- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse) Without the support of the Afghan population and a decent logistics network, Afghanistan's Taliban militia will only be able to mount limited guerrilla operations in the country, according to U.S. experts.
While some Taliban leaders received much of their training fighting in the resistance against the Soviet army one of the most effective guerrilla campaigns in history conditions in the wake of their rout by the Northern Alliance have put them in a very different situation.
"Guerrilla war feeds on popular support," says Ali Jalali, an authority on military questions in Afghanistan. "The guerrillas live among people, get support from the people, get shelter, supplies, logistics from the people. If you do not have this popular support, guerrilla warfare is not possible.
Mr. Jalali, who today heads Voice of America's Farsi-language service, is a former Afghan army colonel, an officer between 1979 and 1982 in the resistance against Moscow and author of a three-volume military history on Afghanistan.
"Al Qaeda and [the] Taliban are likely to go to the remote areas, but it does not mean that they're going to be able to wage a long guerrilla war," says Mr. Jalali. "They do not have popular support, except maybe in little, easy-to-spot areas they don't have supply lines."
Leaders of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror organization and of the Taliban militia have fled in the face of a major operation conducted by the opposition Northern Alliance with the backing of U.S. forces.
The Taliban is trying currently to negotiate surrenders of its last remaining strongholds and U.S. aircraft pound its positions around the besieged city of Kunduz, its last holdout in northern Afghanistan.
"During the Soviet occupation, the resistance was waging a very successful guerrilla war because first of all people supported them, the international community supported them, there was a long line of communications and logistics. It's a totally different game now," Mr. Jalali points out.
Pakistani intelligence services have told reporters that the Taliban troops have begun to move back toward Nangahar, Paktia, Zabul, Ghazni and Ourouzgan, in the south and west of the country, places where the Islamic fighters fought a tough war against the Soviets.
Other militia members have now entered Pakistan, into tribal zones that do not come under Islamabad's direct rule.
During the 1980s, "the mujahedin had sanctuary in Pakistan, United States backing and the near-total support of the Afghan people," Larry Goodson, a university scholar who specializes in Middle East and south Asia politics, wrote in a New York Times commentary.
"None of this applies to the Taliban. After the Taliban are driven from all the Afghan cities, their most dedicated elements might try to fight from mountain strongholds as guerrilla warriors. But without wide local support and help from the outside, they will be able to make only limited forays," Mr. Goodson said.


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