Valmiki.

Maharaishi Valmiki’s eminence is not restricted to north of Bharat. There is a temple in Chennai dedicated to Maharishi Valmiki, it is called Thiruvanmiyur. The temple’s significance is that it is believed to be the place where Valmiki rested, after finishing the Ramayana. This, thought to be over 1300 years old is under the care of another prominent temple called the Marundeeswarar temple build during the reign of Great Chola Dynasty. As per the beliefs, Maharishi Valmiki visited the Marundeeswarar temple to worship Lord Shiva following which the region was named Thiruvalmikiyur which gradually changed to Thiruvanmiyur.

Dr Saroj Bala , the Director of the “Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas” in her last book titled ‘Ramayan ki Kahani, Vigyan ki Jubani’ also cross verified the sequence of astronomical references of Vedas and Epics using Planetarium software. She also used an open-source software Stellarium was also used to measure the veracity of astronomical references in Maharishi Valmiki’s Ramayana. It was found that the position of the planets and constellations described in the Ramayana, the then celestial position and all the astronomical information were exactly true. The year, date and time on which the description is given in the Ramayana, on putting them in these softwares, the same results came out. The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda listed 63 ancestors of Sri Ram who ruled over Ayodhya. Sri Ram’s ancestors have been traced out as Sri Ram, King Dashrath, King Aja, King Raghu, King Dilip and so on.

The events and places related to the life of Sri Ram and Sita are the true cultural and social heritage. And their significance in Bharatiya system of values is immense and have remained alive because of the great contribution of Maharishi Valmiki.

(The writer is a Phd in Sociology and senior fellow with Delhi based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra)

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The Taliban Story: The Road to Future Under Taliban: ISKP and other challenges (Part 30) Wed, 13 Oct 2021 11:21:20 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 30th and final part of the series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at The Taliban 2.0 regime, instead of bringing stability, may plunge Afghanistan to another round of conflict and…

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By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: The Road to Future Under Taliban: ISKP and other challenges (Part 30)

Source: Politico

This is the 30th and final part of the series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at

The Taliban 2.0 regime, instead of bringing stability, may plunge Afghanistan to another round of conflict and civil war. The Taliban itself is quite faction ridden and while it may have militarily dominated its rivals for the time being, this dominance is already facing challenge from a new threat -Islamic State of Khorasan Province, also known commonly as ISKP or IS-K.

ISKP is a known arch rival of the Taliban. There is increasing evidence that after Taliban, now the ISKP could be another player being pushed into the Afghan jihad theatre by the ISI to keep Taliban in line which would mean that the next round of conflict is imminent in Afghanistan where both the arch rivals would be controlled by the ISI. ISKP also has close links with Lashkar-e-Taiba which is likely to make the forthcoming conflict even more complex.

Scholar Anand Arni explains the relationship between the LeT and IS-K: “Pakistan’s attempts to prop up the IS-K or to create a new entity which is essentially influenced by the LeT fits in with the long-held expectation that Pakistan will create a pressure group to (a) keep the Taliban in line with their interests if the peace deal works, (b) give the LeT an element of deniability in future operations which cannot be attributed to the Taliban or the Haqqani Network, (c) counter the militias equipped and funded by the CIA, and (d) provide military assistance to the Taliban. It is also to safeguard against the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) becoming a militant movement and possibly give deniability to the ISI if they venture into training foreign (Indian) insurgents on Afghan soil.” Arni’s views give a glimpse of the multiple cogs of the Afghan jihad wheel that move simultaneously, catering to various domestic, regional and international interests.1

Origin and History of ISKP

ISKP emerged in 2014 with the defection of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), al Qaeda, and Taliban fighters active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the wake of these defections, the Islamic State dispatched emissaries from Iraq and Syria to meet with local fighters, including a number of TTP commanders. In January 2015, these efforts were formalized when the Islamic State announced the formation of its “Khorasan” province. At the same time, Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appointed Hafiz Khan Saeed as the first ISKP emir. Khan Saeed had previously served as a TTP commander with responsibility for operations in Orakazi in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), affording the newly formed ISKP deep Pakistani networks through which to recruit. Among ISKP’s early leaders who pledged allegiance were several TTP commanders responsible for areas of Pakistan’s FATA, deepening ISKP’s toehold in this strategic border area.2

ISKP’s history since 2015 has been one of violent expansion and retrenchment, with periodic fighting against Afghan security forces, the Taliban, and international forces. In 2015, then-Taliban leader Akthar Mansour urged ISKP fighters to coalesce “under one banner,” alongside the Taliban. A war of words escalated into a Taliban campaign to recapture ISKP-controlled territory and degrade ISKP-aligned groups, such as factions of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Leaders in the Taliban’s Quetta Shura authorized additional offensives and deployed elite “Red Unit” commandos to fight ISKP beginning in December 2015. In Jowzjan Province, ISKP surrendered to the Taliban in the summer of 2018 following a sustained campaign. 3

International actors have also played a role in various counterterrorism operations against ISKP. U.S. and former Afghan government forces conducted an aggressive campaign against ISKP forces in eastern Afghanistan, killing several of their mid- and senior-level leaders. Afghan forces captured ISKP leader Aslam Farooqi and several other commanders, such as Qari Zahid and Saifullah (also known as Abu Talaha), in Kandahar Province in March 2020. The Iranian military has also collaborated with the Taliban to secure Iran’s land border with Afghanistan and deny ISKP fighters’ freedom of movement.4

In the wake of these setbacks, ISKP went through internal transformations while retaining the ability to carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan. In May 2019, the Islamic State announced the existence of new provinces in Pakistan and India—areas which had previously fallen under ISKP’s geographic remit. In June 2020, the Islamic State appointed Shahab al-Muhajir as ISKP’s new emir following the capture of his predecessor, Aslam Farooqi. Al-Muhajir was previously an ISKP planner for attacks in urban areas in Kabul, and reportedly was once a mid-level commander in the Haqqani Network. Throughout 2020, ISKP successfully executed high-profile attacks despite controlling little territory. These included a May 2020 attack on a Kabul maternity ward that killed 24 people and an attack on Kabul University in November 2020 that left 22 people dead.5

In June 2021, the United Nations estimated that ISKP consists of a core group of fighters numbering between 1,500 and 2,200 based in provinces such as Kunar and Nangarhar. These fighters are dispersed into relatively autonomous cells operating under the Islamic State banner and ideology. While these groups lack the capability, coordination, or local support to control significant territory, they retain the ability to launch individual attacks, such as the August 26 attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that killed approximately 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel.6

The Islamic State’s—and subsequently, ISKP’s—commitment not to compromise with the West initially attracted some former Taliban members outraged with negotiations in Afghanistan. ISKP condemned the Taliban’s peace negotiations with the United States in its March 2020 newsletter al-Naba, stating that the Taliban and the [U.S.] “crusaders” are “allies.” In 2021, ISKP propaganda specifically vowed retaliation against the Taliban for their peace deal with the United States. Furthermore, ISKP subscribes to the concept of tawhid al-hakimiyyah (the unity of governance) and rejects a Muslim leader who does not rule by the entirety of sharia law. ISKP refuses to acknowledge the Taliban as a legitimate Islamic leader and accuses the Taliban of being “filthy nationalists” for only appealing to a narrow ethnic and nationalistic base instead of committing to a universal Islamic jihad.7

The deadly attack on the Kabul Airport on 26 August, 2021 is an indication that ISKP has regrouped and is well entrenched to lead a fight against the Taliban. The support from the ISI in Pakistan would come handy to enhance their striking capability and escalate the conflict in Afghanistan. The jihadi factions and groups which are disgruntled and unhappy with the new Taliban regime are bound to join hands with ISKP.

A study done by Centre for Strategic and International Studies on ISKP says: “One 2016 analysis of the group found that a majority of mid-level ISKP leaders were former Taliban fighters. More recent examinations of the group’s leadership have found an even broader range of prior group affiliations, including former Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent fighters. These fighters often have significant local knowledge and expertise in insurgent warfare, raising their tactical efficacy.”

It further adds, “ISKP has found recruitment success through exploiting divisions between existing jihadist groups, offering cash incentives, and promoting battlefield gains by the Islamic State’s core group in Iraq and Syria. While there are some foreign fighters in ISKP’s ranks, this recruitment has been likened to a “trickle” rather than a windfall, and the destruction of the Islamic State territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria did not spur a large influx of Islamic State fighters to Afghanistan. As a province of the Islamic State, ISKP maintains contact with Islamic State leadership in Iraq and Syria but also retains a degree of freedom in the conduct of its operations. For example, unlike other Islamic State affiliates in Asia, ISKP has rarely utilized women fighters in combat.”

According to the study, ISKP doesn’t have any paucity of funds as it relies on several revenue streams to finance its operations. “The U.S. Department of the Treasury assesses that ISKP raises funds through a combination of local donations, extortion, and financial support from core Islamic State leadership. Additionally, the Treasury concludes that ISKP held modest financial reserves as of 2020 while also relying on a significant network of hawalas—informal money brokers—in cities like Kabul and Jalalabad to transfer funds.”

According to the UN Sanctions Committee Report in May 2017, ISKP pays its fighters US$200 to $500 every month. In addition, it also exploits the rich deposits of minerals in areas under its influence. There are three key minerals in areas under ISKP influence-talc, chromite and marble. All of them are in high demand in global markets and ISKP smuggles them to these markets.

Power Struggle within Taliban

After Taliban 2.0 had set up its interim government, the factionalism came to the fore immediately. According to a BBC report (15 Sept. 2021) which echoed the facts reported by many other media outlets, “A major row broke out between leaders of the Taliban just days after they set up a new government in Afghanistan.

Supporters of two rival factions reportedly brawled at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul. The argument appeared to centre on who did the most to secure victory over the US, and how power was divided up in the new cabinet… The dispute came to light after a Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, disappeared from view for several days.

One Taliban source told BBC Pashto that Mr Baradar and Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani – the minister for refugees and a prominent figure within the militant Haqqani network – had exchanged strong words, as their followers brawled with each other nearby.

A senior Taliban member based in Qatar and a person connected to those involved also confirmed that an argument had taken place late last week.

The sources said the argument had broken out because Mr Baradar, the new deputy prime minister, was unhappy about the structure of their interim government.

The row also reportedly stemmed from divisions over who in the Taliban should take credit for their victory in Afghanistan.

Mr Baradar reportedly believes that the emphasis should be placed on diplomacy carried out by people like him, while members of the Haqqani group – which is run by one of the most senior Taliban figures – and their backers say it was achieved through fighting.”8

This is a strong indication of the way things are going to unfold.

Anti-Taliban government formed in exile

Meanwhile, on 29 September, 2021, around a month and a half after Taliban’s taking over the Kabul, political leaders’ part of the Ghani administration in Afghanistan also announced the formation of a government in exile led by ‘caretaker president’ Amrullah Saleh.

According to Khaama Press news Agency, a newswire primarily focused on developments in and about Afghanistan, “A statement released by the Afghan embassy in Swiss reads that, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the only legitimate government of Afghanistan that is elected by the votes of people and no other government can replace a legitimate one.”

The statement read that Afghanistan had been occupied by external factors and “based on the historic responsibility of the Afghan government after consultations with the elders of the country, they decided to announce government in exile.”

“After the escape of Ashraf Ghani and his rupture with the Afghan politics, his first vice-president (Amrullah Saleh) will be leading the country,” read the statement.

The statement also announced the support of the government in exile to the anti-Taliban, Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Masoud.9

Humanitarian Crisis

The biggest challenge for Taliban 2.0 would be to deal with a humanitarian crisis with majority of Afghan population not having access to food, shelter, clothing, education, health and other basic services. The world is wary of recognizing the Taliban regime. The humanitarian aid, once it became clear that Taliban was coming back to rule in Afghanistan, had trickled and subsequently dried down to almost a naught. The present Taliban regime hasn’t helped it cause and its anti-women and anti-minority stands as well as gross violations of human rights and principles of natural justice are going to isolate Afghanistan further. It wouldn’t be easy to find the aid workers who would be willing to work and could deliver effectively on the ground in such an authoritarian sharia-based regime.

