The Pakistan military had been on alert for possible Taliban reprisals after Pakistan finally expelled fighters from its tribal belt
By Ann Dunsmore
BBC News, Khost
So they went on their own, through the night to their destination, Central Asia. The plan was to make it to Qatar, then on to Europe. But about 1,000km away, six local police officers, of the thousand-strong Frontier Constabulary (FC), ran into Taliban fighters on foot in the middle of the night. This may sound unlikely, but the fate of hundreds of Afghan athletes, their officials and their families illustrates a key truth about their country: there are no safe havens. Up to 100 former “local sports administrators” and their families fled to Pakistan’s tribal belt after being warned by the Taliban to cancel a competition in Rawalpindi, a garrison city in the southern province of Punjab. The struggle for their fate follows a conflict over autonomy for the northern province of Sar-e-Pul. Having rebranded themselves as a government body, it is now reported to have become a “clearing operation” for an Islamic state. Illegal insurgents Taking charge Afghanistan’s indigenous insurgents – sometimes collectively known as the Taliban – emerged in early 2001 from radical Muslim clerics who objected to what they saw as the mujahideen-led invasion of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Their war aims were clear: to expel the Americans and create an Islamic state. To the north of the capital Kabul, fighting raged in the provinces of Baghlan, Kunduz and Kunduz province. Many former mujahideen fighters and warlords signed up to the ruling Taliban in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal, but as the years went by, the leadership began to drift away. The failed Northern Alliance did not reach control until 2003 When warlords competed for power with each other and organised the assassination of regional governors, the Afghan state came to a standstill. By the time US troops marched into Kabul in late 2001, only a small contingent of so-called “independent players” remained. A man with an ex-assassination warrant on his desk could get a job in government, but resistance fighters fought him every step of the way, with the goal of displacing the Western-backed central government. One such man was Abdul Qadir Azad. He commanded the independent Hazara tribe in Kabul, and had been in exile since the mujahideen invasion in the mid-1990s. Armed Taliban Shortly before the 2004 national elections, Mr Azad made the mistake of closing a radio station he had owned for years. Despite earlier assurances by the government that it was safe, the Taliban launched an ambush on the station, shot down four tractors and killed 32 of his security guards, as well as 14 Hazara people. They surrounded his home in the Soba district, and when armed insurgents came to the scene, Mr Azad recognised his prime target. Mr Azad’s press secretary and chief driver were kidnapped. Within a day, the coalition forces were on their heels and under fire. Mr Azad hid, in a room with his family. He made a phone call and alerted the US forces on the call and also faxed photographs and names of the kidnapped men to their Afghan counterparts. The men were waiting for the FCO in Khost to provide logistical support and Afghan troops to stop the abductors. Only then did the US troops and their local allies assist the Hazara people. Months after, these kidnappers changed hands. It’s only an example of how little it has been done
Hazaras’ human rights lawyer When there was fighting in the neighbourhood again during the recent Taliban insurgency, the local police chief of Khost, General Shafiqur Rehman, told the BBC about what had happened. He urged people to work together. Last August, Afghanistan’s interior minister announced a plan to regulate security in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency. The process includes appointing a commissioner for security ministries and launching an intelligence agency that will operate on the border with Pakistan. In September, Afghanistan’s new Defence Minister told the BBC that a border force would be established with Pakistan. That day will certainly come soon, but the complexities of the new home rule for warring parties like the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and tribal conflicts mean that the planning is already a far cry from being implemented.
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