By Editor Aug1,2023 #Al Qaeda #Taliban

The developments in the two Waziristans had been extraordinary.
Al-Qaeda had quietly reinvented itself there and was aiming to pass
on the benefit to the Afghan Taliban, to enable them tighten the
noose around the NATO troops who had been so sure of an easy
victory in Afghanistan. This was the first milestone Al-Qaeda had
passed in its pursuit of its targets.
Al-Qaeda created this situation from 2002 to 2005, so that in

2006 the Taliban in Afghanistan were able to make an impres-
sive comeback. This comeback tells the stunning story of the 2006 Taliban spring offensive and the emergence of a new cast of char-
acters. They have shocked a world that thought the Taliban had
become a relic of the past.
In 2006, Al-Qaeda had all but departed the scene. Its structures
were woven into the tapestry of the Taliban, and its immediate aim
was to have the Taliban emerge buoyant in Afghanistan. Further
strategy had to wait until that was achieved. Meanwhile, with
the Taliban regrouping in the Pakistani tribal areas and in contact
with the Iraqi resistance, the Taliban leadership in south-west
Afghanistan spent the better part of 2005 preparing for the coming
offensive. Their preparations included a high-frequency exchange of
training workshops with a group of emboldened veterans from the
Iraqi resistance. Collectively the Iraqis and Pakistanis compiled a
modified primer on the tactics of terror which should be deployed
henceforth by the pro-Taliban forces in Waziristan. These tactics
were widely disseminated among the scattered groups of heavily
armed tribal Pashtuns and the mosaic of ideological mercenaries.
Fighters of Arab, Uzbek, Chechen, and Afghan origin had regrouped after the fall of Kandahar at makeshift mini-bases south of the
border. These bases were located deep in the heart of the secluded
Pakistan-administered tribal areas of North Waziristan and South
Waziristan, in the porous underbelly of the Durand Line.2
Revitalizing the pro-Taliban groupings in the southwest, rather
than attempting to provoke an immediate all-Afghan uprising
against the Karzai government and its Western allies, was the
intended rationale of the now-celebrated spring offensive of 2006.

First, though, the unholy mess of internecine strife that had periodically plagued pro-Taliban groups in the area needed to be sorted out.
Reuniting and mobilizing seemingly disparate groups in these two
tribal areas became the immediate objective of Al-Qaeda, Mullah
Omar, and Taliban central command. The intended result was to
strike a life-threatening blow to the morale of the mighty US war
machine in south-west Afghanistan, and to proclaim mastery over
southern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s adjoining tribal areas to a
spellbound international audience. This would pave the way for the
comeback of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as a major regional force.
Despite the orchestrated hype, early spring 2006 witnessed no
more than the usual limited sporadic encounters in south-west
Afghanistan. In the tribal capital of South Waziristan, Wana, it was
widely held that the trumpeted Taliban spring offensive of 2006
would soon be extinguished, and that the continuing resistance
would peter out well before summer, leaving the Jihadis’ picture
of a resurrected Taliban “Kingdom of Heaven” in south-west
Afghanistan as a distant memory.