How Taliban could be a liability for the Afghan people was reflected in the statement by Deborah Lyons Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).  In her statement to the UN Security Council on 9 September, 2021, she said that with the fall of Kabul on 15 August, the country’s people were confronted with a new, and for many, worrying reality.  The lives of millions of Afghans will depend on how the Taliban choose to govern, she added, describing the de facto administration announced by the group as disappointing.  There are no women on the list of names announced, no non-Taliban members, no figures from the former Government and no noted leaders of minority groups, she remarked, pointing out that it contains many of the same figures who were part of the Taliban leadership between 1996 and 2001.  Of the 33 names presented, many are on the United Nations Sanctions List, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the foreign minister, she stated. 10



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 The Taliban Story: India and Afghanistan: Dealing with Taliban 2.0 (Part 29) Wed, 13 Oct 2021 11:08:59 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 29th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 29th part-  Historical background India and Afghanistan have a historical connect. In its pre-Islamic days,…

The post  The Taliban Story: India and Afghanistan: Dealing with Taliban 2.0 (Part 29) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

 The Taliban Story: India and Afghanistan: Dealing with Taliban 2.0 (Part 29)

Source: India Today

This is the 29th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 29th part-

 Historical background

India and Afghanistan have a historical connect. In its pre-Islamic days, the modern-day Afghanistan experienced deep influence of Hindu culture.

Afghanistan had traditionally been a Hindu Kingdom. The year 980 C.E. marked the beginning of the Muslim invasion into India proper when Sabuktagin attacked Raja Jaya Pal in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is today a Muslim country separated from India by another Muslim country Pakistan. But in 980 C.E. Afghanistan was also a place where the people were Hindus and Buddhists.

The name “Afghanistan” comes from “Upa-Gana-stan” which means in Sanskrit “the place inhabited by allied tribes”. This was the place from where Gandhari of the Mahabharat came from, Gandhar whose king was Shakuni. Today the city of Gandhar is known as Kandahar. One view is that, Pakthoons are descendants of the Paktha tribe mentioned in Vedic literature. Till the year 980 C.E., this area was a Hindu majority area, till Sabuktagin from Ghazni invaded it and displaced the ruling Hindu king – Jaya Pal Shahi. Shiva worship was widespread in Afghanistan. There was a time when the entire region was replete with hundreds of Shiva temples celebrating Shiva – Parvati worship and abuzz with Shiv chants, prayers, legends and worship. Archaeological excavations in this region conducted by Sir Estine (an East India Company official) led to the recovery of uncountable shrines and inscriptions. He has authored four books on that topic featuring photos of icons, icons and inscriptions discovered. The photos show a sun temple and a Ganesha statue too. An Islamabad University professor Abdul Rehman has authored two books on those finds recalling the glory and prosperity of those times. Regimes of two Hindu rulers “Kusham” and “Kidara” lasted for fairly long periods. During their rule a number of Shiva temples were not only in Afghanistan but in other West Asian regions too.1

Gandhara’s capital was the famous city of Takshashila. According to the Ramayana, the city was founded by Bharata, and named after his son, Taksha, its first ruler. Greek writers later shortened it to Taxila. The Mahabharata is said to have been first recited at this place. Buddhist literature, especially the jataka stories, mentions it as the capital of the Gandhara kingdom and as a great center of learning. Its ruins may be visited today in an hour’s taxi ride from Rawalpindi (Pakistan).2

  India’s Reconstruction Efforts (2001-2021)

Between 1996 and 2001, India was staunchly against the Taliban regime and supported anti-Taliban United Front (UF), popularly known as Northern Alliance.

With the entry of the coalition military machine in 2001, India started engaging with all Afghan political factions. It also started investing substantially in the post-war reconstruction efforts in the war -ravaged country. Over a period of next two decades, it invested around US $3 billion in sectors ranging from health to infrastructure.  It also provided more than US$2 billion in aid. India strongly believed that a developed and economically prosperous Afghanistan is necessary for ensuring stability in this region. So even as Pakistan diverted its resources and energies towards resurrecting the Taliban, India focused on rebuilding Afghanistan.

India and Afghanistan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2002 which made India the first ‘strategic partner’ of Afghanistan in post-Taliban regime.  India also actively assisted Afghanistan in setting up a political establishment. With its political experience, India not only helped train Afghan staff in electoral process, it also provided Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to facilitate the election. India and Afghanistan also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation of Local Governance in 2008 to train Afghan local government officials.3

India provided Afghanistan with large amounts of humanitarian assistance and loans for the construction of projects like power generation plants and roads. India became Afghanistan’s fifth largest donor after US, Japan, UK and Germany providing more than US$2billion aid from 2001 to 2014. India helped Afghanistan build the Zaranj-Delaram Road, Salma Dam Power Porject and Pul-e-Khumri Transmission Line. Many hospitals and schools in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif were also aided or funded by Indian companies and government. For example, the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University in Kandahar was constructed and funded by India. Steel Authority of India Limited, National Mineral Development Corporation and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited were some of the major Indian companies that engaged in Afghanistan.4

One of the major milestones in India-Afghanistan relations was the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the two countries. The agreement outlined India’s major role in reconstruction of Afghanistan. In 2013, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Kabul Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) organized the India-Afghanistan Innovation Partnership Fair in Kabul to showcase innovations of industries from India and Afghanistan and facilitate trade between the two countries and different Indian companies. …Since 2001 more than 10,000 Afghan students studied in India with scholarships offered by Indian government and universities, another 8000 pursued self-financed degree courses in universities and institutions across India.5

Terror attacks against Indians in Afghanistan

India has been deeply concerned about the terror attacks it suffered in Afghanistan during the last two decades. It is difficult to overstate the depth of India’s opposition to Afghanistan-based militancy that bears a Pakistani signature, and India’s corresponding commitment to fortify Kabul as a counterterrorism partner. The era of Taliban rule (1996–2001) was the nadir of India-Afghanistan relations. India had reasonably good ties with Afghanistan’s monarchist, republican, and communist regimes preceding the Taliban’s ascendancy. New Delhi hastily evacuated its embassy after the Taliban swept into Kabul in 1996, and the Taliban, with military backing from Pakistan, forced India’s Afghan allies to retreat into an embattled northern redoubt. Veteran journalist Abubakar Siddique writes that Pakistan’s military establishment envisioned the emergence of the Taliban “as a fortification against India to the east.” Under the Taliban, Afghanistan became a training ground for Islamabad-sponsored militants waging a guerrilla war in Jammu-Kashmir in India. During the late 1990s, Pakistan’s principal intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), relocated many of its Kashmir-focused proxies into eastern Afghanistan to evade US pressure on Pakistan to curb militant infiltration. The last publicly known negotiations conducted between the Taliban and New Delhi in 1999 also cast an enduring shadow over Indian perceptions of the group. At the time, militants affiliated with the Pakistan-based outfit Harakat-ul-Mujahideen hijacked an Indian commercial plane, eventually forcing it to land in the Afghan province of Kandahar. The Taliban government mediated a hostage exchange that led to the release of extremist leader Masood Azhar—a swap that continues to haunt India to this day. Shortly after his release, Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a group that attacked the Indian parliament building in December 2001. In 2016, JeM reportedly carried out a major attack on an Indian air base, and in February 2019 it claimed responsibility for the worst terrorist act committed in Indian-administered Kashmir in three decades. The UN later sanctioned Azhar for supporting terrorism, yet he remains at large in Pakistan and probably shielded by its security agencies. JeM played a minor role in the Taliban’s war against Kabul, and the group splintered soon after Pakistan backed the US invasion of Afghanistan. in 2001. Still, JeM’s long association and ideological kinship with the Taliban remain of grave concern to India. Moreover, India is alarmed by the presence of another anti-Indian terrorist group in the Afghan conflict, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). LeT, a loyal proxy of the Pakistani military more cohesive andlethal than JeM, was forged in the crucible of the anti-Soviet war. In 2008 the group carried out multiple attacks in India’s financial capital of Mumbai that left 166 dead, including six Americans. In Afghanistan, LeT has attacked Indian diplomatic facilities, government employees, and aidworkers. LeT augments the Taliban’s capabilities with expertise and fighters. Yet LeT does not claim responsibility for the violence it perpetrates in Afghanistan to avoid provoking international pressure on Islamabad, according to former State Department intelligence analyst Tricia Bacon. Stephen Tankel, another terrorism specialist, writes that in addition to striking Indian interests, LeT’s influx into Afghanistan enables ISI to gather intelligence on the “militant state of play across the border.” Indian security officials estimate “hundreds” of LeT militants are fighting in Afghanistan.6

According to various security analysts India did develop some deep assets in Afghanistan after 2001 that helped them to communicate with some of the factions in Taliban which were not apparently controlled fully by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI. It helped them to negotiate deals for getting free some of the Indians who were kidnapped in Afghanistan after the spate of kidnappings and attacks started against Indians in 2003. However, India never engaged fully with the Taliban as US and some other countries did.

India avoided engaging the Taliban for decades as it perceived the insurgent group to be a protégé of Pakistan. New Delhi has been particularly opposed to the Haqqani Network, as it has been functioning as Pakistan’s “sword arm” in Afghanistan and has carried out attacks on Indian interests and nationals there at the behest of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The July 2008 suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, for instance, which killed 54 people, including two top Indian officials, was executed by the Haqqani Network but orchestrated by the ISI. This makes it difficult for New Delhi to recognize or even deal with the new regime in Kabul.7

However, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan started reaching out to the Indian government within days of recapturing Kabul on 15 August, 2021.

In addition to asking for the reopening of commercial flights between the two countries, it wanted New Delhi to facilitate the travel of scholarship students to India. The first official communication from the Taliban came a day after the interim government was announced. In a letter dated September 7(2021) to the chief of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar, Afghanistan’s new interim Minister for Civil Aviation and Transport Alhaj Hameedullah Akhunzada said that Kabul airport, which was “left damaged and dysfunctional by American troops before their withdrawal” was operational now. He sought the resumption of flights operated by Afghan carriers Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airline to and from Delhi and asked India to “facilitate their commercial flights”.8

On August 31, in a significant development, Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha. The guarded approach of India can be gauged from the official communique issued after this meeting which read:

“The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side.

– Discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit to India also came up.

-. Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.

– The Taliban Representative assured the Ambassador that these issues would be positively addressed.”

India’s cautious approach is apparently an outcome of her concerns about the sizeable presence of Pakistani proxies like Sirajuddin Haqqani and other Haqqani Network leaders in the interim government announced by Taliban as well as significant presence of terror group LeT on Afghan soil.

(To be continued)


  3. The US and NATO Withdrawal from Afghanistan Ed. by Musa Khan Jalalzai (Vij books, ed.2021) (Pp 162)
  4. The US and NATO Withdrawal from Afghanistan Ed. by Musa Khan Jalalzai (Vij books, ed.2021) (Pp 162-163)
  5. The US and NATO Withdrawal from Afghanistan Ed. by Musa Khan Jalalzai (Vij books, ed.2021) (Pp 163)

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The Taliban Story: Key leaders of Taliban 2.0 regime comprise Al-Qaeda associates, designated terrorists (Part28) Mon, 11 Oct 2021 09:22:35 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 28th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 28th part- The Taliban announced the formation of an “interim government” to rule over Afghanistan…

The post The Taliban Story: Key leaders of Taliban 2.0 regime comprise Al-Qaeda associates, designated terrorists (Part28) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: Key leaders of Taliban 2.0 regime comprise Al-Qaeda associates, designated terrorists (Part28)

Source: Google

This is the 28th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 28th part-

The Taliban announced the formation of an “interim government” to rule over Afghanistan a few days after it captured Kabul. It also named the country as Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as it had done during 1996-2001.

