Rajat Sharma

How Pakistan trained elite Taliban force which captured Afghanistan

rajat-sir There is some good news from Afghanistan. The Taliban which had been celebrating its victory since August 15 has got a rude shock. The Northern Alliance led by Amrullah Saleh has recaptured three districts, Pol-e-Hesar, Deh Salah, and Banu districts in Baghlan province from the Taliban, after inflicting heavy casualties. This has been reported by Asvaka news agency on Twitter. Visuals of the liberation of these three districts by resistance forces have been posted on social media.

Amrullah Saleh, who has declared himself acting president of Afghanistan, replacing Ashraf Ghani, has appealed to all other Afghans to join the resistance force. There are reports of forces loyal to Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammed Noor joining up with the resistance forces led by Ahmed Shah to gain full control over the entire Panjshir region. This region is presently not under Taliban control. It could be difficult for the Taliban to recapture these districts soon.

Meanwhile, in Kandahar on Afghanistan Independence Day, and on Friday in Kabul, Taliban Special Force fighters wearing while shalwar-kameez uniform for the first time, took out flag march chanting slogans “Allahu Akbar”. These fighters have been reportedly trained by Pakistan. The Taliban fighters look like the mirror image of Pakistani commandos. Normally, Taliban fighters are not trained like soldiers of a regular army. With a rifle in their hand, these fighters only know one thing: shoot to kill. Nearly 318 km away from Kabul, in Kalat city of Zabul province, Taliban fighters wearing uniform came out to march, made videos and declared that Afghanistan will now be named as Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Watching visuals of these Taliban Special Force fighters, one can easily assume that youths from different Afghan tribes have been quickly given some training, asked to wear uniform and march. The old Taliban that we saw during the Nineties were a ragtag band of fighters wielding rifles. The new Taliban appears to be properly organized, trained and weaponized. Most of these fighters have been secretly trained by Pakistan army in the use of sophisticated weapons and physical combat. With Taliban gaining access to hi-tech warfare equipment given by the US to the former Afghan security and defence force, the combination is now lethal.

The Taliban Special Force fighters were carrying a new flag. This is the ninth flag used by Taliban, which has changed its flag nine times in the last 20 years. Earlier, Taliban fighters used to appear in group of four, sitting on pickup trucks, but the new Taliban wants to convey a fresh message to the world – that its army is organized, well-equipped, trained and uniformed. They now carry M4 carbines and M16 rifles given by the US to the Afghan army. These fighters were not trained overnight. They underwent training in use of weapons like any elite force of a regular army.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, I showed images and videos how Taliban Special Force was trained in Pakistan. When nearly 85 per cent of Afghanistan was captured by the Taliban, and the jihadist fighters were advancing towards Kabul, the world wondered how they could move so fast like a blitzkrieg. There was a valid reason behind this: the Afghan army was not facing the Taliban street fighters, but an elite, well-equipped special operation force and shock troops specially trained by Pakistan. These elite fighters were trained in mountain warfare, guerrilla war, special raids, desert combat and special operations. The terror group led by Sirajuddin Haqqani was the strike force for the Taliban when it entered Kabul. Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the former Taliban chief, late Mullah Omar, was said to be part of this elite force which entered the Presidential Palace.

There is no doubt that the Pakistan-based Haqqani group helped Taliban in dislodging an elected government in Kabul. The Haqqani network, with help from Pakistan army’s spy win ISI, provided training and weapons to raise the Taliban Special Force. The Taliban fighters were trained in man-to-man marking, close combat and face-to-face gunfight. They were trained in how to keep watch on enemy movements, gain tactical positions and then attack the enemy. When Taliban captured Afghanistan in 1996, its army was called an army of shepherds. The new Taliban has an elite force trained in modern warfare. They were given commando training in physical endurance, tactical warfare, storming and use of sophisticated weapons.

