by Jalal Ghazi
(PNS) -- One of the Arab media's most influential analysts is reporting that Afghanistan's Taliban are gaining in strength and popularity, fighting U.S. forces in greater numbers and claiming the control of several districts.
In an article titled "The Return of the Taliban," published in Al-Majalla, a widely circulated Arabic-language magazine based in London, Egyptian political analyst Fahmi Huwaidi writes that the Taliban "are getting stronger by the day" and, due to the discovery of large cachets of weapons, must be "massing for future attacks."
Al-Majalla is only the latest in several reports from other Arab media warning of the resurgence of the Taliban, including satellite television network Al Jazeera, Al-Alam, a 24-hour news channel based in Teheran, and Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based paper.
Among several indicators of expanding Taliban influence, Huwaidi finds that:
A UN Development Program report on Afghanistan released recently said that if the international community does not intervene by addressing people's grievances, Afghanistan will collapse into an insecure state, a threat to its own people and to the international community. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the report also said that the war-ravaged country remains one of the world's poorest places three years after the ousting of the Taliban, and that the overwhelming majority of people are pessimistic about the future. It's "a fragile nation still at odds if no longer at war with itself that could easily slip back into chaos and abject poverty."
In 2003, according to Huwaidi, the Taliban bought 900 Honda motorcycles. Eyewitnesses report that Taliban leaders give speeches at wedding parties in which they offer the vehicles to young men willing to join them in fighting U.S. forces.
Huwaidi reports "notable sympathy" to the Taliban among Pashtun tribes living along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, in part due to heavy attacks by American helicopters. The acquisition of wealth by some Afghan government officials, which Huwaidi says has included the destruction of homes in Kabul in order to expand the personal homes of current officials, has further heightened support for the Taliban. The government, Huwaiti adds, has failed to deliver on reconstruction promises.
Islamic parties in Pakistan have gained popularity for supporting the Taliban, Huwaidi says, and won 60 seats in recent Pakistan elections, gaining unprecedented power in Pakistan's parliament. Pakistani Islamic groups that had been banned are now reappearing under different names, such as the Jaish Muhammad, which now uses the name "Faraqan."
With U.S. forces confined mainly to the capital of Kabul, Taliban fighters have made gains elsewhere in the country, Huwaidi reports. In September 2003, Taliban military spokesman Hamed Agha announced that Taliban forces had captured four south and southwestern districts in Afghanistan.
Huwaidi writes that Taliban forces have little trouble capturing Afghan cities. They have not, however, been able to maintain control of these cities upon the arrival of U.S. air power. Yet that fact does not conflict with the Taliban's overall strategy, Huwaidi says, which is to get the Americans involved in a costly war of attrition.
Al Jazeera routinely broadcasts reports of fighting between Taliban forces and U.S. and Afghan troops. In the month of January, Al Jazeera reported numerous deadly attacks by Taliban fighters in Herat in western Afghanistan and Zabel in the south.
Huwaidi based much of his reporting on research done by his colleague Ahmad Zidan, an Arab journalist living in Islamabad and author of "The Return of Three Black Flags," referring to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
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