- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban has evolved “tactically, ideolog- ically and strategi-cally” since 2001, shifting from a home-grown Islamist organi-zation to become “part of the global jihad,” says a nephew of President Hamid Karzai who runs an anti-terrorism center.

The embrace of a pan-Islamist ideology has accompanied the group’s adoption of tactics such as suicide attacks and roadside bombs that have been perfected in Iraq, said Hekmat Karzai, head of the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS).

The Kabul-based organization, which focuses on terrorism and security analysis, has recorded almost 50 suicide attacks this year, doubling last year’s total.

Suicide bombings, once virtually unknown in Afghanistan, have killed more than 30 people this month alone.

Accusations that many of the attacks are organized in neighboring Pakistan led to a public name-calling rift in Washington this week between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai before both leaders sat down to dinner with President Bush at the White House on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld spent last week in Europe, seeking additional troops to bolster a NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

More than 140 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year.

Suicide bombers first appeared in Afghanistan on Sept. 9, 2001, when two Arab al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists killed the charismatic Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Mr. Karzai said he thinks al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was doing the Taliban a favor by eliminating its most capable adversary ahead of expected U.S. reprisals for the World Trade Center attacks, which followed two days later.

The Taliban has since evolved to view itself as “part of the global jihad,” Mr. Karzai said in an interview. “The Taliban that we knew before was not the same Taliban tactically, ideologically and strategically.”

He said it and other militants had regrouped in lawless areas across the Pakistani border, where al Qaeda operatives trained them in suicide and roadside bombing tactics that had been perfected in Iraq.

Total Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have risen from 85 in July to 136 in August and are on a pace to top 150 this month, according to CAPS figures.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported in May that foreign militants with experience in Iraq had encouraged Afghan insurgents to adopt more Iraqi-style tactics by offering large bounties for the deaths of U.S. soldiers. Videos of Iraqi kidnapping victims being beheaded are also said to be shown.

The same Taliban that banned television while in power has turned to modern communications technology to attract followers and sow fear in rural areas, according to CAPS.

Mr. Karzai said the movement now spreads its propaganda on jihadist Web sites and on radio, where it finds willing listeners among illiterate Afghans fed up with a weak government that has failed to deliver security and basic services.

As in Iraq, Taliban militants have also set up bogus checkpoints on main roadways killing Afghans they accuse of collaborating with the state or international forces. CAPS documented one instance in which clean-shaven Taliban disguised as police pulled over a bus and asked passengers if they worked for the government; those that stepped forward were never heard from again.

“The copy cat element is probably being used,” Maj. Luke Knittig, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, told United Press International.

Conceding the threat “can ultimately be defeated, but not entirely eliminated,” Maj. Knittig said that violence-weary Afghans were not likely to put up with being victimized by indiscriminate Taliban violence.

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