Never-Ending Struggle

Taliban fire off spring warning
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI – Recent Taliban operations in southwestern Afghanistan’s Helmand province and Pakistan’s anti-Taliban swoop in its southwestern province of Balochistan mark a broadening of the struggle into Pakistani territory.

The Taliban claim to have overrun the Kabul-installed administration in Nawzad district headquarters in Helmand and all surrounding villages.

This only confirms the belief among North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials that until a broader strategy is devised that takes in the whole region – including the Pakistani border areas – there can be no level playing field between NATO and the insurgency, and NATO will be the loser.

“The Taliban besieged NATO bases and offices of the Afghan administration [in Nawzad] during [the] whole winter season. We did not attack them because of the difficulties of a winter mobilization of men, and the sustainability of battle remains a problem,” Taliban commander Abdul Khaliq Akhund told Asia Times Online by satellite phone from Nawzad district. “Nevertheless, we just curtailed the mobility of the Afghan administration and NATO forces throughout the winter and it was a real blow to their morale.

“As soon as the summer started, we announced the end of the ceasefire with the [Hamid]-Karzai backed administration of Nawzad district and the Taliban and moved into district headquarters. I gladly inform you that the Taliban are now fully in control of Nawzad district headquarters and all villages around it.”

A NATO spokesperson in Kabul did not respond to an Asia Times Online request for comment on the Taliban’s claim to have taken control of Nawzad.

During a visit to Helmand province last November, this correspondent observed the ceasefire between the Taliban and NATO forces in Nawzad district (see Time out from a siege, Asia Times Online, December 9, 2006). NATO saw the ceasefire as a chance slowly and peacefully to extend the influence of NATO forces as well as the writ of the Afghan government. However, the scheme seems to have come to nothing.

“The fall of Nawzad is the start of the Taliban-led uprising in southwestern Afghanistan, and soon the entire province of Helmand will be in the hands of the mujahideen,” Abdul Khaliq claimed.

As events in Nawzad illustrate, the Taliban are unlikely to receive much opposition from Kabul-backed administrations across the province.

To stop the rot, as it were, NATO wants to take the fight into Pakistani territory – from where the Taliban receive logistical support – as its “ceasefire” tactics seem to have failed.

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