Counter-Terrorism: Islamic Radicals Fight Each Other

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March 10, 2010: In northeastern Afghanistan, Taliban gunmen recently fought a battle with followers of Islamic radical Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. At least fifty died in more than a day of fighting. The Hekmatyar men lost, and about 70 retreated to a nearby government held village, where they surrendered to the Afghan police (who also provided medical care for the wounded, as well as food and shelter for all).

But these Hekmatyar men will probably get their weapons back soon, because Hekmatyar has been negotiating with the government to join the fight against the Taliban. Local Taliban commanders heard of the negotiations, and attacked first, driving the Hekmatyar men from several villages they had long controlled. That victory will be short lived, because the Taliban are not well liked in this part of the country. The Taliban are seen as partners in the drug trade, and religious fanatics with a sadistic streak. That’s why Hekmatyar is willing to switch allegiance to the government, which has agreed to tolerate their Islamic fundamentalist ways (which includes hostility towards womens education and most forms of entertainment) . For a while, anyway. The Hekmatyar gang were major players in the 1980s war with the Russians, and the 1990s civil war. By 1997, Hekmatyar  was driven into an Iranian exile by the Taliban. Hekmatyar returned to Afghanistan in 2002, and reconstituted his Islamic radical army, attracting many Taliban supporters, and financing the operation by smuggling opium and heroin. Hekmatyar  made peace with the Taliban, but there was never a lot of love, or trust, between the two groups.

The Taliban, and Hekmatyar, have both suffered with the loss of bases across the border in Pakistan. On the Afghan side, growing numbers of NATO and Afghan troops make life more difficult. In addition, the Taliban are cursed by their association with the drug gangs. But the Taliban need the money to keep going, and those drug gang links go back to the 1990s. There are several other Islamic radical groups around, who have kept their heads down since the 1990s. But now they are being flushed out by the campaign against the Taliban along the border.

 


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