Excerpts from Claudio Franco's Taliban explain how and why they fight:
The unit's commander, who gave his name as Musa Khan, was a short, lean 40-something man sporting the mustache-less beard of hard-line militants.
Musa Khan said his unit had 25 to 30 fighters, a handful of whom were deployed on the hilltops surrounding the interim base, securing all the potential access routes to the camp. This is how the Taliban operate in the eastern provinces, Musa Khan explained through a translator that they are organized in
groups of 20 to 40 lightly equipped men who are extremely mobile and effective in this rugged terrain.They can move across their zone of operations -- from Karongal to Shaygal in the north, Chowki to the south, Nuristan to the west and the mountainous Kamdesh area along the Pakistan-Afghan border to the east, in essence almost anywhere in the 3,000-square-mile region -- in a matter of hours, invisible to anything but helicopters. "And those can't fly too low," he said, pointing at the rocket-propelled grenade launcher by his side.
Over the years, Musa Khan has learned to trust the stringent logic of hit-and-hide tactics:
The U.S. helicopters cannot land if we are around, and they can't always target us from the air. They know we only need a split second to hit them and disappear. We only assemble with other units for large-scale attacks. With a few hours' advance notice, we can be virtually anywhere in the province. Once we have split up, it's extremely difficult to locate us without risking being hit.
The movement's leadership is growing in confidence, the commander said, and the same applies to the rank and file:
There are five young men ready to enlist for every fighter killed by coalition forces, and this is something you can't buy with money.Enlistees also get paid approximately $140 per month by the Taliban, compared to $100 paid by the Afghan National Army.
Afghanistan has grown used to being the victim of others' foreign policy interests. NATO's expansion to the east is a sign that the U.S. is tired. Bush's strategists think that fighting under NATO command will shield the U.S. from the backlash resulting from their eventual defeat in Afghanistan.Away from their commander, the mujahedeen were remarkably talkative. Hamid, whose black, Kandahar-style turban stood out among the ubiquitous pakol, the traditional felt berets of the Afghan east, knew about "a constant flow of arrivals from Pakistan" -- they were Arabs, he said, but he didn't know precisely where they came from.
Some of them stay for six months and then go back, nobody knows where. They pay a lot to get in and out. None of them will talk, but they come here to train, I guess. Al Qaeda has its own network in Konar and Nuristan (provinces); they don't need us.Hamid said the Afghans and the Arabs have a common enemy, but don't necessarily like each other. He described the Arabs as firebrand Islamists who don't obey orders and are obsessed with martyrdom.
They won't stop shooting even when they are told to. And they always write messages home before a battle -- they get ready to die. I know them well, and I don't like them; they just don't trust Afghans.The fighters are confident about the conflict's outcome.
The American troops move slowly, they carry pounds of body armor and equipment. You can't win if you can't move on these mountains. Their helicopters are the only real danger for us, but we have learned how to hit them, even without Stingers.Musa Khan said he is convinced that growing numbers of Afghans would prefer a return of the Taliban and strict Islamic rule:
You must understand, that one Arab is worth 10 Afghans in terms of religious zeal. They truly hate the West and all Westerners, without exception. They would never allow the press on these mountains. They are not fighting our war, but their own personal jihad. Protecting their own people and achieving martyrdom are their first priority.
Our people have learned the truth about (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and his democracy. The Taliban are an alternative to corruption and incompetence. We aim to be a political movement, but won't disarm until the last infidel is gone. Afghans don't need democracy, but the return of the Islamic Emirate.
It's just a matter of how many corpses the American public will need before realizing that 'Enduring Freedom' was definitely a bad idea. It took 10 years for the Russians, and you are already halfway through. Do you really want to be as stupid as the Russians?