At the end of May 2006, an apparently insignificant low-profile
visit by an emissary from the Taliban central command to the bases
in Waziristan radically altered the existing balance of power in the
south-west. The emissary was a one-legged military commander
renowned for his diplomatic skills. His presence in the area in early
summer radically affected the perceived course of Taliban fortunes.
He was none other than Mullah Dadullah, a name that still arouses
a quiet reverence when it is whispered by military commanders on
either side of the divide in the south-western area of conflict.
Preparations for the Taliban’s spring offensive of 2006 had begun
a year earlier. The Taliban leadership concentrated on restoring relations once again with various elements of the political leader-
ship in Kabul, irrespective of whether these were US collaborators or dissidents. Fresh emissaries were also dispatched to the semi-
autonomous warlords whose changing domains spanned most of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Above all, strategic contacts were
initiated with the two important groups from amongst the militant
mujahideen factions that had earlier shared the honors in expelling
the Soviets from Afghanistan – the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA)
faction led by former prime minister and strongman Gulbaddin
Hikmatyar,3 and the Hizb faction led by the hardline orthodox
cleric Moulvi Younus Khalis.
Because of the hostility between the Hikmatyar and Khalis
factions, managing to attract both of these powerful groups of
mujahideen to join a common anti-Karzai platform would be a notable triumph for the new-vision Taliban diplomacy. An addi-
tional measure of success would be virtually assured for a grand anti-Karzai popular front by drawing in formerly hostile Pashtun
commanders, as well as their Tajik and Uzbek counterparts, to
synchronize actions with the resurgent Taliban force in south-west
Afghanistan through emissaries. The problem with this grand
strategy was the continued existence of infighting amongst the
pro-Taliban forces in North Waziristan and South Waziristan.
These potential recruiting grounds had failed to merge into a single
fighting arm, or to provide the requisite manpower and public
sympathy that was essential to the intended Taliban resurgence.
It is against this background that the significance of Mullah
Dadullah’s visit to the two Waziristans in the heart of Pakistan’s
FATA must be viewed. A failed offensive in the south-west could
lead cynical commanders and warlords across Afghanistan to write
off any prospect of a successful Taliban comeback in the future.
Mullah Dadullah was therefore keen to expend all of his energies
on ensuring that the spring offensive would not fail.
Mullah Dadullah was then 40 years old. With a long bushy beard
and sharply chiseled Kandahari features, he was one of the most
feared Taliban commanders in the region. With the spring offensive
expected to produce a visible change in Taliban fortunes, his unique
ability to mediate successfully between the warring factions would
add another feather to his military and diplomatic cap. He hailed
from the Helmand province of Afghanistan, in the area adjoining
Kandahar. In 1994 he had been undergoing a rigorous education
in a religious seminary in Quetta (the capital of Pakistan’s large
western province of Balochistan), but in response to the Taliban
call to arms, he left his religious texts behind and joined the Taliban
movement at its very inception in Afghanistan. He was wounded at
the Maidan Shehr front near Kabul, leading to the amputation of
his left leg. In recognition of the services he had rendered, Mullah Dadullah was then appointed as one of the key commanders on the
Northern Front, with a 12,000 strong force under his control.

In the late 1990s, to the surprise of many observers, Dadullah
inflicted a stunning and decisive defeat on the battle-hardened
veterans of the Hizb-i-Islami led by Hikmatyar, at Kunduz. In the
heady days before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, observers had
believed Dadullah to be a covert supporter of the Panjsheri warlord,
Ahmed Shah Masoud, but they were forced to a reassessment after
Dadullah successfully fought against Masoud’s forces during the
last year of the Taliban government. December 2001 brought the
invasion of the Northern Alliance and their Western allies, and
witnessed Dadullah entrenched in a Kunduz under siege.
A plethora of senior Taliban commanders negotiated with the
Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum for the safe passage of their
forces trapped in the north. Rashid Dostum betrayed many such
Taliban commanders by handing them over to the United States after
they had surrendered to him. Some of them are still languishing in
the confines of Guantanamo Bay. Dadullah made good his escape
in a way that was to define his distinctive brand of battle valor
and shrewd native intelligence. In a daring maneuver outside the
walls of Kunduz, he kidnapped one of Dostum’s key commanders,
using him as a human shield and releasing him only upon reaching
the relative safety of Kandahar. For the next three years Dadullah
would organize a series of wildcat operations in the ceaseless war of attrition that was being waged by Taliban elements in the south-
western theater. With the assumption of his role as Mullah Omar’s special envoy to the two Waziristans on the eve of the late spring
offensive of 2006, Mullah Dadullah swiftly rose to the top echelons
of the Taliban hierarchy (He was killed in 2007 in Helmand.) As his
popularity spread, it became clear that he was a man to be reckoned
What caused the reclusive Mullah Omar to select this one-legged
veteran for this critically important mission? Was his choice of
Mullah Omar governed by the trust factor, or was there sufficient
evidence available before the Taliban leadership that the energetic
Dadullah was uniquely suited to deliver results on a high-risk
mission, given his former relationships with many of the northern
commanders now seeking refuge south of the Durand Line? Or was
it simply his availability that proved to be the critical factor in the choice? Whatever the reason, results would soon justify the confi-
dence the tenacious Mullah Omar had placed in the wide-ranging skills of his trusted protégé.

