Pakistan and the Taliban: Itís Complicated
Pakistan and the Taliban
When they were expelled from Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and NATO forces in 2001, the Taliban shifted from a governing body to an insurgency. Currently they operate in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan fighting the elected government, its army and NATO security forces. Pakistan was integral during the formation of the Taliban, and some elements of Asif Ali Zardariís government are alleged to still be in collaboration with Taliban leaders.
Central to the Talibanís creation was Afghanistanís struggle against the Soviets during the 1980ís. The United Statesí Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistanís Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) trained and supplied almost all of Afghanistanís freedom-fighters, the mujahideen. Pakistanís ISI continued to train Taliban fighters during their rule of Afghanistan during the mid to late 1990ís. It was only after the September 2001 attacks on the United States that Pakistan formally renounced the Taliban and their associates, Al Qaeda.
During the decades of instability in Afghanistan, many refugees came to western Pakistan where Pashtun heritage supersedes national borders. Pashtuns comprise the majority of the Talibanís command structure and many were trained by the ISI and reared in Pakistani madrassas, or Islamic schools. The Talibanís commander himself, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is believed to have studied at a madrassa in the Pakistani city of Quetta. More than any other Pakistani political body, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) has constructed thousands of madrassas and openly supports the Taliban and their radical objectives. The JUI is a recognized Pakistani political party and is represented in the National Assembly. The party enjoys strong support in Pakistanís western Pashtun regions.
These western regions of Pakistan are usually referred to as Ďtribal areasí and are officially comprised of Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As stated, these western Pakistani states are influenced by the JUI and the Taliban, and quantifiably support the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In the late 1990ís as many as one dozen madrassas in the North-West Frontier Province, representing over 8,000 students, closed and sent their constituents into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. In December of 2007, the Taliban formally birthed Tehrik-e-Taliban, an operational Taliban body in Pakistan.
The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan
The Tehrik-e-Taliban had been operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan for at least five years before being formally consolidated. Tehrik-e-Taliban is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is backed by tribal chiefs from all of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and a few from the North-West Frontier Province. Experts place their strength at between 30,000 and 35,000 Taliban operators. These Taliban elements are concentrated in Waziristan, a region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that claimed to be an Islamic state in 2006. The Pakistani government has recognized this Taliban presence as an entity, but not a legal state.
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