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Taliban Factions Growing Along Afghanistan-Pakistan Border

October 3, 2006 at 6:45 PM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: And finally tonight, the resurgence of the Taliban. That was on the agenda last week, when the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan met at the White House. The two leaders have accused each other of failing to take action against the terrorist group.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, on a trip to Afghanistan, said the Taliban could not be defeated militarily and that a political settlement should be explored.

Tonight, the PBS program “Frontline” examines the Pakistan connection to the Taliban resurgence, especially in the Pakistani province of North Waziristan. Here’s an excerpt.

Controlling a devout following

ANNOUNCER: Throughout 2005, militants continued to use Waziristan to launch attacks across the Afghan border. In North Waziristan, analysts were focused on warlord Jalal-al-Din Haqqani, the former Taliban minister of tribal affairs. A top Taliban commander recently confirmed on Al-Jazeera that Haqqani has become a principal architect of the Taliban's current offensive.

AFGHAN FIGHTER (subtitled): Sheikh Haqqani and his sons are undoubtedly the battle commanders. They devise the military plans. He and I are in charge of things here.

ANNOUNCER: Haqqani is credited with introducing suicide bombing to Afghanistan.

AFGHAN FIGHTER (subtitled): Only ten minutes left until the operation.

ANNOUNCER: This video appeared on an al-Qaida Web site a few months ago.

AFGHAN FIGHTER (subtitled): How do you feel, Abu Muhammad?

"ABU MUHAMMAD," Afghan Suicide Bomber (subtitled): I feel a great calm.

ANNOUNCER: The driver is guided to his target, a convoy of two American Humvees, by a militant who kept his distance.

AFGHAN MILITANT (subtitled): Go on a little further. You'll see the Americans. May God accept you as a martyr, Abu Muhammad.

ANNOUNCER: "Frontline" was unable to confirm if any soldiers died in this attack.

AFGHAN MILITANT (subtitled): God willing, we will annihilate you until we die. Glory to God, his prophet, and the believers.

In search of Haqqani

ANNOUNCER: But Haqqani has attracted hundreds of suicide bombers to Afghanistan.

INTERVIEWER: Where does he get his money?

AFRASIAB KHATTAK, Human Rights Activist, Pakistan: I think it's Middle East money that is still coming in. He has very strong Arab connections. The supporters of al-Qaida think that they can bleed Americans in Afghanistan, and they think they can get a new front for the United States in the tribal areas. So they are investing money in this fighting.

ANNOUNCER: Fluent in Arabic, Haqqani has deep roots with Saudi intelligence, as well as with Pakistan's ISI and the CIA. During the anti-Soviet jihad, Haqqani received millions of dollars, as well as Stinger missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, explosives, and even tanks. Haqqani was also very close to bin Laden.

STEVE COLL, Author: He controlled this area south of the Khyber pass that was an obvious crossing point for volunteers like bin Laden who were based in Pashaur (ph). And it's not a coincidence that, when al-Qaida was formed along the Afghan-Pakistan border in the summer of 1988, its first camps were in Haqqani's territory. So bin Laden and Haqqani would have known each other for 15 years by the time bin Laden came across the border after Tora Bora.

INTERVIEWER: So he's running into the arms of a friend?

STEVE COLL: A brother.

Split allegiances

ANNOUNCER: Pakistan's ISI continued to work with Haqqani when he became a minister in the Taliban's government. In all, the ISI has worked with him for 20 years. The Americans have repeatedly asked them to capture or kill him.

INTERVIEWER: Could the ISI today, in your view, find Haqqani? Do they know where he is?

PROF. BARNETT RUBIN, Author, "The Fragmentation of Afghanistan": I'm sure that the ISI knows where Haqqani is. That does not mean that it would be easy for them to arrest him.

INTERVIEWER: Why not?

BARNETT RUBIN: Because Haqqani has many men who are very loyal to him, including many members of the ISI.

INTERVIEWER: So where does that put the ISI? Whose side are they on?

BARNETT RUBIN: Well, I think the ISI is on the ISI's side.

INTERVIEWER: Haqqani, why don't you arrest him?

MUNIR AKRAM, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N.: Well, I think Jalal-al-Din Haqqani, if he's found, I'm sure he will be arrested.

INTERVIEWER: But the ISI certainly is a very capable organization with longstanding ties to Haqqani. Even post-9/11, you were talking to him. Why not arrest him?

MUNIR AKRAM: Arresting him might be something that we will have to do, but I'm not sure whether we know where he is or whether we are capable at this time.

ANNOUNCER: According to the U.S. military, Pakistan has not arrested any senior Afghan or Pakistani Taliban leaders.

STEVE COLL: When the Pakistan army is fighting the Taliban, they're fighting cousins, they're fighting brethren. They're bound by language; they're bound, in some cases, by tribal identity.

Pashtun identity, tribal identity -- they're very complex and difficult for outsiders to fully map -- is, whenever encountered, a very powerful source of pride and personal identity.