- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

A Taliban military commander said in a published interview that China is secretly assisting the ruling militia in Afghanistan.
Taliban commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani told an Urdu-language newspaper in Pakistan that the ruling militia's strategy is to conduct a long war aimed at entrapping U.S. forces on the ground.
Asked about the Taliban's relations with China, Mr. Haqqani said: "China is a good country. Taliban are in contact with it even now.
"China is also extending support and cooperation to the Taliban government, but the shape of this cooperation cannot be disclosed," Mr. Haqqani said in the interview published Oct. 22 in the newspaper Islamabad Pakistan.
A day later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi in Beijing dismissed the commander's statement as "a complete fabrication."
A U.S. official said China's contacts with the Taliban have been "limited" and "of questionable value," primarily related to economic matters.
Mr. Haqqani also said the United States is revealing its strategy "little by little" and that China will react to U.S. attempts to keep forces in the region.
The United States has set up a military base in Uzbekistan, a move that undermined China's goal of organizing several Central Asian nations under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
A representative of the Northern Alliance Afghan opposition said China has been supplying weapons to the Taliban for several years, primarily small arms.
Publicly, China's government has not opposed U.S. military action in Afghanistan but has said strikes should be limited to avoid civilian casualties.
China's Foreign Ministry said in response to a report in The Washington Times earlier this month that China "has not established any kind of official relations with the Taliban."
The comments were made in response to intelligence reports disclosed by The Times that two Chinese companies have been building a telephone switching network in Kabul for the past 21/2 years.
The Taliban also helped Chinese government agents recover pieces of U.S. cruise missiles fired during the 1998 U.S. raids on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The Chinese government denied getting the cruise missile technology.
An earlier Foreign Ministry statement of Sept. 15 said China closed its embassy in Kabul in 1993 because of safety concerns and has no "resident personnel" there.
Mr. Haqqani said the Taliban is braced for a long war against the United States and has a "sufficient stock" of arms left behind by the Soviet Union and from the United States. "We have shifted all these weapons from our garrisons to the mountains," he said. "Let the Americans drop their commandos and you would see how many casualties they suffer."
Asked about widespread international support for the United States' war against terrorism, Mr. Haqqani said it was "due to the coercion and terrorism of the United States."
However, he said some nations such as Russia, Japan, Iran, China and Libya want to see the United States stuck in a long conflict in Afghanistan. "These countries want Afghanistan to become the graveyard for the American soldiers," he said.
Mr. Haqqani said U.S. bombing and missile strikes have not been successful and that most casualties are civilians. There has been "no tangible military loss" to the Taliban, he said.
"We have evolved strategy for a long war and the United States will not be able to conquer Afghanistan even after fighting for two years," Mr. Haqqani said. "The fate of the United States will be worse than Russia. Our real war will begin the day the U.S. troops would land in Afghanistan."
About 20 to 25 Taliban soldiers were killed and a military helicopter and two passenger planes of the Ariana Airlines were damaged "while the rest of our planes and helicopters are safe," he said.
The Pentagon has displayed numerous bomb-damage photographs and video showing many more Taliban military facilities and equipment have been destroyed.
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other commanders "are safe and performing their duties," Mr. Haqqani said.
"This is because the American planes are dropping bombs from a very high altitude and they cannot dare to fly low," he said.
Mr. Haqqani said he was in Pakistan as part of his role as Taliban minister for tribal and border affairs.


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