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Taliban Appoint New Military Chief     08/30 06:18

   ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Taliban have appointed a new military chief as the 
insurgents try to gain ground rather than talk peace under a new leadership, 
Taliban officials said in telephone interviews over the weekend.

   They said that the appointment of Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, once a close ally of 
Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar, heralds a commitment to confrontation at 
a time when multiple governments are trying to coax the Taliban to the 
negotiating table.

   Sadar is a battle-hardened commander, who gained prominence among Taliban 
foot soldiers following the movement's overthrow in 2001. The two officials 
both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak 
publicly for the Taliban.

   Sadar's appointment coincides with an uptick in Taliban attacks against 
Afghan security forces. The United States has sent additional troops to 
Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, where its capital, Lashkar Gah, is 
under pressure. The provincial council head Kareem Atal earlier said roughly 80 
percent of Helmand is already under Taliban control.

   So far this month, Taliban fighters have attacked Afghan security forces in 
northern Kunduz province, briefly taking control of a district headquarters. 
The militants also overran a district in northern Baghlan province and in 
eastern Paktia province. Meanwhile, in eastern Nangarhar province, Taliban 
militants are fighting pitched battles with security forces. Afghanistan's 
Ministry of Defense says its security forces are waging operations in 15 
provinces.

   Mohammad Akbari a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, which is 
tasked with talking peace with insurgent groups, said there has been no 
progress in talks since Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a 
U.S. drone strike in May in Pakistan. Mansour was succeeded by Mullah 
Haibatullah Akhundzada, and the notorious Haqqani network gained a prominent 
role in the leadership structure.

   "I can't see any green light toward peace by the Taliban for Afghanistan and 
instead we have seen an increase in their fighting in the provinces," Akbari 
told The Associated Press.

   Since Mansour's death, Pakistan's Interior Ministry has launched a 
stepped-up campaign to verify the identity of roughly 1.5 million Afghans 
living in Pakistan, many possessing Pakistani identity cards, some legally 
obtained and others illegally acquired. Mansour was carrying a Pakistani 
passport and identity card under an alias.

   The crackdown has resulted in the withdrawal of thousands of suspicious 
identity cards. Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that 
in the last four years, roughly 80,000 suspicious identity cards have been 
revoked. He didn't have a figure of the number of cards withdrawn in the latest 
campaign.

   Taliban officials say their fighters, whose families are living in Pakistan, 
are getting caught up in the crackdown --- forcing them to find shelter in 
Afghanistan. The officials said as a result, in order to accommodate their 
fighters, they need to expand their territory for practical reasons in addition 
to their standing military goals.

   Pakistan has been bitterly criticized by the Afghan government for not doing 
more to arrest and expel Taliban fighters from its territory --- particularly 
the Haqqani network, which is blamed by Afghanistan for many of the most brutal 
attacks. Pakistan, meanwhile, has carried out military operations in its tribal 
regions that border Afghanistan, and accuses Afghanistan of harboring its own 
Taliban insurgents who have been carrying out attacks in Pakistan.

   Following last week's militant attack on the American University in Kabul, 
the Afghan government sent three telephone numbers to Pakistan's military, 
believed to belong to those involved in planning the attack, seeking Pakistan's 
assistance in tracking down and arresting the culprits. The assault killed 13 
people and wounded dozens more.


(KA)

 
 
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