Holbrooke: Only 5pc Afghan Taliban are hard-core militants

Only 5pc Afghan Taliban are hard-core militants: Holbrooke
By Our Correspondent
Thursday, 26 Feb, 2009

WASHINGTON, Feb 25: Only five per cent of the Taliban militants in Afghanistan are hard-core, others can be persuaded to abandon violence, says Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr Holbrooke, appointed a special envoy on Jan 22, however, opposes a similar engagement with the militants in Pakistan. He strongly opposed an arrangement Pakistan reached with the Taliban militants in Swat earlier this month, saying that this would allow the militants to rearm and regroup.

In a television interview, Mr Holbrooke said he agreed with an assessment that divided the Taliban into three groups: the hard core, about five per cent, those frustrated with the Afghan government, about 25 per cent, and those who joined the Taliban movement for guns or cash, about 70 per cent.

The US envoy quoted a cousin of the Afghan president as describing the 70 per cent of the Taliban militants as “mostly young, unemployed men, who either get paid by the Taliban to take up guns or they just love guns”.

Mr Holbrooke said that while there could be no negotiations with the hard core five per cent, others could be engaged. “The 25 per cent who joined because of perceived injustice or corruption from the government — that is our mission, to help the Afghan government eliminate those issues,” said the US envoy while explaining how the US planned to win over the Taliban militants.

“And the other 70 per cent, the floating people who pick up guns in a culture where guns are very popular and it’s a long-standing historical tradition, that you have to deal with by a much better public information programme.”

Mr Holbrooke said the US needed to reach out to at least a portion of the Taliban to make real progress in Afghanistan. “We have to, because, as everyone has said, you don’t — you can’t defeat the Taliban by a military victory, World War II style.”The US envoy also urged Pakistan to withdraw most of its troops from the Indian border and use them for fighting militants. “If you were to ask me the biggest thing we could do that would help everyone, it would be to get the Pakistanis to redeploy more troops to the western border,” he said.

He noted that Pakistan had deployed 120,000 regular army and 50,000 Frontier Corps soldiers on the western area. And far more, double or triple that, on the eastern border. “If they could shift more to the west, that would be critically valuable. And not just shift them in regular army formations, but train them for counter-insurgency,” he said.

“They are a regular army trained since independence to defend against India. And like the American army in Vietnam, they’re looking backward to the past wars, and not forward.”(Dawn)

Taliban alliance only against US, says Maulvi Nazir

* Tells South Waziristan elders Taliban factions will remain independent
* Wana tribesmen fear deal with Baitullah may cause Uzbek influx

By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: The top three Taliban factions in Pakistan have unified “only to act together against the United States”, Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir told Ahmedzai Wazir elders in South Waziristan in a meeting earlier this week, a tribal elder told Daily Times on Wednesday.

A delegation of Ahmedzai Wazir elders met Maulvi Nazir, the Taliban chief in Wana, to ask him why he had formed the ‘United Council of Mujahideen’ without consulting them, a senior member of the delegation said. “Gul Bahadar (the Taliban chief in North Waziristan) and I have reached an understanding with Baitullah Mehsud (the chief of the defuct Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) to fight the US together, because we are concerned over the surge in American troops in Afghanistan,” Nazir reportedly told the delegation. He denied the groups had joined hands against Pakistani troops.

US President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 additional troops into Afghanistan and Washington is currently meeting top officials from Islamabad and Kabul to put together a new strategy on tackling the Afghanistan problem.

Maulvi Nazir told the Ahmedzai Wazir elders that the understanding with Baitullah did not mean a merger of the three groups. “Each group will have its own independent status and emirates, and each group will be sovereign in their territory,” the Taliban leader said. Maulvi Nazir did say who had helped them forge the alliance, the delegation member told Daily Times. “I think someone from across the border may have influenced the move,” he added. The understanding comes despite serious differences between Maulvi Nazir and Baitullah Mehsud over Uzbek fighters among the latter’s ranks. The Ahmedzai Wazirs and Maulvi Nazir had made a peace deal in April 2007 after the latter flushed out the Uzbek men from the area. The new understanding alarmed the tribesmen the foreigners might return to their land. “We told Maulvi Nazir if his understanding with Baitullah brings any harm to our areas, then the peace accord we reached with him will also be in jeopardy,” the delegation told the Taliban chief, the elder said. (Daily Times)



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