Many of the leaders in the new Taliban regime are actually old Taliban hands. More than a dozen of them were first sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in early 2001. Some new faces have joined them. Many of the Taliban leaders discussed below have either current or historical ties to Al- Qaeda. Indeed, some of them worked closely with al Qaeda throughout their careers. Some them are U.S.-designated terrorists. Six of the newly-appointed Taliban leaders were once held at the detention facility in Guantánamo. Five of them were exchanged for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014 who was captured by Taliban in 2009.1

Haibatullah Akhundzada

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has served as the Taliban’s emir since 2016. In the new regime also, he is the “Emir” i.e., the top leader of the Taliban regime.  Akhundzada is known to have fought within the ranks of the Hezb-e-Islami group against Soviet troops. This group was led by the Mujahideen commander Yunus Khalis. Akhundzada was a judge and head of the judiciary branch in the earlier Taliban regime.

As the top judicial figure, Akhundzada issued fatwas, or religious decrees, justifying all aspects of the Taliban’s operations, including suicide attacks. His son, Hafiz Abdul Rahman, killed himself in a suicide attack against Afghan forces in Helmand province in 2017. Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, swore allegiance to Akhundzada in 2016. The Taliban’s “Emir of the Faithful” has never disavowed Zawahiri’s oath.2

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund

He is the acting head of state in new Taliban regime. Akhund was a close colleague of Taliban’s founder and its first emir, Mullah Omar. During the Taliban’s first regime from 1996 to 2001, Akhund served as the governor of Kandahar as well as the foreign minister, and first deputy of the Taliban’s council of ministers.

On behalf of the Taliban’s senior leadership, Akhund refused to turn over Osama bin Laden after Al Qaeda carried out the August 1998 U.S. embassy bombings — the deadliest attack by bin Laden’s network prior to 9/11. “We will never give up Osama at any price,” Akhund said, after the U.N. threatened to impose sanctions if bin Laden wasn’t handed over. Akhund was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001. ..Akhund was one of the Taliban’s “most effective” insurgent commanders. He was also member of the Taliban’s supreme council.3

Sirajuddin Haqqani

He is the acting interior minister in new Taliban regime. Sirajuddin is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of Haqqani Network which is considered to be the fountainhead of Jihad that has been exported by it to many parts of the world. The Haqqanis have been fully backed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

In October 2001, Jalaluddin was appointed the head of the Taliban’s military forces. In that role, he helped Osama bin Laden escape the American manhunt in late 2001, while also publicly defending the al Qaeda founder. Indeed, Jalaluddin was one of bin Laden’s first benefactors and helped incubate al Qaeda in the Haqqanis’ own camps in eastern Afghanistan during the 1980s. Al Qaeda issued a glowing eulogy for Jalaluddin after the Taliban announced his death in 2018, and continued to honour him in the months that followed. Sirajuddin Haqqani issued orders concerning how to govern as the Taliban conquered Afghanistan. Years before Jalaluddin’s demise, Sirajuddin inherited the leadership of the Haqqanis’ network. He has overseen it for much of the past two decades. At the same time, Sirajuddin quickly rose up the Taliban’s ranks, serving as one of two deputy emirs to Akhundzada since 2016, as well as the head of the Taliban’s Miramshah Shura. Sirajuddin has worked closely with Al Qaeda throughout his career, so much so that it is often difficult to tell the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda apart. A team of experts working for the United Nations Security Council reported that Sirajuddin may even be a member of Al Qaeda’s “wider” leadership. Regardless, there is no question that Sirajuddin is an Al Qaeda man. The Haqqanis main media arm has even celebrated the unbroken bond between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. And Al Qaeda’s general command has referred to Sirajuddin and Akhundzada as “our emirs in the Islamic emirate.” 4

Sirajuddin was listed by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist. It had offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture and prosecution.

Mullah Yaqoub

In the new Taliban regime, Mullah Yaqoub has been appointed as the acting defence minister. He is the eldest son of Taliban’s founder and its first emir Mullah Omar and is believed to be in his 30s.

His name came to public attention during the Taliban’s leadership succession in 2016. Though Yaqoub had the support of some of the movement’s military commanders, concerns about his youth became a factor in the eventual decision to choose Sheikh Haibatullah as the insurgency’s overall leader.5

Alongside Sirajuddin Haqqani, Yaqoub has served as one of the Taliban’s two deputy emirs since 2016. Yaqoub was also named as the group’s military commander. …(He) previously served as a member of the Quetta Shura and the military commander of 15 provinces.6

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

A co-founder of Taliban along with Mullah Omar, he is the acting first deputy head of state. During the first Taliban regime (1996-2001), he was deputy minister of defense. Baradar was released by Pakistan on behest of the Trump administration in order to give a big push to US-Taliban negotiations in Doha.

Baradar was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001 and detained in Pakistan for around eight years after he was captured in a joint US-Pakistan raid in 2010.

When the Taliban reformed as an insurgency, Baradar was Mullah Omar’s principal deputy, and he led the movement’s military operations. He oversaw a sharp escalation of the insurgency in 2006 but was also engaged in secret consultations with the emissaries of President Hamid Karzai and international assistance organizations.7

Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi

He is the second deputy head of state. He was an important member of Taliban’s Doha delegation that participated in talks with the US which resulted in US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.  He is known to be close to China also.

He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001, as he served as the deputy minister of education for the Taliban at the time. Years later, beginning in 2007, the Taliban named him its shadow governor for Jawzjan province. He was also “believed to be involved in drug trafficking,” according to the U.N.8

Khalil al Rahman Haqqani

He is the acting minister of refugees, brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani and uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani. He has served as a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network.

When the U.S. Treasury Department designated Khalil as a terrorist in 2011, it noted that he “acted on behalf of” al Qaeda’s military, or “Shadow Army,” in Afghanistan. In 2002, when the U.S. was hunting Osama bin Laden, Khalil deployed men “to reinforce al Qaeda elements in Paktia Province, Afghanistan.” The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture and prosecution. It is likely that at least some of al Qaeda’s personnel are considered “refugees” in Afghanistan, meaning they will be included in Khalil Haqqani’s portfolio.9

Mullah Abdul Manan Omari

He is the brother of Mullah Omar and uncle to Mullah Yaqoub. He has been appointed as the acting minister of public works.

In 2016, he was named the head of the Taliban’s preaching and guidance commission, which was tasked with spreading “the goals of Islamic Emirate,” while countering the “illegality and aims of the invaders and their stooges,” meaning the Afghan government. He served as a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, Qatar.10

Mullah Taj Mir Jawad

He holds the important position of the acting first deputy of intelligence. He also belongs to Haqqani Network.

Jawad was a leader in what the U.S. military used to refer to as the Kabul Attack Network, which pooled fighters and resources from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and Hizb-I-Islami Gulbuddin in order to conduct attacks in and around Kabul. The network extended into Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul Provinces. In his new role, Jawad will work with Abdul Haq Wasiq, an ex-Guantanamo detainee.11

Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir

He is a former detainee from Guantanamo Bay and has been appointed in the new Taliban regime as the acting deputy minister of defense. Zakir was released in 2008.

He served as the head of the Taliban’s Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura, a military command that oversees operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. In this capacity, he worked closely with Al Qaeda. He led the fight against the U.S. surge in the south, and in 2010 was appointed as the head of the Taliban’s military commission. He resigned in 2014 but remained on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and led military forces in the south. In 2020 he was appointed to serve as a deputy to military commission chief Mullah Yaqoub. 12

Ibrahim Sadr

He is the acting deputy minister of the interior for security. Sadr has been an influential military commander. He had close ties with Mullah Omar. He served on the Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Shura and was appointed to lead the Taliban’s military commission in 2014.

In 2020, Ibrahim was replaced by Mullah Yaqoub, who was named the head of the Taliban’s military commission. Ibrahim was demoted to serve as Yaqoub’s deputy. Sadr is listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and has worked with Iran’s Qods Force to improve the Taliban’s fighting capabilities. Under the agreement, “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities,” the Treasury designation noted in 2018. 13

Qari Fasihuddin

An ethnic Tajik, he is the acting chief of army staff. Fasihuddin commanded the Taliban’s forces in northern Afghanistan during the group’s final conquest in the spring and summer of 2021. He also led Taliban troops during the offensive in the Panjshir Valley, days after Taliban captured Kabul. The Taliban finally stormed this anti-Taliban bastion where Northern Alliance had put up some resistance against it.

Fasihuddin has served as the deputy head of the Taliban’s military commission. He has ties with foreign jihadist groups such as the Turkistan Islamic Party and Jamaat Ansarullah, a Tajik terrorist organization. Fasihuddin was the Taliban’s shadow governor for Badakhshan province.14

Maulvi Abdul Hakim Sharia

He holds the important portfolio of the minister of justice. He is also known as Maulvi Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.

He led the Taliban’s international negotiating team in Doha and headed the Taliban’s Pakistan-based shadow Supreme Court.15

He is reportedly close to the Taliban’s emir, Haibatullah Akhundzada, and studied at the Darul Uloom Haqqani, a Deobandi seminary that is often referred to as the “University of Jihad.”16

Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal and Thomas Joscelyn, another Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal have painstakingly profiled some of the lesser-known faces who hold important positions in Taliban regime17:

“Najibullah Haqqani

He is the acting minister of communications. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001. During the Taliban’s first regime, he was the deputy minister of finance. He was the Taliban’s military commander for Kunar province as of June 2008 and worked as the shadow governor for Laghman province as of 2010.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani

He is the acting minister of higher education. During Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, he served in various positions, including as governor of Khost and Paktika provinces, and vice minister of information and culture. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the European Union for activities on behalf of the Taliban both prior to and after 9/11.

Mullah Hamidullah Akhundzada

He is the acting minister of aviation and transport. He was sanctioned by the U. N. Security Council in Jan. 2001 for serving as the head of Ariana Afghan Airlines during Taliban’s first rule.

Mullah Abdul Latif Mansoor

He is the acting minister of water and power. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001, due to his role as the taliban’s minister of agriculture. He went on to fill a number of other positions, including as a “member of the Taliban Supreme Council and Head of the Council’s Political Commission as at 2009.” He was the Taliban’s shadow governor for Nangarhar province in 2009 and “a senior Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan” one year later.

Amir Khan Muttaqi

Amir Khan Muttaqi is the acting minister of foreign affairs. Muttaqi was a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, Qatar. Muttaqi was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001 for his role as the taliban’s minister of education.

Muttaqi was the taliban’s minister of information and culture during the pre-Oct. 2001 regime and also chief negotiator with the U.N. He later held a seat on a Taliban regional council, as well as the Taliban’s supreme council.

Maulvi Noor Mohammad Saqib

He is the acting minister of hajj and religious affairs. Saqib was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001 for his role as the chief justice of the Taliban’s supreme court. He studied at the Darul Uloom Haqqani, a Deobandi seminary that is often referred to as the “University of Jihad.” He has also been a member of the Taliban’s supreme council and head of the religious committee, “which acts as a judiciary branch of the Taliban.”

Ex-Guantanamo detainees hold senior positions within the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate

In May 2014, the Obama administration agreed to exchange five Guantánamo detainees for Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who was captured and held by the Haqqani Network. The Taliban continued to tout the exchange as a key “achievement” long after it had happened

President Obama’s own Guantanamo Review Task Force had previously assessed that all five Taliban leaders should be held pursuant to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as it was too risky to transfer them.

All five men now hold key positions in the Taliban’s regime. Four of them were appointed to senior posts in the Taliban’s hierarchy, while the fifth was reportedly named the governor of Khost province.

Intelligence cited by U.N. Security Council and Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), which oversees the (US) detention facility in Cuba, ties all five Taliban figures to al Qaeda prior to 9/11. JTF-GTMO assessed that each of the five men was a “high” risk detainee, and “likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and allies.” At least four of the five were sanctioned by the U.N. in early 2001. The biographical information below comes from the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions pages, leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessments, or other identified sources.

Abdul Haq Wasiq

He is the acting director of intelligence. Wasiq was the deputy minister of security (intelligence) during the Taliban’s first regime. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001.

The U.N. reported that Wasiq was a “local commander” in Nimroz and Kandahar provinces before being promoted to deputy director general of intelligence prior to 9/11. In that capacity, according to the U.N., Wasiq “was in charge of handling relations with al Qaeda-related foreign fighters and their training camps in Afghanistan.”

Wasiq’s al Qaeda ties were also documented by JTF-GTMO’s analysts. U.S. military-intelligence officials found that Wasiq “utilized his office to support al Qaeda and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture” in late 2001. Wasiq also “arranged for al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods.”

