A “MODERATE” TALIBAN EMERGES IN AFGHANISTAN’S HELMAND PROVINCE
Reports are emerging from the Taliban-held Musa Qala District of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province of changes in the style of Taliban rule there. While the provincial governor continues to refer to Musa Qala as a “nest of terrorists,” Taliban administrators in the area appear to have adopted a more moderate approach, perhaps in anticipation of being included in the peace talks with the government of Hamid Kharzai. The Taliban now inform locals of the “Islamic” prohibitions on music and shaving of beards but take no action against those who ignore them. A local Taliban FM radio station called “Shari’a Radio” has begun broadcasting Islamic messages mixed with Tarana, a classical vocal music. The Taliban are also reported to have established security in the area. (Pajhwok Afghan News, October 25). The Taliban occupied Musa Qala in February 2007, after a controversial deal was reached in October 2006 for an evacuation of the area by British forces in exchange for a pledge by local elders that they would continue to resist the Taliban.
JIHADIST PRESENCE RESISTED IN NORTHWEST PAKISTAN
There are signs that Central Asian jihadists of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have worn out their welcome in the North Waziristan district of Pakistan. The militants have lived in the region since 2001, when they were forced out of their bases in Afghanistan by a US/Northern Alliance offensive. A highly effective guerrilla force in the late 1990s, the typically well-trained and well-armed IMU operated in several Central Asian republics. Since the loss of their military commander Juma Namangani in 2001, the IMU has been effectively trapped in Waziristan, where they have developed close ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The large numbers of Russian speakers in the IMU are often mistakenly identified as “Chechens.” Believing the group responsible for a series of murders in the region, local tribesmen are calling for the IMU to leave the area; armed action is threatened if they fail to comply (Daily Times, October 23). In the Mohmand Agency of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier, five militias have united to form a new organization dedicated to eliminating gangs carrying out criminal activities in the name of the Taliban. Operations of the Tehrik-i-Islami will be governed by a 16-member council (Dawn, October 23).