- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Taliban military commanders in key border provinces of Afghanistan are plotting to mutiny against the regime, former allies from the guerrilla war against the Soviet Union said yesterday.
Anti-Taliban leaders based in neighboring Pakistan say they are in touch with the commanders, who are their tribal cousins or former brothers-in-arms in the struggle against the Soviet occupation.
The commanders are reported to be holding regular meetings in their villages and camps and are ready to move against the Taliban at any time.
The threat of American military action and the Taliban's refusal to give up Osama bin Laden means the commanders are no longer willing to operate under Taliban command as they have for five years.
Former unit leaders based in Peshawar are also said to be preparing to come out of retirement and cross the border to combat the Taliban in a belt of eastern provinces bordering Pakistan.
"These provinces are very vulnerable. They are in walking distance from the border, and we can easily get our weapons in. They are the gateway to Kabul, and once we start, the Taliban will easily fall apart," said Qazi Amin Waqar, a former mujahideen leader and minister in the government ousted by the Taliban in 1996.
He and other exiled opposition leaders communicate regularly with associates inside Afghanistan by satellite telephone or via messengers traveling up to 12 hours by foot across the mountainous frontier. "It is just a matter of timing; they are ready for the word to go," Mr. Qazi Amin said.
The uprising would probably begin in and around Jalalabad, his home city and capital of Nangarhar province, and spread west into Kabul and south into Paktia and Paktika provinces, where the Taliban has already agreed to devolve authority to tribal elders to try to hold on to power.
The provinces are dominated by the same Pashtun ethnic group as the southern-based Taliban, but have an independent tribal tradition that has never more than tolerated the militia's control.
The Taliban's adversaries realize that fear of American military attacks has created an incomparable opportunity to topple the puritanical regime.
Pakistani newspapers have reported efforts by Ismail Khan, another former anti-Soviet leader now exiled in Iran, to attack Kandahar, the headquarters of the Taliban in the south. Western powers are said to have encouraged him to use old contacts to exploit divisions within the Taliban.
Afghans based in Peshawar have been told in telephone calls from friends in Kandahar that most Taliban officials have fled to the hills and that Mullah Mohammed Omar has left the city in fear of his life and never spends two nights in one place.
The Americans have made it clear they do not want to be seen as the sponsor of any one particular force, especially the Northern Alliance.
Though it has provided the only active resistance to the Taliban for the past five years, the alliance, thanks to its support from the hated Russians, has scant credibility in areas beyond its control.
"Once we have got rid of the Taliban the other problem, Osama bin Laden, will be taken care of. We will not tolerate foreign terrorists on Afghan soil," Mr. Qazi Amin said.
Sayed Ishaq Gilani, an Afghan patrician and major supporter of efforts to bring back former King Mohammed Zahir Shah to lead a government of national unity, said: "People are mobilizing, the commanders are meeting day and night, they are planning attacks on the Taliban.
"They have the guns and ammunition. They have contacted me and asked for political and financial support. I have passed this message on to representatives of Western countries here.
"We don't need much. For the price of two to three cruise missiles we could take care of this. It would be so much cheaper for the U.S. and better for our country than if they invade. There is a danger any new government would be seen as a new puppet, and we don't want any more puppets in Afghanistan."
Mohammed Nadir, 75, a village head from Paktia, arrived in Peshawar by road over the weekend to consult Mr. Sayed. He said: "Everyone opposes the Taliban."

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