Mohammad Fazl

He is the deputy defense minister. Fazl had the same role, or a similar one, in the Taliban’s first regime. He was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2001. At the time, Fazl was the Taliban’s deputy chief of army staff.

Fazl was a “close associate” of Mullah Omar and “helped him to establish the Taliban government.” The U.N. found that Fazl “was at the Al-Farouq training camp established by Al Qaeda.” Fazl “had knowledge that the Taliban provided assistance to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan…in the form of financial, weapons and logistical support in exchange for providing the Taliban with soldiers.” The IMU worked closely with Al Qaeda at the time. Fazl also commanded a fighting force “of approximately 3,000 Taliban front-line troops in the Takhar Province in October 2001.”

According to JTF-GTMO, Fazl had “operational associations with significant Al Qaeda and other extremist personnel.” He allegedly conspired with Abdul al-Iraqi, one of Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenants and the head of Al Qaeda’s Arab 055 Brigade, to “coordinate an attack” on the Northern Alliance following the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Sept. 2001.

Khairullah Khairkhwa

He is the acting minister for information and culture. Khairkhwa was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001. At the time, he was the Taliban’s governor for Herat Province. He had also served as the governor Kabul province, the minister of internal affairs, and spokesperson during the Taliban’s first regime.

According to JTF-GTMO, Khairkhwa was a close confidante of Mullah Omar prior to 9/11. JTF-GTMO also cited intelligence linking Khairkhwa to Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s camps in Herat. In June 2011, a Washington D.C. district court denied Khairkhwa’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, based in large part on his admitted role in brokering a post-9/11 deal with the Iranian government. As a result of the talks mediated by Khairkhwa, the Iranians agreed to support the Taliban’s jihad against the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Noorullah Noori

He is the acting minister of borders and tribal affairs. Noori was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in Jan. 2001. At the time, he was both the Taliban’s governor of the Balkh Province, as well as the “Head of the Northern Zone of the Taliban regime.”

According to JTF-GTMO, Noori was a “senior Taliban military commander” prior to his detention. Noori allegedly “fought alongside Al Qaeda as a Taliban military general, against the Northern Alliance” and also “hosted Al Qaeda commanders.” Along with Mohammad Fazl, Noori was suspected of committing “war crimes,” “including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Mohammad Nabi Omari

He wasn’t named to the senior staff of the Taliban’s regime, but he was reportedly appointed the new governor of Khost province. He has longstanding ties to the Haqqani Network and attended talks in Doha on its behalf.

Prior to his time in U.S. custody, according to JTF-GTMO, Omari “was a senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles.” Omari was allegedly a “member of a joint Al Qaeda/Taliban” cell in Khost “and was involved in attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.” He was also a “close associate” of Jalaluddin Haqqani and worked with the Haqqani Network.

Omari’s son, Abdul Haq, was killed during fighting in Khost province. Like his father, Abdul Haq reportedly fought for the Haqqani Network. The Taliban celebrated Abdul Haq’s “martyrdom” in a statement on Voice of Jihad, noting that the group’s leaders, including Akhundzada, were willing to lose their sons in their campaign to conquer Afghanistan.”

(To be continued)




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The Taliban Story: The Military Strategy of Taliban 2.0 (Part27) Fri, 08 Oct 2021 12:08:09 +0000 By Arun Anand This is 27th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 27th part- The Taliban of 2021 was different from Taliban of 2001 in terms of military…

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By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: The Military Strategy of Taliban 2.0 (Part27)

Source: Google

This is 27th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 27th part-

The Taliban of 2021 was different from Taliban of 2001 in terms of military strategy. Benjamin Jensen, senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council has analyzed what he calls the ‘Operation art’ of the Taliban.

He says, “This Taliban is now adept at integrating military and non-military instruments of power in pursuit of its political objectives.”

He adds, “The Afghan government didn’t lose the fight because most US military forces withdrew from the country. Instead, the government’s troops were outmaneuvered by a more adaptive military organization. The Taliban delineated specific objectives and lines of effort to hollow out the Afghan security forces and conduct a strategic encirclement of Kabul designed to force the government to capitulate.”1

Over time, the Taliban has evolved into a military group capable of advancing along multiple lines of effort. The shadowy insurgent network deft at executing rural ambushes and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been replaced by a complex organization managing as many as 80,000 fighters who are even more skilled at using social media than AK-47s. Their operational art combines information operations, including appeals from tribal elders alongside text messages and Twitter, with decentralized orders that allow local commanders who know the terrain and politics in their areas to identify opportunities for taking the initiative. When Taliban forces achieve military success, they reinforce those advances with mobile reserve exploitation forces—hordes of commandos on motorcycles—allowing the group to maintain tempo on the battlefield.2

David Zucchino outlined the Taliban’s strategy in The New York Times, “The Taliban adopted dual strategy of coercion and persuasion.   The militants cut multiple surrender deals that handed them bases and ultimately entire provincial command centers, culminating in a stunning military blitz…. that put the militants back in power two decades after they were defeated by the United States and its allies.”3

“The negotiated surrenders were just one element of a broader Taliban strategy that captured heavily defended provincial capitals with lightning speed, and saw the insurgents walk into the capital, Kabul, (on 15 August, 2021) with barely a shot fired. It was a campaign defined by both collapse and conquest, executed by patient opportunists,” he adds

Each surrender, small or large, handed the Taliban more weapons and vehicles — and, vitally, more control over roads and highways, giving insurgents freedom to move rapidly and collect the next surrenders as the security forces were progressively cut off from ammunition, fuel, food and salaries. Each victory also added to a growing sense of inevitability that the Taliban would eventually prevail, especially after the militants poured so many resources into winning the north, a traditional stronghold of anti-Taliban militias. As those outposts and districts fell, the Taliban gained important propaganda victories, quickly spreading the word that they could overcome even dogged resistance, and would keep their word to allow soldiers and policemen to walk away with their lives. The result was a lopsided fight between an adaptable and highly mobile insurgent juggernaut, and a demoralized government force that had been abandoned by its leaders and cut off from help. Once the first provincial capital city surrendered this month, the big collapses came as fast as the Taliban could travel.4

The Taliban triumph came just four months after President Biden announced on April 14 that he would honor a deal with the Taliban signed by the Trump Administration to withdraw all American troops beginning May 1. The announcement sank the morale of already beleaguered security forces and emboldened the Taliban, which had failed to honor most pledges under the February 2020 agreement. The Taliban seized the advantage in May, crushing government troops now forced to defend themselves, with only an occasional long-distance American airstrike to help hold off Taliban surges. The militants quickly expanded their control among the country’s 400-odd districts from 77 on April 13 to 104 on June 16 to 223 on Aug. 3, according to the Long War Journal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The Taliban also received money, supplies and support from Pakistan, Russia and Iran, analysts said. That included 10,000 to 20,000 Afghan volunteers sent from Pakistan, a Taliban safe haven, and thousands more Afghan villagers who joined the militants when it became clear they were winning, said Antonio Giustozzi, a London-based analyst who has written several books about Afghanistan. The volunteers swelled Taliban ranks to more than 100,000 fighters from most analysts’ estimates of 60,000 to 70,000, Mr. Giustozzi said. That was more than enough to crush a government force listed at 300,000 on paper but hollowed out by corruption, desertion and a staggering casualty rate — U.S. officials have said that perhaps only a sixth of that total was in the fight this year. The key to victory, Mr. Giustozzi and other analysts said, was the Taliban’s plan to threaten and cajole security forces and government officials into surrendering, first at the checkpoint and outpost level, then the district and provincial level as they swept through the countryside.5

According to Jensen, to achieve their objective, the Taliban’s military campaign relied on four lines of effort:

  1. Isolating the Afghan military

The collapse of the Afghan security forces was a result of operational-level isolation. In US Army doctrine, isolation involves sealing off an enemy both physically and psychologically from its base of support—denying them freedom of movement and preventing reinforcement. The Taliban took a deliberate approach to isolating its foe at the operational level for more than eighteen months by taking advantage of fundamental weaknesses in the posture of Afghan security forces.

Initially, the Afghan government focused on holding terrain through checkpoints and small outposts scattered across the country. From a political standpoint, this posture allowed Ghani, who struggled to win broad-based political support, to appeal to different political groups and say he was denying the Taliban terrain.

But the military reality was the opposite: The approach dispersed units across the country and rendered them unable to mutually reinforce one another. The Taliban exploited this vulnerability, disrupting ground lines of communication in an effort to further isolate the checkpoints and set the conditions for the defeat of Afghan forces. As the checkpoints became dependent on getting new supplies by air, resupply missions strained an already overstretched Afghan Air Force. As a result, maintenance issues grounded more aircraft than anti-aircraft fire did.

The net result was a series of outposts where Afghan forces were often without food, water, or ammunition, breeding discontent, disillusionment, and a broken air force to boot.

  1. Targeting cohesion through threats and texts

With Afghan security forces—which likely outnumbered the Taliban by three to one—isolated, the Taliban increased activities along a second line of effort: the use of tailored propaganda and information operations to undermine morale and cohesion. Morale and the will to fight are critical intangibles in war—as practitioners ranging from Sun Tzu to Napoleon have observed. The Taliban further sealed off physically isolated Afghan security forces through a sophisticated psychological-warfare campaign.

The insurgents flooded social media with images that offered surrounded Afghan security forces a Hobson’s choice: Surrender and live—or die and wonder if the Taliban will kill your family next. More than 70 percent of the Afghan population has access to cell phones, and the Taliban has adapted accordingly—using modern, Russian-style information warfare that deploys fake accounts and bots to spread its messages and undermine the Afghan government.

The group combined the new with the old as well, using appeals from tribal elders alongside text messages to compel Afghan security forces to surrender. As outposts crumbled, the Taliban sustained its momentum on the battlefield using captured military equipment not only to resupply its forces but also to exploit images of the surrender for additional propaganda.

Put yourself in the shoes of an Afghan soldier: You are in a combat outpost, running out of food and ammunition, fighting for an unpopular government, and forced to pay bribes due to endemic corruption. As you look at your cell phone, all you see are images of fellow soldiers surrendering. Even if you opt to fight, your morale and will to fight have been undermined.

  1. Practicing a new form of terror: kill and compel

The Taliban used terror to further undermine confidence in the government and degrade Kabul’s ability to fight. Whereas the insurgents once relied on high-value attacks using vehicle-borne IEDs to terrorize the population and strike at the government, in the lead-up to this latest campaign they shifted their tactics to a war in the shadows that proved more effective in undermining the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Over the last two years, the Taliban has employed a covert assassination campaign to target civil-society leaders and key military personnel such as pilots. The intermediate military objective was twofold. First, it amplified the Taliban’s strategic messaging that Ghani’s regime could not secure Afghanistan. Everyone knew the Taliban was behind most of the assassinations, but the fact that it didn’t take credit for them made the killings seem more insidious. Second, the best way to destroy an air force is on the ground. Lacking sophisticated air-defense weapons, the Taliban opted to undermine the Afghan Air Force by killing pilots in their homes—a crude but effective variant of the practice of high-value individual targeting. These attacks were designed to compel other Afghan pilots to abandon their posts.

  1. Negotiating to buy time and constrain military power

The Taliban integrated diplomacy with its military campaign in a way that both Afghan security forces and the United States struggled to replicate. War is a continuation of politics. Any battlefield activity in which the operational logic isn’t connected to clearly defined political objectives will prove self-defeating.

The Taliban took advantage of the peace deal negotiated largely bilaterally between its representatives and the United States under former President Donald Trump. In excluding the Afghan government, the agreement undermined the Ghani administration politically and made it difficult to maintain unity of effort between partners in the counterinsurgency campaign. The Taliban used the cover of the peace deal to move into position across the country, surrounding key districts and provincial centers, while also using the negotiation process to limit US military power. Each round of diplomatic talks constrained America’s ability to attack Taliban targets. 6

According to Jensen, “If there was a critical turning point in the conflict, it was the peace deal signed under Trump: Without it, the Taliban would have struggled to isolate the Afghan military and set the conditions for its rapid advance on Kabul. Likewise, the deal signaled to regional actors that they needed to hedge their bets and start making provisions for the end of the Ghani regime in Afghanistan.”

