Taliban leaves tribal roots for Al Qaeda tactics
By Mark Sappenfield, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, August 1 edition
The Taliban has adopted more aggressive tactics – such as kidnappings and suicide bombings – imported directly from the Al Qaeda-led global jihad.:
[...] experts say that the Taliban's original reason for being – an intensely tribal brand of religious fundamentalism – has all but evaporated, as Muslims of all sects participate in a movement based less and less on traditional tribal values and increasingly on anti-Americanism and terrorism.
As a result, Pashtun tribal elders, long the best hope to negotiate the release of foreign hostages, including the Koreans, are increasingly being marginalized as the Taliban moves beyond its Afghan roots.
"This is a new strategy," says Ahmed Rashid, author of "Taliban." "There has been a progressive Al Qaeda-ization of tactics."
[...] During the [Korean hostage] crisis, Afghan leaders have repeatedly taken issue with the Taliban's shift in tactics. On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai denounced the kidnapping of women and "foreign guests" as unIslamic, and added: "This will have a shameful effect on the dignity of the Afghan people."
For Hajji Spandagul, a tribal elder from eastern Afghanistan, it is abhorrent. "This is not the culture of Afghanistan – to take women hostage, especially in the tribal culture," he says, waving his large, weathered hands forcefully. [...]
The goal [of the kidnappings of foreigners] is to spread fear among Afghanistan's international coalition, and the Taliban – like Al Qaeda in Iraq – has recognized the effectiveness of hostage-taking.
"NATO has said there has been no spring offensive," says Pakistani author Mr. Ahmed. "This is the offensive."
As with Al Qaeda's Madrid bombings, "the goal is to create opposition at home for some of these very fragile foreign governments that are facing opposition to their presence in Afghanistan," says Ahmed.
But it could also create problems for the Taliban in Afghanistan, where tribal leaders are still deeply respected.
"It was surprising to me that the Taliban did not accept the reasoning of the elders and important people of Ghazni," says Abdul Salam Raketi, a former member of the Taliban who is now a lawmaker, and was part of one of the government’s negotiating teams.
"It is really dangerous for the future of the Taliban," he says. "If people are supporting the Taliban a little, they won’t support them at all anymore because the Taliban did not listen to their elders in negotiations."
Elder Spandagul calls this the work of Chechens and Pakistanis who have come here to wage global jihad – and Afghan elders are powerless to stop them. In times past, tribes had their own militia, but these were disbanded with the establishment of the Western-backed government, and nothing has risen in their place. Many police patrols are unable to venture a mile from their posts.
Mr. Alizai of Kandahar recalls the day that a group of French soldiers came and asked why the Taliban were attacking from his district. "Because I have empty hands," he says. "If we don't have weapons how can we defend ourselves? They come and cut our necks."
It is the waning of a tribal culture that has governed the remotest corners of Afghanistan for generations, say elders. In areas so unconnected to the broader world, tribes still have a role to play in keeping order. But they are increasingly ground between a government seeking the trappings of a modern, centralized power structure and an insurgency seeking to further its own global ends. [...]