Training Grounds

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Via Swopa, Newsweek has an alarming new report out: apparently Sunni insurgents in Iraq are lending a helping hand to fighters in Afghanistan, which has likely played some role in the increased Taliban attacks in the latter country:

Daud and other Taliban leaders tell NEWSWEEK that the Afghan conflict is entering a new phase, with help from Iraq. According to them, Osama bin Laden has opened an underground railroad to and from jihadist training camps in the Sunni Triangle. Self-described graduates of the program say they’ve come home to Afghanistan with more-effective killing techniques and renewed enthusiasm for the war against the West. Daud says he’s been communicating a “new momentum and spirit” to the 300 fighters under his command.

U.S. military officers in Afghanistan say they’ve seen no evidence of any direct collaboration between the Taliban and Iraq’s insurgents. “That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen or be in the process of happening,” says one senior U.S. military officer who can’t be quoted by name because of the sensitive nature of his job. “If I started to see that,” he adds, “then I would begin to worry.” Afghanistan’s top brass is worried now. Taliban forces are larger, more aggressive and better armed and organized than at any time since the end of 2001, says Defense Minister Abdur Rahim Wardak: “They have more men, equipment, money, better explosives and remote-controlled detonators.” Worse yet, he says, there are “strong indications” that Al Qaeda has brought in a team of Arab instructors from Iraq to teach the latest insurgent techniques to the Taliban.

Also, check out this tidbit, about several Taliban fighters who were invited to receive advanced training in Iraq:

One beneficiary of Al Qaeda’s renewed interest in Afghanistan is Hamza Sangari, a Taliban commander from Khost province. Late last year, he says, he received an invitation from none other than bin Laden’s chief envoy to the insurgents in Iraq, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi. Sangari, 36, says he jumped at the chance for advanced field training in the Sunni Triangle: “God heard and granted my request to see and learn from the Iraqi mujahedin.” In December he traveled there with a select group of eight Afghan Taliban, two Central Asians and five Arab Qaeda fighters. … Sangari and his companions were relayed from one band of smugglers to another until early January, when they finally crossed the unmarked desert border into Iraq.

Sangari spent his time in Iraq being escorted to guerrilla bases in towns like Fallujah and Ramadi, and in remote desert regions. He says he was welcomed wherever he went. “I’ve never been so well received,” he says. He was impressed with what he saw. “The Iraqi mujahedin are better armed, organized and trained than we are,” he says. He stayed four weeks at a remote training camp called Ashaq al Hoor, he says, where he saw adolescent boys being trained as suicide bombers. [Emph. added]

Notice those dates. In January—a full two months after the U.S. offensive to retake and pacify the city—Fallujah is still a place where fighters from abroad can be invited to come and train for war.


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