(To be continued)



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The Taliban Story: How Taliban used ‘negotiations’ to make a bid for power (Part26) Sat, 02 Oct 2021 08:50:45 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 26th part of the 30-part series on the Taliban. You can share your feedback at Here is the 26th part- By 2010, many decision makers and analysts started pressing for negotiations with the…

The post The Taliban Story: How Taliban used ‘negotiations’ to make a bid for power (Part26) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: How Taliban used ‘negotiations’ to make a bid for power (Part26)

This is the 26th part of the 30-part series on the Taliban. You can share your feedback at Here is the 26th part-

By 2010, many decision makers and analysts started pressing for negotiations with the Taliban as they felt that the war with the Taliban could prove to be an unending one. Thus, the US started reluctantly looking beyond war as an option even as in a significant move, Afghan President Hamid Karzai set up an Afghan Peace Council in 2010 to coordinate the efforts to reach out to senior Taliban figures. Initially, the Obama administration in US let Afghan President handle this move to negotiate with the Taliban. But things moved at an extremely slow pace not yielding any concrete results. The Taliban refused to negotiate with Karzai government as it didn’t want to provide it legitimacy. It had already termed Karzai and his government as the puppets of the west.

Even as the efforts were on to push forward these talks, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the 71-year-olf former Afghan President who led the peace council was killed by a suicide bomber who claimed to have brought a ‘message’ to Rabbani from Taliban. This was a big jolt to the efforts to start talks with the Taliban.

Undeterred by these developments, however, US diplomats continued with efforts to have backchannel communications with the Taliban leadership. As a part of these efforts Washington supported Qatar government to grant permission to the Taliban to open their political office in Qatar.

The intention apparently was to provide Taliban leaders a neutral location where Afghan and US representatives could hold talks with them. But Taliban after having its pound of flesh, ditched the US as t refused to hold preliminary talks with the US representatives. The Taliban charged the US for not meeting the pre-condition of releasing Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

The Afghan government distrusted the Qatari back-channel because it feared losing control over negotiations. Ryan Crocker, who served as US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, said he warned the State Department officials that they risked alienating Karzai by endorsing the Taliban’s presence in Qatar, but they didn’t listen. Hamid Karzai was just incensed over the whole think. An attempt by the US officials to restart talks the following year blew up  again before they got very far. In June 2013, the Taliban, finally opened their office in Qatar. But the group also raised a flag and banner advertising the premises as the home of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan-the old name of the Taliban government. The action antagonized Karzai who saw it as in-your face attempt by the Taliban to win diplomatic recognition. He halted the nascent negotiations with the Taliban and refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States that the Obama administration had been pushing. With the number of US troops in Afghanistan dwindling, the Taliban felt less urgency to rekindle talks unless the terms suited them.1

The Taliban held another advantage: a US prisoner of war. In 2009, insurgents captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after he wandered away from a US military base in eastern Afghanistan. The Pentagon had been trying to get him back for years, but the Taliban was driving a hard bargain. It demanded the release of Taliban leaders from Guantanamo. After painstaking negotiations brokered by Qatar in May 2014, the Obama administration finally agreed to release five Guantanamo inmates who had held senior roles in the Afghan government during the years of Taliban rule. In exchange the Taliban freed Bergdahl in a carefully orchestrated handover with US Special Forces at a remote rendezvous in eastern Afghanistan. At first the Obama administration celebrated the deal as a diplomatic breakthrough and hoped it might lead to further talks with the Taliban. But Republicans in Congress blasted the release of the Taliban prisoners and accused Obama of endangering US national security…The political backlash killed off any chance of a further rapprochement for the rest of Obama’s tenure. For the next four years, unabated warfare consumed Afghanistan and crushed the tepid attempts to make peace.2

By 2018, the fighting escalated to a new level. The casualties, especially those of civilians, soared. The Afghan security forces were now on forefront on the ground fighting the Taliban even as the US warplanes kept on dropping record number of bombs.

In February 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (who had taken over the reins from Hamid Karzai) tried to break this stalemate and restart the negotiations with the Taliban. He offered to hold unconditional peace talks and also showed readiness to recognize the Taliban as a political party.  The Taliban, however, refused the offer saying it preferred to hold negotiations directly with Americans.

Four months later Ghani declared that his government would observe a unilateral ceasefire to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The Taliban relented this time and for three days both the sides observed a truce. After 2001, it had happened for the first time that both sides had put down their weapons, even though, for a brief period. Though the fighting resumed after three-day period, the Trump administration in US took advantage of this moment and authorized, for the first time, high-level talks with the Taliban.

In July, 2018, a senior US diplomat Alice Wells, held a preliminary meeting with The Taliban in leaders in Qatar. In a major concession to the insurgents, officials from Ghani government were excluded from the meeting. Soon after, the Trump administration called Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran Afghan-American diplomat, back into public service to lead the negotiations with the Taliban. Khalilzad dove in. He met with Taliban im Qatar in October. Days later he persuaded the government of Pakistan to release the Taliban’s deputy emir, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.3

In September 2019, when the members of Congress reacted strongly when they came to know that Trump had invited Taliban leaders to Camp David to sign an accord. Trump declared talks with the Taliban were “dead’.

However, as the dust settled down after this brief political storm, Khalilzad resumed negotiations with the Taliban and on February 29, 2020, the two sides signed an agreement to end the war.

The Trump administration pledged to withdraw US troops in stages, with all forces leaving by May 2021, and to press for the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government. The Taliban promised to begin direct negotiations with Ghani’s regime and provided assurances that Afghanistan would not be used to launch attacks on the United States. But the accord was fraught with gray areas, contingencies and unresolved issues. After dragging their feet for several months, representatives of Afghan government and the Taliban finally met in September 2020 in Qatar for official talks. But fighting continued apace as the Taliban pressed for the military advantage. Pentagon officials lobbied Trump to slow down or postpone the US troop withdrawal. But after Trump lost his bid for reelection, he ordered the military to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan to 2500 by the end of his term in January,2021. That marked the smallest US troop presence since December 2001, back when Afghanistan seemed like a manageable, short-term challenge. 4

Whitlock says in ‘The Afghanistan Papers’, “Like Bush and Obama, Trump failed to make good on hid promise to prevail in Afghanistan to bring what he mocked as ‘the forever war’ to completion. Instead, he handed the unfinished campaign to his political rival Joseph Biden, (who defeated Trump in polls to become) the fourth commander in chief to oversee the longest armed conflict in the American history.”

Interesting during Bush administration, Biden had called for sending more troops to Afghanistan but as vice president to Obama, he started taking an about turn. Whitlock says,” Biden had grown skeptical of what the United States could accomplish there.”

Biden became US President in January 2021. On April 14, Biden announced his decision. In a speech from the Treaty Room of the White House, he promised to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021-the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.5

The Taliban, had shrewdly, not sealed any deal with the Afghan government by that time. It seized the opportunity and, in a blitzkrieg, captured the power by mid-August 2021, forcing Ghani to flee and his government to collapse even as the last of the US troops left the country. On August 15, 2021, Taliban was formally back in Kabul, ruling Afghanistan again.

(To be continued)


  1. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp270)
  2. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp270-271)
  3. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp272)
  4. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp273)
  5. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp274)

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Is Cross Border Journalism Truly as Transparent as it seems? Sat, 02 Oct 2021 08:46:45 +0000 By Manvee Bansal Truth is Bland. Untruth is spicy. What’s your pick? The news today makes us want to believe things that we know are not true. Whenever we see reports about different countries, are we not forced to believe…

The post Is Cross Border Journalism Truly as Transparent as it seems? appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Manvee Bansal

Truth is Bland. Untruth is spicy. What’s your pick?

Is Cross Border Journalism Truly as Transparent as it seems?

Manvee Bansal

The news today makes us want to believe things that we know are not true. Whenever we see reports about different countries, are we not forced to believe stereotypes about them? Even if some of this news is accurate, it only sells when it is exaggerated. Exaggeration makes newscasts more marketable. In today’s busy contemporary world, plain and simple press releases itself do not have the power to stop and grab people’s attention. They stop only when the bulletin is dramatic. As much as we argue that the news should be correct and nothing else, we would not pay attention to the beats sans any extra drama. When such misconstrued stories are presented, they aggravate animosity between people of different nationalities. Technically, they have the potential to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

“Countries like India should be aware that they are pawns to the US. They might be picked up when the US needs them, but then discarded like used tissue when they are not useful any more.” This is a part of a news article by the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper. Readers are brainwashed to believe that India is not a self- reliant country and the United States is a dictatorial nation. While in fact, this is manipulated. India is one of the largest growing economies in the world, with a projected growth of more than 11.5% in 2022. This feat is not possible if a country is ‘a pawn’ under another. Similarly, the United States is a strong nation in this world, commanding both soft and hard power hegemony, but not a dictator. This is just one of the many occurrences when headlines are altered to injure people’s perceptions.

A recent example of stereotype manipulation is South Korean TV network’s use of inappropriate symbols when introducing teams in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. MBC, the longest-running newscast in South Korea, received widespread criticism for their use of offensive and wanton images to represent countries. They displayed a pizza on the screen when the Italian contingent entered during the opening ceremony. Similarly, they represented Ukraine through Chernobyl and Haiti through an upheaval. The broadcaster even described Marshall Islands as ‘a nuclear test site for the United States’ and Syria as ‘a country with a decade long civil war.’

A 2018 study by MIT scholars, ‘The Spread of True and False News Online,’ found that false news traveled faster than true stories on Twitter. According to the research, false narrations are 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate stories are. It also takes factual news about 6 times as long to reach 1,500 people compared to twisted news. Fake stories, rumours, and hate speech spread through social media have been connected to various incidents of mob attacks and lynching in different countries.

Today, social media has taken over as the new news source for Millennials and Gen Z. Like any other medium, social media has its benefits too. But in some cases, it acts as a devil disguised as an angel. News spreads like wildfire once posted on Twitter or Instagram. Much of this news is not even news; it is people’s biased opinions. The readers and the audience should be cognizant of the side effects of social media. In their sincere attempts to be ‘aware activists,’ people often callously retweet and share posts. Because of this irresponsible behavior, the Israel-Palestine conflict was aggravated. Misinformation flourished on social media networks in the form of viral posts. Both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups shared posts that favored their cause, worsening the situation.

Another aspect of social media campaigns is collecting donations. While many of these donations are used to benefit the needy, it is important to throw light on how people’s laborious money can be misused. A Canadian outfit, Poetic Justice Foundation, by Mo Dhaliwal started a ‘social campaign’ on social media to garner donations from all around the globe. The donors’ hard-earned money funded a violent riot at The Red Fort in New Delhi, India on January 26, 2021, a day celebrated as India’s Republic Day. This example is just one instance out of the many which are deliberately hidden from the common people.

Journalism is a powerful tool that can make the world a better place. What is required for journalists is to present the entire facts, because even a half truth is a lie. But, journalists are not completely at fault; to be in business, they need to sell what sells: spicy half-truths. The state of journalism in the contemporary world is such that polarised opinions are appreciated more than unbiased reporting. Willingly or unwillingly, journalists have to focus on news that sells instead of news that is true but bland. This is a choice that only readers can make. Truth is bland. Untruth is spicy. What’s your pick?

(The author is a Business Administration major at the Kenan Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. She is also pursuing a Business Journalism certificate from UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She is interested in entrepreneurship, international business, and international relations.)

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The Taliban Story: Karzai vs US: Knives were out (Part25) Tue, 28 Sep 2021 13:12:56 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 25th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at  Here is the 25th part- Hamid Karzai was the blue-eyed boy for the US when he took over…

The post The Taliban Story: Karzai vs US: Knives were out (Part25) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: Karzai vs US: Knives were out (Part25)

Source: USA Today

This is the 25th part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at  Here is the 25th part-

Hamid Karzai was the blue-eyed boy for the US when he took over charge of Afghanistan in 2001 immediately after the ouster of Taliban. But within next few years the knives were out. Both the sides blamed other for treachery and manipulations. Karzai’s fall from grace, as far as the US was concerned, was complete by 2009 when Karzai was accused of rigging the elections for his second five-year presidential term. The way mutual trust and confidence turned into utter disregard was primarily an outcome of the way US mishandled Karzai as well as the failure of Karzai to stem rampant corruption in his administration.

