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Afghan Taliban Stays Out of Pakistan Conflict

Aamir Latif

IOL, November 12, 2009

ISLAMABAD -- The resurgent and emboldened Taliban group in Afghanistan have refused to lend support to local Taliban fighters engaged in fierce fighting with security forces in neighboring Pakistan.

"We are fighting the occupation forces in Afghanistan. We do not have any policy whatsoever to interfere in the matters of any other country," Qari Yousaf Ahmedi, the Taliban spokesman for northeastern Afghanistan, told IslamOnline.net via satellite phone from an unknown location in Afghanistan.

"We have nothing to do with the war between Pakistan Taliban and security forces. Our only and sole goal is to oust the occupation forces from our land."

The army has unleashed a massive military operation against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of various local Taliban groups operating in Pakistanĺs northern tribal belt.

They two are locked in fierce clashes in different parts of troubled South Waziristan, the heartland of the TTP, with each side claiming inflicting huge losses on the other.

The army says it has captured various TTP strongholds in Waziristan, whereas the militants claim to have retreated only as part of a guerrilla war tactic.

Ahmedi denied Taliban sent fighters into Pakistan to help the local militants in their war against the security forces.

"This is untrue. We have never sent our fighters to fight alongside Pakistani Taliban," he told IOL.

Foreign media reported last month that some 1000-1500 Taliban fighters had crossed from the northeastern Paktia province into South Waziristan and joined hands with Pakistani Taliban in war against the Pakistan army.

"Itĺs their own business," said Ahmedi, asserting that their battle is against the foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"US and other foreign forces have attacked our land and our war is only against them. What is happening in Pakistan is none of our business."

New tactic

The Taliban Afghanistan spokesman denied media reports that his group has disavowed Pakistan Taliban.

"We have not taken any definitive decision in this regard," Yousaf said.

Mullah Toor, who described himself as an Afghanistan Taliban commander, reportedly told a foreign TV station that they have disowned Pakistan Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

"First of all, no commander named Mullah Toor is operating in Afghanistan alongside Taliban," Yousaf explained.

"Secondly, no policy statement can be issued by any Taliban commander except Mullah Akhund (deputy Taliban Chief)."

Security experts believe it would be hard for Afghan Taliban to completely embrace or disown Pakistani Taliban.

"If they own Pakistani Taliban, then they will lose the soft corner Pakistanis have for their struggle," explains Abdul Hai Kakar, a Peshawar-based security analyst.

"And if they disown it, then they will have to bear an internal rift, which could be disastrous for their war against foreign troops."

Kakar believes Afghan Taliban do not interfere in Pakistan affairs and have never sent fighters into the country.

"Afghan Taliban do not have good relations with Mehsud Taliban. In fact, they are much closer to Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur."

Mullah Nazir is the commander of pro-government Taliban based in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, while Bahadur is the commander of North Waziristan-based Taliban.

Both have decided to remain neutral in the army's war against TTP militants led by Hakimullah Mehsud.

"Even if the army launches an operation against Mullah Nazir and Bahadur, Afghan Taliban will not support them militarily too," contends Kakar.

:: Article nr. 59996 sent on 12-nov-2009 21:22 ECT


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