In Afghanistan, Taliban surpasses al-Qaeda

Discussion in 'News / Current Events' started by KenH, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. KenH

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    In Afghanistan, Taliban surpasses al-Qaeda

    Shifting power dynamic could influence where U.S. focuses firepower

    By Joshua Partlow
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    KABUL -- As violence rises in Afghanistan, the power balance between insurgent groups has shifted, with a weakened al-Qaeda relying increasingly on the emboldened Taliban for protection and the manpower to carry out deadly attacks, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.

    The ascendancy of the Taliban and the relative decline of al-Qaeda have broad implications for the Obama administration as it seeks to define its enemy in Afghanistan and debates deploying tens of thousands of additional troops.

    Although the war in Afghanistan began as a response to al-Qaeda terrorism, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of the group left in the country, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    The official estimated that there are 300 al-Qaeda members in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the group is based, compared with tens of thousands of Taliban insurgents on either side of the border.

    Yet officials and observers here differ over whether the inversion of the groups' traditional power dynamic has led to better or worse relations. Indeed, it may be bringing al-Qaeda closer to certain Taliban factions -- most notably, forces loyal to former Taliban cabinet minister Jalaluddin Haqqani -- and driving it apart from others, including leader Mohammad Omar's Pakistan-based group. The shifting alliances, analysts say, could have significant bearing on where the U.S. military chooses to focus its firepower.

    Although President Obama has said the United States must remain in Afghanistan because a Taliban victory here would mean a rapid proliferation of al-Qaeda fighters as they return to their pre-2001 sanctuary, Omar's faction seems to have distanced itself from al-Qaeda in recent months.


    And yet, Omar's Taliban, at least, may not want to repeat recent history, when his group's loyalty to al-Qaeda spoiled the Taliban's opportunity to defeat rival Afghan factions and rule the entire country.

    "If you debrief senior Taliban guys, they'll tell you that al-Qaeda stole the victory, because they were going to win prior to the World Trade Center attacks," the U.S. military intelligence official said. "The more they connect themselves to al-Qaeda, the less the population's going to welcome them back."

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    #1 KenH, Nov 11, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009

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