In 2004, when Karzai won his first presidential term, the elections were hailed as a new dawn of democracy in Afghanistan. International observers were of the view that the 2004 polls in Afghanistan were free and fair. The Bush administration in the US couldn’t have been happier. It was their man who was at the helm of affairs in a country which was governed by its arch rival Soviet Union’s handpicked politicians till late 1980s. It was a complete turnaround.

During the first Presidential polls in 2004, more than eight million Afghan voters voted. The threats from Taliban failed to douse the enthusiasm of Afghan people and Karzai won by garnering 55 per cent of the votes polled.

During the initial years of bonhomie between Karzai and the US, Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad played a key role. Khalilzad was also a Pashtun like Karzai. Both had known each other since 1990s.   Khalilzad was appointed as US special envoy to Afghanistan in 2002. A year later he was named as US ambassador to Afghanistan. Khalilzad soon became a friend, philosopher and guide for Karzai. In fact, he spent more time at Karzai’s office and presidential palace than in the US embassy in Kabul.

Khalilzad spoke with Karzai multiple times a day and dined with him at the palace almost every evening. …Karzai was punctual. Supper started precisely at 7.30 pm and he expected his guests to arrive 30 minutes early. The menu rarely changed:  either chicken or lamb with rice, plus two vegetables. Afterwards they chatted for hours. By the time Khalilzad got back to the embassy, it was often past midnight. 1

Till 2005, when Khalilzad was in Kabul, the relationship between Karzai and the US were quite cordial but it started deteriorating after Khalilzad was sent to Baghdad to help manage the crisis there.  Karzai was taken aback by Khalilzad’s transfer and he in fact made a personal intervention and requested the White House to allow Khalilzad to continue. But US President George Bush didn’t budge. As Khalilzad moved out of Kabul, Karzai felt abandoned.

Martin Strmecki, the Pentagon adviser, said Karzai needed to spend hours talking through his leadership dilemmas before he felt comfortable making tough decisions. It required a lot of hand-handling.2

Khalilzad’s successors adopted an aggressive approach. The new incumbent who replaced Khalilzad in 2005 was Ronald Neumann.  Neuman started prodding Karzai to remove corrupt officials. One of the major bones of contention was the case of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Hamid Karzai. He was chief of Kandahar Provincial Council and alleged to have been involved in major corruption cases.

In January 2006, Newsweek published a story accusing Ahmed Wali Karzai of controlling the drug trade in southern Afghanistan. Enraged Hamid Karzai summoned Neumann and the British ambassador to the place. He threatened to file a libel suit and demanded to know if US or British officials had any hard evidence against his brother…The Americans didn’t back down. They told Karzai that perception was reality and he needed to deal with the problem. 3

Ironically… the US government was asking Karzai to clean up a mess of its own making. Behind the scenes, the CIA worked closely with Wakil Ahmed Karzai and helped turn him into a regional power broker. For years the agency paid him to recruit and support a secretive paramilitary strike force, almost certain with Hamid Karzai’s knowledge. Given that ongoing relationship, it took chutzpah for US embassy officials to urge the Afghan president to punish his brother based on vague allegations of wrongdoing. Karzai never forgot it.

As the insurgency worsened, Bush administration officials grew critical of Karzai’s ad hoc governing style. They groused that he acted more like a tribal leader than the president of a modern nation. They also worried that the Taliban was exploiting popular dissatisfaction with his government’s corruption and incompetence.4

Meanwhile, Karzai also started objecting to incidents where US airstrikes killed and wounded innocent civilians even as the US forces treated such incidents as collateral damage in its war against terror. In 2008, a series of such incidents happened. In July, 2008, the US warplanes mistakenly bombed a wedding party near a remote village in Nangahar province in eastern Afghanistan. The strike led to deaths of dozens of people including children. The US tried to cover it and issued a public denial which said the planes had struck a large group of enemy fighters on a mountain range and it was a ‘precision attack’.

Notwithstanding the US version of events, Karzai ordered an inquiry. A government commission investigated the matter and concluded that the group was indeed a wedding party. The commission’s report said that in this air strike 47 people were killed including the bride.

US military officials responded to this report by saying that they would conduct their own inquiry. It’s a different matter though that the findings of US’ own investigation didn’t come out publicly.

A month later, another bungled military operation exacerbated Karzai’s distrust. A combined force of US and Afghan ground troops, a low flying AC-130 gunship and a Reaper drone laid waste to the village of Azizabad in Herat province in western Afghanistan. The US military kept the full investigative report a secret until USA Today sued the Defense Department in 2018 to obtain almost 1000 pages of files. The newspaper published an expose of Azizabad attack in 2019.

The US military, immediately after this airstrike, had stated that this operation targeted a ‘high-value’ Taliban leader and there were no civilian casualties. The pentagon later conducted an investigation after Karzai visited the area and blasted the US government. According to Pentagon report, 22 insurgents and 33 civilians were killed in this airstrike. It justified this assault on the village saying that it was conducted in self-defense.  The investigations conducted by the United Nations, Afghan government and Afghan Human Rights Commission came out with reports that put the number of deaths between 78 to 92. Most of those killed were children.5

Even as the US tried to covered up these botched operations, which were far more than few, Karzai’s objections grew louder and louder. This was bound to cause a lot of discomfort to the US further deteriorating a relationship which was already on downhill.

In fact, the US policies were largely responsible, though indirectly, for Karzai rigging the 2009 elections which proved to be another defining movement in terms of creating dissatisfaction among the masses. It led to loss of credibility of the whole effort to set up a democratic system in the country overriding the tribal factionalism. It created an opportune atmosphere for Taliban to strike back with vengeance. And arguably, the root cause was US’ about turn vis-a-vis Karzai who had now become a friend turned foe.

By the time, Democrat Barack Obama, took office in January 2009 as US President, the US’ relations with Karzai had almost hit rock bottom. The US casualties in Afghanistan were increasing and most top US officials and to political figures in the administration considered Karzai regime to be neck deep in corruption and they made no bones about it which at times became quite humiliating for Karzai.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan particularly disliked Karzai and barely concealed his contempt from the start. “Richard Holbrooke hated Hamid Karzai. He thought he was corrupt as hell, “Barnett Rubin, the Afghan academic expert whom Holbrooke had hired as an adviser, said in a Lesson Learned interview. (but) Karzai retained broad popular appeal in Afghanistan and was favored to win reelection. But Holbrooke and other officials stirred things up by openly meeting with Karzai’s rivals and encouraging them to run for president as well. Holbrooke hoped a large field would prevent Karzai from winning a majority and force him into a runoff, where he would be more vulnerable against a single challenger.6

The US scheming galled Karzai, who saw it as a treachery. Realizing, he could no longer trust the Americans, he scrambled to expand his political base and cut deals with old foes from different ethnic groups. Much to the dismay of human-rights groups, Karzai tapped General Mohammed Fahim Khan, the giggling Tajik warlord, as his vice-presidential running mate. He negotiated an endorsement from Ge. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the accused war criminal, who controlled a large bloc of Uzbek votes. As further insurance of victory, Karzai stacked Afghanistan’s election oversight commission with his cronies.7

Some US officials said the Obama administration should have realized that its gamesmanship with Karzai would backfire. “The reason Karzai made deals with the warlords and engaged in fraud in the election was that, unlike the previous election, when we had supported him, he knew we had walked away from him, so he basically said, the hell with you,” Robert Gates, the defense secretary, said in his University of Virginia oral history interview. One month after Karzai took over charge for another five-year term in 2009, Gates was at a meeting of the NATO defense ministers. He sat next to Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat who served as the UN Secretary General’s special representative to Afghanistan. The pair were friendly and had known each other for years. Before Eide delivered his status report on Afghanistan, he leaned over and whispered a message to Gates: “I am going to tell the ministers that there was blatant foreign interference in the Afghan election.” Eide said, “What I will not say is it was the United States and Richard Holbrooke.”8

(To be continued)



  1. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp175)
  2. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp175)
  3. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp175-176)
  4. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp176)
  5. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp177)
  6. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp170)
  7. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp170-171)
  8. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp171)

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The Taliban Story: How Taliban regrouped took the war to the Allied camp (Part 24) Tue, 28 Sep 2021 13:04:44 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 24th part of the series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 24th part- It didn’t take too long for Taliban to regroup and make a comeback.  Within…

The post The Taliban Story: How Taliban regrouped took the war to the Allied camp (Part 24) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: How Taliban regrouped took the war to the Allied camp (Part 24)

Source: DNA India

This is the 24th part of the series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 24th part-

It didn’t take too long for Taliban to regroup and make a comeback.  Within few months of being ousted from power, Taliban started a recruitment drive under the patronage of ISI from its safe havens in Pakistan where they were provided safe sanctuary by Pakistan.

Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train recruits in guerrilla warfare and terror tactics. Most of the recruits were drawn from the madrassas of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. Bases, some with as many as 200 men, were created in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan.8

The Pakistan paramilitary forces posted at the border posts looked the other way ignoring this infiltration and movement across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan military operations also ignored the presence of Taliban and their new recruitment drive on their own land.

The Taliban gradually reorganised and reconstituted their forces. They established a new mode of operation: forming groups of around 5o to launch attacks on isolated posts and convoys of Afghan soldiers, police or militia and then breaking up into groups of 5-10 men to evade subsequent offensives. US forces were attacked indirectly through rocket attacks on bases and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). To coordinate the strategy Mullah Omar named 10-man leadership council..with himself as the head. Five operational zones were created and assigned to various Taliban commanders. 2

From 2002 to 2005, the Taliban rebuilt its cadres with drug money, charity from donors in Gulf states and help from Al Qaeda.3 The ISI also played a key role by providing ground support in terms of logistics and ensuring their safety from the CIA and US forces who were hunting both Al Qaeda and Taliban. Their sanctuaries in Pakistan enabled them to rearm, refit and retrain.  By 2005, the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Mohammad Omar; the Hezb-i-islami Gulbuddin, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the Haqqni Network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, were working together to subvert the Karzai regime and wear down the coalition. All three groups had nominal allegiance to Mullah Omar and coordinated major plans, but continued as distinct operational entities with their own territories of interest in Afghanistan as well as fundraising mechanisms.4

By 2005, the inadequacies of Karzai government and the allies’ strategy of not having too many forces on the ground, termed as “light footprint”, helped Taliban to crawl back in such a way that it had started exercising shadow control over many districts and provinces.  The alarm bells should have started ringing by then but they didn’t as ISI was feeding misinformation to the CIA and there was lack of coordination between the various US agencies and allied forces. In fact, many of them were working at cross purposes.

By 2009, there were shadow Taliban governments in nearly all provinces, although many had little real influence and not all of them lived in the designated provinces. Even in areas dominated by the Afghan government or tribes which were friendly to the government, Taliban was able to carry out its operations against the government, US and allied forces.

In 2005, Taliban began a nationwide offensive to spread its influence. From 2004 to 2009, there was a nine-fold increase in security related incidents and 40 per cent increase in suicide bombings across Afghanistan.

Conflict spread to most of the 34 Afghan provinces, but 71 per cent of the security incidents till 2010 took place in only 10 per cent of 400 districts nationwide. The war in Afghanistan continued over control of Pashtun areas in the eastern and southern portion of the country, but Taliban subversion and terrorism became important factors in many provinces. Efforts to combat narcotics growth and production generally failed or met with temporary success. Corruption inside Afghanistan as well as Taliban revenue increased accordingly.5

During the comeback that Taliban was trying to make, it extensively used IEDs. The number of IEDs strikes went up from 300 in 2004 to more than 4000 in 2009. By the summer of 2010, more than half of all US fatalities in Afghanistan were from IEDs. Suicide bombers, almost unknown before 2004 became commonplace.6

Colonel Harjeet Singh says in ‘Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom’, “Beginning in 2005, the Taliban added more sophisticated information operations and local subversion to their standard terrorist tactics.”