Nearly 40 years ago, the US had given a huge quantity of weapons and equipment to the Pakistan-based Mujahideen to throw out the Russian army from Afghanistan. The Russian air force could not face the Stinger missiles given to Mujahideen by the US. After Russian army’s exit, there was civil war in Afghanistan, and Taliban was born under the leadership of one-eyed Mullah Omar during the mid-Nineties with liberal help from Pakistan army. Saudi Arabia also helped Mullah Omar.

Taliban ruled Afghanistan for five years, when 9/11 terror attacks took place, planned and executed by Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, sitting in Afghanistan. The US attacked and then occupied Afghanistan in 2001, to drive out the Al Qaeda. The Taliban fighters took refuge in Pakistan. The new Taliban that has captured Afghanistan today has the Badri 313 battalion of fighters, equipped with night vision devices. They can carry out night time raids against the enemy with ease. The new Taliban fighters were given training in North Waziristan, the citadel of Sirajuddin Haqqani’s terror network. While going through the videos of their training, it is amply clear that the Taliban commandos were given extensive training by Pakistani military advisers and ISI officers.

People across the world are under the wrong impression that nearly 70,000 Taliban fighters, wearing sandals and torn shoes, forced a 1,30,000 strong Afghan army to surrender meekly. It is not so. These Taliban fighters, wielding US-made carbines and rifles, are well trained in combat. It can now be said that Pakistan fooled the US, its Western allies and the world. It gave shelter to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, supported Al Qaeda and trained the Taliban fighters. Pakistan also sent its own jihadist youths to fight along with the Taliban.

I spoke to some American army experts, who said, do not be under the wrong impression that all these happened during the last 15 days. The US had cut a secret deal with the Taliban two years ago, under which Taliban promised not to attack American troops any more. Citing facts, these experts said, in the last two years, most of the Taliban attacks were against the Afghan army, which had to bear casualties which it never faced in the previous 18 years.

Pakistan took full advantage of this situation and trained Taliban fighters at breakneck speed. Statistics make it quite clear that in the last two years, Afghan civilians faced maximum casualties, Taliban gained in strength and Pakistan’s interference increased. The US was only concerned with the interests of its troops and civilians in Afghanistan. The Afghan army, though it became big and unwieldy, lacked proper backup, logistics and supply lines. The army had to surrender meekly, but my guess is that the Northern Alliance is uniting its forces and is preparing to pose a big challenge to the Taliban.

One should listen to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday while virtually inaugurating beautification projects near the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat. Modi said, “empires founded on terror do not last, and such ideologies cannot suppress humanity for long”. He said, “destructive powers and thinking that try to establish an empire on the basis of terror may dominate temporarily, but their existence is never permanent. They cannot suppress humanity for a long time.”

The Prime Minister said, “This was true when tyrants plundered Somnath temple and it is equally true even today when the world is apprehensive of such ideologies. The destruction and reconstruction of Somnath temple over centuries is emblematic of the belief that truth cannot be defeated by falsehood and faith cannot be crushed by terror”.

Nearly one thousand years ago, in 1025, Mahmud of Ghazni plundered Somnath temple. This invader has come from Afghanistan. Modi made a correct linkage by pointing out that faith cannot be crushed by terror or force, and empires built on terror cannot last. In India, we have some short-sighted people who are euphoric over Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan. Leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi, Shafiqur Rahman Barq, Maulana Sajjad Nomani and poet Munawwar Rana, are harbouring the false impression that the Taliban has now changed. They fail to see the tears of thousands of Afghan Muslim women sitting with their kids outside Kabul airport, awaiting evacuation.

My question is: If Taliban has changed its spots, why are thousands of Afghan men, women and children yearning to leave their country for living a peaceful life abroad? Do the Afghans know Taliban better, or do Indian leaders like Owaisi, Barq and Nomani know the jihadist outfit better? The most shameful remark came from one of these leaders, who compared Taliban with India’s freedom fighters. Can the cruel bigots who torture women and children and brutally kill political opponents be called freedom fighters? You can differ on policy issues with the government or with Prime Minister Modi, but you cannot oppose democracy and humanity.

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