Foreign fighters headed back to Afghanistan

NY Times:

Afghan police officers working a highway checkpoint near here noticed something odd recently about a passenger in a red pickup truck. Though covered head to toe in a burqa, the traditional veil worn by Afghan women, she was unusually tall. When the police asked her questions, she refused to answer.

When the veil was eventually removed, the police found not a woman at all, but Andre Vladimirovich Bataloff, a 27-year-old man from Siberia with a flowing red beard, pasty skin and piercing blue eyes. Inside the truck was 1,000 pounds of explosives.

Afghan and American officials say the Siberian intended to be a suicide bomber, one of several hundred foreign militants who have gravitated to the region to fight alongside the Taliban this year, the largest influx since 2001.

The foreign fighters are not only bolstering the ranks of the insurgency. They are more violent, uncontrollable and extreme than even their locally bred allies, officials on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border warn.

They are also helping to change the face of the Taliban from a movement of hard-line Afghan religious students into a loose network that now includes a growing number of foreign militants as well as disgruntled Afghans and drug traffickers.

Foreign fighters are coming from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps also Turkey and western China, Afghan and American officials say.

Their growing numbers point to the worsening problem of lawlessness in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use as a base to train alongside militants from Al Qaeda who have carried out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe, according to Western diplomats.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented level of reports of foreign-fighter involvement,” said Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, deputy commander for security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “They’ll threaten people if they don’t provide meals and support.”

In interviews in southern and eastern Afghanistan, local officials and village elders also reported having seen more foreigners fighting alongside the Taliban than in any year since the American-led invasion in 2001.

...

At the same time, Western officials said the reliance on foreigners showed that the Taliban are running out of midlevel Afghan commanders. “That’s a sure-fire sign of desperation,” General Champoux said.

...

It appears the jihadis are no longer distracted by Iraq. They also have the problem of having lost their rat lines through Anbar province and most of the support network in Iraq. The return of the extremist to Afghanistan could be one reason why Afghan tribes are also looking to make a deal.

These people were never popular in Afghanistan even when the Taliban were in charge. Bin Laden talks about the mistakes made by al Qaeda in Iraq, but al Qaeda and the Taliban made the same mistakes in Afghanistan and that is one reason they took so long to come back to the area. For now anyway they still have their rat lines from Pakistan.

I think we can expect to see them alienating the locals and drive them into our camp.

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