ISLAMABAD: As the endgame begins in Afghanistan, a new generation of militants has joined the Taliban insurgency on both sides of the Durand Line, The Express Tribune has learnt from police and intelligence officials.
All the officials requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the issue.
“The sons of the Taliban fighters who were 10 or 12 years of age at the time of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 are now 20 or 22 years old,” an intelligence official said. “They are a product of war and ultimately they have to follow their elders,” he added.
These teenaged insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan are being groomed and trained for suicide missions.
Police admit that most suicide attacks involve teenagers who the Taliban call ‘weapon of mass destruction, or atom bomb’.
The Taliban remain a formidable force notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of their cadres have been killed over the last 10 years. This shows that the militants have no shortage of fresh recruits, said another official.
The insurgents have recruited hundreds of ‘child soldiers’ to fuel their ‘holy war’ against the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.
“Most of these teenaged fighters are the relatives of those militants who were killed by foreign troops,” the official said.
“They joined the Taliban voluntarily to avenge the killing of their fathers or siblings,” he added. “Badl or revenge is an integral part of the Afghan culture. They will take revenge even if it takes them 100 years.”
US President Barack Obama has said that foreign troops will start pulling out of Afghanistan in July, this year. And counter-terror experts think that the announcement of timeframe by Obama has emboldened the militants.
“The militants think that Nato has conceded defeat by setting a timetable for withdrawal of their troops from the region,” said one analyst.
Across the border in Pakistan, it’s the same story. Young men are being recruited by the Taliban to keep their insurgency going.
Most of these young insurgents are the progeny of those Arab, Uzbek, Tajik and Chechen militants who had come to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Mujahideen against the then Soviet troops and could not go back as their home countries refused to
These foreign fighters, then, settled in the Pak-Afghan border regions and married local Afghan girls, said a security official. Majority of them were linked with the al Qaeda terror network.
According to intelligence officials, the first batch of young militants, mostly teens, was recruited in October 2006 when US jets raided a madrassa in the Bajaur tribal region.
After a blistering public criticism, the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf claimed that the air raid has been carried out by the Pakistan military.
The vengeful militants struck back. A suicide bomber targeted an army camp outside Takhat Bai, in Mardan district, on November 8, 2006, killing 42 soldiers.
Most students from the bombed madrassa, aged between 12 and 22 year, fled to neighbouring Swat to join radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah in his bloody campaign for the enforcement of his own version of Shariah in the region.
Fazlullah had, meanwhile, recruited hundreds of young men from Swat and elsewhere for his campaign. And they were trained by the Taliban in the Waziristan region.
The military has rounded up approximately 3,000 insurgents, including young men, who had been recruited for various missions such as spying, fighting and suicide attacks.
“This recruitment process has been ongoing in the Waziristan region for the last seven years,” a security official said.
“Dozens of tribal teens volunteer for the insurgency after a systematic motivation process,” he added. “They are made to watch video films, showing physical torture and killing of Muslims women and children in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Somalia by what they call infidels.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2011.