The period between 2002 and the commencement of the spring
offensive in April 2006 witnessed the gradual resurgence of Taliban
power in south-west Afghanistan. The same period also witnessed
setbacks in the Karzai government’s attempt to bring about national
reconciliation and create an ethnically diverse coalition. At the same time, there was a heightened apprehension within the military estab-
lishment in Islamabad that the Taliban’s bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas had begun to radically transform the ideological topography
of the two Waziristans, leading to a strategic imbalance on the
Durand Line that the resurgent Taliban were certain to utilize to
their advantage.

Although the Taliban Central Command in adjoining south-
west Afghanistan loudly proclaimed that over 300,000 Taliban ideologues (read militants) would rise at a suitable signal from the
reclusive Mullah Omar, in reality the missing 300,000 ideologically
inclined militants had already been safely reabsorbed into the urban
and rural tribal demography of post-Taliban Afghanistan during
the period of the Karzai government. More critical to the future
success of the Taliban’s military fortunes would be the vanguard role
played by the few thousand pro-Taliban militants, in addition to the
rapidly dwindling group of approximately 4,000 foreign fighters –
Arabs, Chechens, Uighurs, Uzbeks, and Chinese – ensconced in the
mountainous Waziristan. It was they who would play a central role in leading the Taliban comeback, and mobilize the large and sympa-
thetic tribal populations in pursuit of their political and military aims.The tribe that formed the core of the Taliban support was the
Waziris. These were described as the “wolves” by military observers
of the “Great Game” (the strategic rivalry and conflict between the
British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central
Asia) 100 years ago. Their traditional rivals, the Mehsud tribesmen (the “panthers” of the “Great Game”) had kept their sympa-
thies with the Pakistan Army, providing a check to any strategic imbalance. After the army made a bloody incursion into South
Waziristan in 2004 which left scores of Mehsud tribesmen dead, the
tribe changed its allegiance from the Pakistan Army to the Taliban.
A couple of seasons of hard occupation had also driven the
commercially minded Dawar tribe (comprising occupational castes
including tradesmen and shopkeepers) to a stage of hostility towards
the Pakistan Army. Thus, as 2005 dawned, there were virtually no
major tribal groupings in the two Waziristans that had not hitched
their wagons to the Taliban cause.

Meanwhile, many Arab families had returned to their countries
of origin, while a large number of other foreign Al-Qaeda fighters
decided to embed themselves in the teeming cities of what tribesmen
refer to as the “settled areas” of Pakistan. From here they could
continue to wage their war against the United States and its
Pakistani allies. Some of these operatives are even today being held
behind the walls of Guantanamo Bay.
As mentioned earlier, the intervening years before the spring
offensive was characterized by the rise of the two organizations that were to prove central to the successful deployment, mobilization, and training techniques used by the pro-Taliban forces in the offensive. The first was the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami
(Secret Army of International Jihad), which concentrated on training
and ideological indoctrination of the new generation of Jihadis in
the region. The Jaishul al-Qiba was empowered to train Afghans
and foreign militants already present in the territory, in addition to
the tribesmen resident in Waziristan.
The second revolutionary organization that was established in
South Waziristan was Jundullah (Army of God: see page 6), which
was given the task of training militants who had originated from and
who would in future operate not just in the two Waziristans, but also
in the settled areas of Pakistan. The fortunes of Jundullah, however,
considerably diminished when it masterminded the attempted
assassination of a senior general in Pakistan’s coastal metropolis,
Karachi. The daring plan for a morning shootout was aborted,
and Jundullah’s high command was rapidly unmasked and arrested
en masse, signaling an end to its brief moment in the history of
revolutionary adventurism.
Although both organizations collapsed with relative speed in
Waziristan, they succeeded in training and disseminating the requisite
dose of militant ideology and military discipline to a generation of
new Jihadis. Trainees from these two organizations would, over the
next twelve months, effectively direct the middle-level cadre of the
pro-Taliban resurgence in the area.
Meanwhile in August 2003, a massive military operation with
gunship helicopters and ground troops started under the surveillance of CIA operatives. During the operations, all lines of communi-
cations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban members in various areas were disrupted, and dozens of Al-Qaeda members who were
confidently sitting in their South Waziristan headquarters, Wana,
were forced to flee to the cities of Pakistan, where they were later
arrested. The military operation played havoc with Taliban interests.

By Editor

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