Afghan awakening--Taliban tribe ready to join our side?
An Afghan tribal leader is in talks to defect from the Taliban and take thousands of armed tribesmen with him to fight alongside British forces in southern Afghanistan.It appears they are secret no more. Do you think the Taliban check the Telegraph web site? This is an interesting development that should spell more trouble for the Taliban and al Qaeda. The key now will be if we can create a cascading effect as we did in Anbar and then throughout Iraq. With the kind of losses the Taliban have been sustaining for the last two years, it is not surprising that many would want to get on the side of the strong horse.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.
Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.
Military sources said British forces in the province are "observing with interest" the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq's western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa'eda allies.
The Afghan deal would see members of the Alizai tribe around the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala quit the insurgency and pledge support to the Afghan government. It would be the first time that the Kabul government and its Western allies have been able exploit tribal divisions that exist within the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
According to tribal elders in Helmand and Western diplomats in Kabul, Mullah Salaam had been attempting to negotiate with the Afghan government in secret.
But details of the talks were leaked late last week to his erstwhile allies and this reportedly led to a split in the Taliban ranks.
Other Taliban leaders have since plotted to assassinate Mullah Salaam. "Mullah Abdul Salaam is very influential and he has the support of thousands of our tribe," said Haji Saleem Khan, the head of the Shura (or tribal council) of the Alizai in Helmand.
"When the Taliban found out that he planned to join the government three days ago they tried to kill him. But they have failed.
''These negotiations are still secret. We are going to see the government again today."