In addition to the subversion, terror tactics remained standard operating procedure for Taliban. In October 2008, for example, the Taliban stopped a bus in the town of Maiwand, forcibly removed 50 passengers and beheaded 30 of them. The first sign that Taliban forces were regrouping came on 27 January 2003…when a band of fighters allied with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami were discovered and assaulted by US forces at Adi Ghar cave complex 24 kilometres north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed and no US casualties reported. The site was suspected to be a base to funnel supplies and fighters from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around the time.7

As the summer continued, the attacks gradually increased in frequency in the Taliban heartland. Dozens of Afghan government soldiers, NGOs and humanitarian workers and several US soldiers died in the raids, ambushes and rocket attacks. Besides guerrilla attacks, the Taliban began building up their forces in the district of Dai Chopan, in Zabul province that also straddles Kandahar and Uruzgan and is at the very centre of Taliban heartland. Dai Chopan district is a remote and sparsely populated corner of south-eastern Afghanistan with towering Rocky Mountains interspersed with narrow gorges; perfect area to make a stand against the Afghan government and the coalition forces. Over the course of the summer, perhaps the largest concentration of Taliban militants gathered in the area since the fall of the regime, with upto 1000 guerrillas regrouping. Over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan police personnel, were killed in August 2003 as the Taliban gained strength. As a result, coalition forces began offensives to root out the rebel forces. In late August 2005, Afghan government forces backed by US troops and heavy American aerial bombardment advanced upon Taliban positions within the mountain fortress. After a one-week battle, Taliban forces were routed with 124 of its fighters getting killed.8

Even as Taliban continued to expand its area of influence in Afghanistan, the US was too busy with the Iraq war which started in 2003. From 2003 to 2007, Afghanistan fell off the US’ radar and was no more a priority. This provided an opportunity to Taliban to regroup. It wasn’t till mid-2007 when after stabilising the situation in Iraq, the US turned back its attention to Afghanistan and started sending more troops there. By 2010, US troops numbered around 1,00,000 in Afghanistan. But precious time had been lost and Taliban had regrouped and came back with greater ferocity and tenacity. Its tactics had also vastly improved.

One hundred fifty-five Americans lost their lives in Afghan war during 2008, an increase of about a third from the previous year. British, Canadian and other NATO casualties also rose to their highest levels since the war began… The Taliban mounted some 3867 IED attacks during 2008, an increase of almost 50 per cent over the previous year. Just as had been the case for Soviet forces during the 1980s, the improvised bombs and mines forced NATO to restrict its movements, tempted forward commanders to hunker down on bases, and left platoons to struggle with the random devastation the bombs inflicted on comrades who lost legs, arms and lives.9

(To be continued)


  1. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp112)
  2. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp112)
  3. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp113)
  4. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp113)
  5. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp113)
  6. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp113)
  7. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp114)
  8. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp114-115)
  9. Directorate S by Steve Coll (Pp323)

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The Taliban Story: The Night Letters: Beginning of Taliban’s comeback (Part 23) Tue, 28 Sep 2021 12:59:59 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 23rd part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 23rd part- By late 2002, the Taliban had regrouped and announced its comeback through the…

The post The Taliban Story: The Night Letters: Beginning of Taliban’s comeback (Part 23) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: The Night Letters: Beginning of Taliban’s comeback (Part 23)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is the 23rd part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 23rd part-

By late 2002, the Taliban had regrouped and announced its comeback through the night letters. These letters were also called Taliban Shabamah. In Pashto, Shabamah means ‘Good Night.’ Ironically, these night letters were death threats. They were handwritten in Pashto and were posted in mosques or slipped under doorways. The first of these letters appeared in areas which were east of Kandahar and very close to the Pakistan border.

These letters gavee reference to the history of Afghan resistance against foreign invaders, great heroes of the past, and Islamic theology. They threatened death to anyone who worked with the United States or the government in Kabul. Taliban runners tacked them on mosque walls or private doorways, or demanded that local notables read them aloud. 1

A few of these night letters which became a regular feature from late 2002 onwards are given below:

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Maulawi Jalaludeen Haqqani

The warning goes to all students, teachers and personnel of Mohaamad Sedeque Rohi High School. This high school has violated Mujahidenn’s established standards for education. Since the high school has taken a negative stand against Mujahideen, it is Mujahideen’s final resolution to burn the high school to the ground or destroy it with a suicide attack, should any negative propaganda or information regarding Mujahideen be discussed in the future at school.

Another night letter written over a hand drawn figure of a large knife, warned those who worked for Americans: 

Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, Kandahar province

We Mujahideen received information that you and your son are working for Americans. You cannot hide from Mujahideen, we will find you. If you and your son do not stop working for Americans, then we will cut you and your son’s heads with the knife that you see in this letter. Anybody who is working with the Americans will be punished with the knife that you see in this letter.

Yet another letter threatened children for fraternising with coalition soldiers:

Attention to all dear brothers:

If the infidels come to your village or to your mosque, please stop your youngsters from working for them and don’t let them walk with the infidels. If anybody in your family is killed by a mine or anything else, then you will be the one responsible, not us.2

After the letters, the regrouped Taliban began its attacks. This time they were better equipped in terms of tactics, training and logistics, thanks to ISI.

 On September 5, 2002, Hamid Karzai toured Kandahar. An assassin opened fire on his vehicle from ten yards away, just missing him. American bodyguards gunned the shooter down, accidentally killing Afghan soldiers as well. The same day, a car bomb exploded in a downtown Kabul marketplace, killing fifteen shoppers and bystanders. 3

Larry Goodson, an American scholar of Afghanistan, interviewed Taliban leaders along the Pakistan border during this period and found that the movement benefited from “a perception that the Americans would leave, that reconstruction would not succeed, and that Afghanistan would return to chaos.” Especially in areas such as the Kandahar heartland, the movement’s leaders sought to exploit “popular dissatisfaction in the south over the gap between the expectations of western assistance and the reality that virtually none had arrived.” Taliban units made up of twenty-five or thirty guerrillas crossed over from Pakistan to lob mortars and fire rockets at Kandahar in the night.4

As it prepared for war in Iraq, the Bush administration handed control of Afghan policy increasingly to Zalmay Khalilzad, now a roving envoy to Afghanistan. In April 2003, Khalilzad flew into Kabul to meet with Engineer Arif, the Afghan intelligence chief. Arif reported that I.S.I. clients were “working in Kandahar and Jalalabad . . . providing free passage to terror elements to cross into and out of Pakistan in vehicles loaded with arms.” Arif warned the Bush administration that Pakistan was now “promoting instability in Afghanistan.” 5

Evidence that I.S.I. was back in the game was not difficult to find. That summer, the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid travelled through Quetta and southern Afghanistan to document the Taliban’s return. He found the family of Mullah Dadullah, the movement’s vicious military leader, living openly in a village outside Quetta; in September, Dadullah staged a “family wedding in lavish style, inviting leading members of the Baluchistan government . . . and military officers.” In Kandahar, Rashid met Ahmed Wali Karzai, who told him, “The Taliban are gathering in the same places where they started. It’s like the rerun of an old movie.” The Afghans primarily blamed Pakistan. The sanctuary the Taliban enjoyed in Pakistan as they regrouped empowered them. Afghans wondered, reasonably: How could the United States fail to see that I.S.I. was up to its old tricks? In a land of conspiracy theories, Washington’s apparent acceptance of Pakistan’s policy created confusion and doubt.6

There was no grand American conspiracy, of course. The truth was more prosaic. In all of 2003, Bush’s National Security Council met to discuss Afghanistan only twice, according to records kept by a former administration official. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, overconfidence about Afghanistan’s post-war stability, and the cabinet’s desire to avoid further commitment to reconstruction explained this complacency. It would have required energy and determination to confront and threaten President Musharraf and I.S.I. By 2003 I.S.I. seemed to be running a low-level, testing version of the same covert program it had run in Afghanistan for more than two continuous decades, probing what the service could get away with while the Bush administration tried to subdue Iraq. And a new generation of Pakistan Army officers was rising under Musharraf, schooling itself in the arts of “yes, but” with the United States. Among them was Ashfaq Kayani, a mumbling, chain-smoking general who, even more than Musharraf, would shape America’s fate in South Asia in the decade to come.7

(To be continued)


  1. Kandahar Tour: The Turning Point in Canada’s Afghan Mission by Lee Windsor, David Charters and Brent Wilson (Wiley, ed.2010) (Pp24-25)
  2. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col. Harjeet Singh (Pp114)
  3. Directorate S by Steve Coll (Pp144)

The post The Taliban Story: The Night Letters: Beginning of Taliban’s comeback (Part 23) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

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The Taliban Story: How international community failed Afghanistan, paved way for Taliban (Part 22) Tue, 28 Sep 2021 12:55:43 +0000 By Arun Anand This the 22nd part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 22nd part- Hamid Karzai was not a bad choice to lead Afghanistan but he had too…

The post The Taliban Story: How international community failed Afghanistan, paved way for Taliban (Part 22) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: How international community failed Afghanistan, paved way for Taliban (Part 22)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This the 22nd part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 22nd part-

Hamid Karzai was not a bad choice to lead Afghanistan but he had too many challenges to meet. He had to deal with warlords who wanted their pound of flesh, an extremely challenging economic situation, poverty, deprivation and lack of development in all spheres including health, education, infrastructure. There were no industries and hence hardly any jobs. The kind of international aid that Afghanistan needed didn’t come through. The international community, despite, all the big talk was found wanting. Had democracy brought development along with it, the support for radical Islamist organisations like Taliban would have dwindled to the minimal.  The initial years were especially crucial in this regard when Afghanistan attracted a fair amount of aid, but far less than what Balkan nations had attracted in 1990s. This despite the fact that Afghanistan was amongst the bottom three countries when it came to global rankings based on the key socio-economic indicators.

US’ security and economic assistance from 2002 to 2004 was a modest $4.4 billion and nearly two thirds of it went to economic assistance, leaving slightly more than a third for security assistance. The lack of progress in the development of the police, counter-narcotics and promotion of the rule of law was particularly noteworthy. On the security front, the build-up of Afghan National Army (ANA) was slow but deliberate. The ANA was small but successful and popular among people. Police development in the first few years was very slow and unproductive, except in the German-sponsored education of commissioned officers. By 2008, around 70 per cent of US funds went to security assistance or counter-narcotics. 1

‘Education’ was one of the most important sectors that got neglected during this era and that could have helped to bring a complete transformation of Afghan society. Hassan Abbas critically analysed this factor and how international community and Afghanistan fared on this front in ‘The Taliban Revival’.

‘Sadly, the education sector – the most potent instrument of change in any society – failed to receive the donor priority that it deserved. It was understandable that security objectives should drive policy choices in the beginning, but a continuing clash between development goals and security compulsions was unsustainable for nation- building purposes. Education was especially critical in a society where a radicalized minority had dominated society through coercion and oppression. That the Taliban were able to get away with that in the name of Islam was something that was worth bearing in mind while a development agenda was crafted. Even from a purely counterterrorism perspective, a counter-narrative to misdirected and misplaced Taliban ideology was sorely needed. The creation of a vibrant education system was hence a common- sense solution. But, as they say, ‘common sense is uncommon’ – a truism that is particularly true in war zones. In 2004, three years after the occupation began, primary school enrolment had risen from 0.9 million to nearly 4 million, and the proportion of girls receiving education from virtually zero to 35 per cent. However, these figures were distorted by the high rate of enrolment in major cities such as Herat and Kabul, where girls made up 35–58 per cent of the total; in the former Taliban strongholds of south Afghanistan, girls’ enrolment was pitifully low – 3 per cent in Zabul, 5 per cent in Helmand and 7 per cent in Khost. Between 2003 and 2011, almost 5,000 new schools were built and enrolment reached around 7 million. This was an important achievement; but it is estimated that throughout this time around 40 per cent of the those who were supposed to be in schools were not in school. Even more instructive is the fact that in the period between October 2005 and March 2007, six per cent of schools were burned down or closed down by insurgents, and by 2008 the number of attacks on schools, teachers and students had almost tripled to 670 – almost two attacks every day. The Taliban knew exactly how dangerous public education was to their cause and agenda. However, once the pattern of attacks became clear some steps to safeguard schools should have been taken involving the local population. To give credit to ordinary Afghans, they wanted their children in school; but, as one astute reporter – Barry Bearak of The New York Times – reported in 2007, “The accelerating demand for education is mocked by the limited supply”. Interestingly, from 2001 onwards, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) invested only 5 per cent of its Afghanistan budget in education. The disconnect between supply and demand was glaring.’ 2

A RAND study conducted by top US diplomat James Dobbin brought out two most salient points regarding Afghanistan:

  • It is nearly impossible to put together a fragmented nation if its neighbours try to tear it apart, so every effort should be made to secure their support; and 2) Accountability for past injustices can be a powerful component of democratization, but it should be attempted only if there is a deep and long- term commitment to the overall operation.

