Hundreds of foreign insurgents lead, train Taliban in Ghor
FEROZKOH (Pajhwok): Foreign militants are leading the Afghan Taliban and training them on making bombs in Ghor, officials say, accusing the fighters of trying to create a huge base in the western province.
Public representatives and security officers warn the insurgents, if not stopped in their tracks, will be able to capture more areas and travel freely among Ghor, Faryab and Sar-i-Pul provinces.
Fazlul Haq Ihsan, the provincial council chairman, says the Taliban are seeking to ratchet up their activities by setting up a base in Char Deh district. “Their hideouts in Ghor are known, but the government refuses to take steps against them.”
A resident of the district, Ihsan told Pajhwok Afghan News the Taliban were openly calling people to jihad. The rebels are in control of Murghab, Charsadda and Dawlatyar districts, into which government officials cannot venture.
The public representative acknowledges the militants have emerged stronger, capturing the Ghalmin area on the outskirts of Ferozkoh -- the provincial capital. The rebels are allegedly collecting toll tax on the main road.
With the number of security personnel in Ghor inadequate, illegal gunmen also pose a threat to residents. Combating the Taliban in mountainous province is no easy task, he explains, suggests Afghan army troops from Herat be sent to Ghor for a massive clearing operation.
About 2,600 Taliban are currently active in Ghor, according to security officials, who claim most of the insurgents are hiding in Charsadda and Murghab districts.
But last year, ex-governor Syed Anwar Rehmati had said 1,700 militants from 173 different groups were present in the province, but their number has now gone up to 2,440. As the 2014 electoral process dragged on, the Taliban planned a series of destabilising operations in Ghor.
Two years ago, local authorities say, the number of illegal gunmen kinked to 130 groups stood at 6,000. However, the figure has no declined to 4,500, having links with 130 outfits.
They tie the reduction to the strengthening of the government’s writ in the province with public cooperation and greater attention being paid to the security sector as a result of pressure from the people.
Col. Mohammad Zaman Azimi, the deputy police chief, reveals the Taliban have set up a base in the Dayee Dara area of Charsadda. About 100 fighters, including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks, are active on the base.
He adds: “The foreign militants, who have recently come here, are leading the local Taliban and urging the people to join jihad,” the police officer alleges. He believes the terrorists are in a bid to strengthen their position in Faryab and Sar-i-Pul from Ghor.
In Murghab and Dawlatyar districts, he admits, insurgent operations have escalated. The militants, including the Taliban’s shadow governor for Helmand province, are asking locals to launch jihad in Charsadda.
The government, meanwhile, is in talks with residents and has appointed a new police chief for the restive town. Col. Zaman says the people have promised cooperation with the security forces against the terrorists of all stripes.
“We plan a push against the militants in near future to prevent them from setting up any base,” he continues, saying the centre will pose a threat to the northern zone as well. He is determined to nip the evil in the bud.
Waqif, a civil society leader in Ghor, verifies a Taliban presence in the provincial capital and eight districts. The fighters can be seen even in areas on the periphery of Ferozkoh to collect Zakat, Ushr and unlawful taxes from residents -- so much so that they are paid for resolving disputes among the people.
He says some officials also give cash to the guerrillas. “In areas under their control in Pasaband and Teura districts, the Taliban have barred girls from going to schools, which have been closed. A dozen girls’ schools have been shut in Teura alone.”
While opposing the government’s education system, the Taliban consistently say they do not prevent students from going to school. Waqif deplores the authorities, barring action in case of attacks on security posts and district centres, have not yet conducted decisive operations against the resurgent fighters.
Much to the detriment of civilians, the Taliban plant roadside bombs in areas outside their control, he says. All roads leading to Charsadda have been mined, he regrets, explaining only supporters of rebels can travel the routes. The government airlifts its personnel and supplies to and from the troubled areas.
Waqif reveals the Taliban are selling bombs to the people who plant them against their enemies -- an issue that needs urgent attention from the government.
A dweller of the Shah Joi village of Dolina district says: “We are tired of Taliban’s cruelty, but have no escape route. In some areas, residents did take up arms against them, but the government failed to support them.”
Bombs planted in fields, meadows and roads cause civilian casualties, he claims, referring to the killing of farmers and schoolchildren in such incidents earlier in the year. He confirms forcible Zakat collection from the locals and imposition of arbitration fees on them.
On the other hand, the insurgents deny forcing the people into giving them Zakat and Ushr. The militants say some people willingly support them.
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