- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan U.S. troops and their allies are finding it tough to pin down Taliban and al Qaeda remnants.
That fact was driven home by fighting that ended this week with little indication of who the enemy was or what gains, if any, had been made.
The military said the fighters were loyalists of rebel warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. But former Taliban officials and other Afghans in Kandahar province, site of the fighting, said the men were remnants of the Taliban. They even named leaders: Sirajuddin and Abdul Rahman.
Western intelligence, the United Nations and the rebels themselves say opponents of the United States and President Hamid Karzai have stepped up their recruiting and efforts to reorganize.
Former Taliban officials reported the emergence in Pashtun-dominated areas of a new administration of Taliban, the Islamic militants who seized most of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Their government was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition because it harbored Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda terrorist leader and mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the United States.
The warren of caves in southeast Afghanistan where hundreds of U.S. and Norwegian forces fought about 80 rebel fighters this week might have been a staging area, supply depot or hub, said Lt. Col. Michael Shields, the 82nd Airborne Division's operations officer for the Coalition Task Force.
Eighteen rebels were killed in what the U.S. military called its biggest assault since Operation Anaconda in March.
In the end, the caves didn't turn up any weapons and the fighters escaped, their identities still uncertain. Soldiers found mules, lanterns, blankets, food, fuel, water and vitamins in the cave.
"We have concrete evidence that forces were in that particular area," Col. Shields said.
Militants interviewed by the Associated Press say they are united against the coalition forces in Afghanistan. "Night letters," or political pamphlets, call for jihad (holy war) against the international forces.
Foes of the coalition and Mr. Karzai's government appear to be operating small, mobile training camps in the mountains along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda operatives appear to be conducting the training.
Pakistani militant groups are aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban. The backbone of the so-called Pakistani Taliban includes the groups Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In Washington yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell placed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group involved in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, on a list of 36 foreign terrorist organizations.
The coordinator of the Pakistani Taliban is Qari Akhtar, a graduate of an Afghan training center, said a former member of the Taliban who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Uzbek, Chechen and Tajik rebels in Afghanistan are led by Qari Tahir Yaldash, a deputy of slain Uzbek leader Juma Namangani, say rebel fighters.
The Taliban also have a new, secret administrative structure in ethnic Pashtun areas, former Taliban members say.
Such areas have been divided among former Taliban who are recruiting disgruntled young men.

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