Pakistan and Afghan Taliban Close Ranks

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive inAfghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year.

In interviews, several Taliban fighters based in the border region said preparations for the anticipated influx of American troops were already being made. A number of new, younger commanders have been preparing to step up a campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks to greet the Americans, the fighters said.

The refortified alliance was forged after the reclusive Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, sent emissaries to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to join forces and turn their attention to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials and Taliban members said.

The overture by Mullah Omar is an indication that with the prospect of an American buildup, the Taliban feel the need to strengthen their own forces in Afghanistan and to redirect their Pakistani allies toward blunting the new American push.

The Pakistani Taliban, an offspring of the Afghan Taliban, are led by veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan who come from the border regions. They have always supported the fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan by supplying fighters, training and logistical aid.

But in recent years the Pakistani Taliban have concentrated on battling the Pakistani government, extending a domain that has not only threatened Pakistan but has also provided an essential rear base for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

At the same time, American officials told The New York Times this week that Pakistan’s military intelligence agency continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave.

The new Taliban alliance has raised concern in Afghanistan, where NATO generals warn that the conflict will worsen this year.  read on

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