Abbas says, “The international effort in Afghanistan in its early years was unimpressive on both counts. However, of more significance were the missed opportunities in the socio- political and economic arenas of the nation building project, which in turn opened up a chance for the Taliban to stage a comeback in the coming years. Afghans themselves were to be blamed, too, for failing to get their priorities right and to engage with donors more proactively.”

One of the biggest failures that laid out the ground for Taliban’s comeback was that the international community couldn’t help Afghanistan build an effective civilian law enforcement structure which is at the core of any democratic society.

Abbas highlights the fault lines in this regard and how this failure led to a situation where the resurgence of Taliban was just a matter of time as the ISI had already resurrected it and was getting ready to launch it back in Afghanistan under the nose of Americans: ‘Afghanistan needed an effective civilian law enforcement infrastructure to be built with the aid of police professionals, rather than rely solely on ‘stabilization operations,’ conceived and implemented by defence officials. Inter-agency disconnect in the US was at least partially responsible for missing this point. Even intelligence resources, a vital element in such a campaign, were not utilized appropriately. In the early months of the military campaign, only a handful of US State Department or other civilian officials were physically available in Afghanistan to conceive and plan any state- building efforts. To make up the shortfall, 13 teams of CIA operatives, whose primary job was to hunt terrorists, were asked to stay in remote corners of Afghanistan to coordinate the political efforts. The task they were given was beyond the capabilities of an organization that was well on the way to becoming a militarized intelligence outfit.

Reform of the security sector in Afghanistan fell to four states, each of which was assigned a specific field: the US was given responsibility for the military; Italy, the judiciary; Germany, the police; and Britain, counter- narcotics. These roles were interconnected, but apparently that was not enough to bring planners from those countries to a single table to think things through, and there was no effort made to develop any management structure that would oversee the four pillars. More specifically, as leading world expert on the subject Robert Perito laments, “None of the donors focused on the need to strengthen the one Afghan institution – the Interior Ministry – that would be responsible for overseeing and supporting the Afghan police.”

An Afghan National Police (ANP) force was belatedly sanctioned in April 2003 by presidential decree. Recruited in haste and rushed through training, the ANP only exacerbated the local capacity- building challenge. An International Crisis Group report of August 2007 substantiates this claim: “The state of the Afghan National Police (ANP) nearly six years after the fall of the Taliban reflects the international community’s failure to grasp early on the centrality of comprehensive reform of the law enforcement and justice sectors. In the absence of a dependable local police force, criminals had a field day. The Taliban couldn’t be far behind, but no one realized it until the Taliban revival became public knowledge.”3

(To be continued)


  1. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col. Harjeet Singh (Pp117)
  2. The Taliban Revival by Hassan Abbas (Pp 85-95)
  3. The Taliban Revival by Hassan Abbas (Pp89-92)

The post The Taliban Story: How international community failed Afghanistan, paved way for Taliban (Part 22) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

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The Taliban Story: Playing both sides: How Pakistan enabled revival of Taliban (Part 21) Thu, 23 Sep 2021 07:29:46 +0000 By Arun Anand This is the 21st part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 21st part- The Pakistan spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) played a critical role in enabling…

The post The Taliban Story: Playing both sides: How Pakistan enabled revival of Taliban (Part 21) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

By Arun Anand

The Taliban Story: Playing both sides: How Pakistan enabled revival of Taliban (Part 21)

Source: The Friday Times

This is the 21st part of the 30-part series on ‘The Taliban’. You can share your feedback at Here is the 21st part-

The Pakistan spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) played a critical role in enabling the revival of Taliban. Even as the US and allied forces had begun their war against Al-Qaeda and Taliban on 7 October, 2001 under Operation Enduring Freedom, the ISI had begun rescuing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives from the battle grounds in Afghanistan.

In fact, the Bush administration was either slow to recognize or had closed its eyes despite having a strong presence of CIA on the ground. It is intriguing for many as to why the US didn’t stop ISI from nurturing Taliban and the Al Qaeda even after 9/11. It was one of the biggest policy failures of the US and it paid a heavy price for this for almost a decade.

Even as the fight against Taliban was on during November, 2001, the ISI was airlifting Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives in hordes and bringing them back from Afghanistan to safe sanctuaries in Pakistan so that it could equip them again and turn them into a potent jihadi force.

Col. Harjeet Singh explains in (Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom),1 what happened at Kunduz between 16 and 26 November where US and Northern Alliance were fighting pitched battle against Taliban. “…The siege of Kunduz that began on November 16(2001) was continuing. Finally, after five days of heavy fighting and US aerial bombardment, Taliban fighters surrendered to Northern Alliance forces on 25-26 November. Shortly before the surrender, Pakistani aircrafts evacuated intelligence and military personnel who had been in Afghanistan before the US invasion to aid Taliban’s ongoing fight against the Northern Alliance. However, during this airlift, it is alleged that up to five thousand persons were evacuated, including Taliban and Al Qaeda troops allied to Pakistanis in Afghanistan.”

He further adds, “The Kunduz airlift involved the evacuation of thousands of top commanders and members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, their Pakistani advisers including Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agents and army personnel and other jihadi volunteers and sympathizers, just before its capture by the US and Northern Alliance forces. The Taliban and Al Qaeda combatants were safely evacuated by Pakistan Air Force Cargo aircraft to Pakistan Air Force bases in Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan administered Kashmir’s Northern areas.”  2

Clearly the ISI was running its own war against the US and did not want to leave Afghanistan until the last moment.  Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid says in his book ‘Descent into Chaos’, the request was made by Musharraf (Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan) to Bush (US President George Bush) but Cheney (US Vice President Dick Cheney) took charge. The approval was not shared with anyone in the US State Department including Secretary of State Colin Powell, until well after the event. Musharraf said Pakistan needed to save its dignity and its valued people. Two planes were involved which made several sorties each night over several nights. Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders and foot soldiers from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Al Qaeda boarded the planes. What was sold as a minor extraction turned into a major air bridge.3

Craig Whitlock pinpointedly questions the US policy towards ISI in The Afghanistan Papers, “After the terrorist attacks on the United States…. on the surface, Musharraf pirouetted swiftly and became a critical ally to the Bush administration…Yet the Bush administration was slow to recognize that Musharraf and the ISI were playing both sides. In Lessons Learned interviews, US officials said Bush invested too much personal trust in Musharraf. They said Bush glossed over persistent evidence, that the Pakistani military under Musharraf still supported the Taliban, using the same covert channels and tactics it had developed to help anti-Soviet guerrillas during the 1980s.”4

There were a few studies which were conducted on the ISI’s involvement in reviving Taliban during as the number of security incidents in Afghanistan documented by the United Nations grew tenfold between 2003 and the end of 2006. This was a clear indication of Taliban making a comeback. The question was how they were able to do it? Who was providing funds, training and sanctuary to them?

Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s apex security body National Directorate of Security under the Karzai government decided to conduct a field-based study on the revival of Taliban. The objective was to help Karzai and his allies make informed decisions when it came to handling Pakistan and Taliban. Saleh came out with a classified paper in May 2006 titled, “Strategy of Taliban”.

Saleh regarded Pakistan as an “India-centric country,” one that had never been “Afghanistan-centric.” He concluded, based on the limited circumstantial and hard evidence available, that I.S.I. had made a decision in 2005 to support the Taliban more actively, with cash and other aid, backed by covert subsidies from Saudi Arabia. It was the 1980s and 1990s all over again. The consolidation of Karzai’s government between 2003 and 2005 explained the timing of this Pakistani turn, Saleh judged. “What made them switch?” he asked. “Parliamentary elections, presidential elections, Afghan consensus [that] we will make the new order work, and the growing, positive relationship of Afghanistan with India.” In essence, Pakistan’s generals feared that Karzai’s legitimacy would steer Afghanistan toward a durable role as an Indian ally, with international backing, Saleh concluded. In a sense, both Pakistan and Afghanistan shared a dilemma: If they assumed the United States would not maintain a strong military commitment in the region for more than a few years, they had to manoeuvre now to construct alliances for a post–American scenario, recognizing that the region would almost certainly remain riven by the bitter conflict between India and Pakistan. 5

That Pakistan was preparing stage a future theatre of war was clear in a conversation between top US diplomat Ryan Crocker and the then ISI head Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.

Crocker recalled prodding Kiyani, as he often did, to crack down against Taliban leaders who were believed to have taken refuge in Pakistan. Instead of denying their presence, Kayani for once gave an unvarnished reply. “You know, I know, you think we are hedging our beets, you’re right, we are because one day you will be gone again, it will be like Afghanistan the first time, you will be done with us, but we are still going to be here because we can’t actually move the country. And the last thing we want with all of our other problems to have turned the Taliban into a mortal enemy, so yes, we are hedging our bets.6

Incidentally Saleh got it perfectly right in terms of forecast. He had said in his study that the mobilization of Taliban would intensify so much that by 2009, they would move forward from their rural strongholds and major cities like Kandahar would be facing a real threat of an attack from them.

The paper forecast that the Taliban would mount a full-fledged insurgency that would bog down Afghan and international troops. This would turn out to be largely accurate, except that the Taliban drive on southern cities occurred even faster than that. “The pyramid of [the] Afghanistan government’s legitimacy should not be brought down due to our inefficiency in knowing the enemy, knowing ourselves and applying resources efficiently,” Saleh warned.  Karzai was “extremely, extremely angry” about his findings. He ridiculed the predictions and asked him never again to call the Taliban “an insurgency.” Saleh told Karzai, “I hope time will prove me wrong.7

Alarmed over the growing incidents of violent attacks against the US and allied forces, Condoleezza Rice, then secretary of state in the Bush cabinet also commissioned a study of the Afghan war. It was conducted by David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer with a doctoral degree in guerrilla warfare.

Steve Coll raised a pertinent question in ‘Directorate S’, “Which side was Musharraf on? …. the C.I.A. continued to press Saleh to hand over evidence to I.S.I. so that Pakistan could round up suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives. The assumption was that the Pakistanis would make honest use of the N.D.S. intelligence. Around the time of his study tour, N.D.S. and the C.I.A.’s Kabul Station jointly provided to I.S.I. “a list of known locations, addresses, fund details, last known position of a number of senior Taliban folks,” as a senior Bush administration official involved described it. Some of the Taliban were under active surveillance. Within forty-eight hours, all of them moved. The Americans watched them disappear—they knew what had happened. Yet the Pakistanis just told them that their information was wrong.”

“When Kilcullen first voiced concerns similar to Saleh’s inside the administration, “People laughed at me.”  They thought he had gone native during his visits to Afghanistan, traveling out with Afghan security forces, absorbing their conspiracy theories about I.S.I. The conventional wisdom in the Bush administration remained that the Pakistani position was one of weakness and ineptitude, not malice toward the American project in Afghanistan,” he added.

(To be continued)


  1. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp51)
  2. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp51)
  3. Understanding Operation Enduring Freedom by Col Harjeet Singh (Pp51-52)
  4. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp82)
  5. Directorate S by Steve Coll (Pp216-217)
  6. The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock (Pp87)
  7. Directorate S by Steve Coll (Pp217-218)

The post The Taliban Story: Playing both sides: How Pakistan enabled revival of Taliban (Part 21) appeared first on The Nationalist View.

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