Every month, the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan releases al-Somod Islamic e-magazine, a main Taliban propaganda publication. The e-magazine contains religious, political and military articles on the Taliban’s activities. Often, the e-magazine interviews one of the Taliban’s jihad leaders. The forty-second issue of al-Somod carried an interview with the Taliban military leader of Sar-i-Pul province in northern Afghanistan, a region now targeted for an expansion of the Taliban’s militant activities (alsomod.org, October 2009). The Taliban publication also outlined new mujahideen tactics deemed useful in any future negotiations with Coalition forces.
Mullah Mohammad Nadir Haqjo bin Merza Raheem is the Taliban leader in Sar-i-Pul province, in north Afghanistan. Sar-i-Pul consists of six districts of over 16 thousand square kilometers with a population of slightly less than half a million people. The mountainous province is a center for drug cultivation and distribution. The largest ethnic groups are the Uzbeks, Pashtun and Shi’a Hazara, with smaller numbers of Tajiks and Arabs.
Mullah Mohammad Raheem, 30 years old, was born in al-Malak village of Sayyad district in Sar-i-Pul. Raheem did not receive a normal school education; rather, he attended elementary school in a mosque and studied religion in different schools in Sar-i-Pul and Jowzjan provinces. When the United States invaded Afghanistan, Raheem was among the volunteers of the Sar-i-Pul mujahideen. He is currently the Taliban’s general commander of Sar-i-Pul province.
Mullah Raheem described the inception of jihad in Sar-i-Pul four years ago as a miraculous event. At the outset, the mujahideen of Sar-i-Pul were only seven jihadis with one AK-47 each and 30 rounds of ammunition. The seven founding members had a hard time recruiting more mujahideen into Sar-i-Pul because people were influenced by the enemy’s propaganda. “People were afraid of extending any support for the mujahideen four years ago,” says Raheem. The lack of public support meant the mujahideen had to constantly change their location in the province. A significant jihadi resistance in Sar-i-Pul started when Raheem’s mujahideen lured the enemy into the mountains and managed to kill a few enemy troops and win their weapons and supplies. Since then, claims Raheem, many residents of Sar-i-Pul have joined the mujahideen and set up many formations currently fighting the enemy. The present jihadi situation is steadily progressing, says Raheem; the evidence is seen in the mujahideen presence in all districts.
According to the Mullah, the central district of Sar-i-Pul as well as the Sayyad, Sangcharak and Kohistanat districts are under the full control of the mujahideen. He alleges that the French, Italian and Danish forces are ineffective against the mujahideen of Sar-i-Pul. “They used to go out in convoys to carry out military operations against the mujahideen, but now they don’t leave the city center.”
The jihad activities mentioned by Raheem are small-scale operations, such as kidnapping and killing Afghans collaborating with government and Coalition forces, planting explosives in government and Coalition facilities and bombing vehicles. The conduct of these small operations does not confirm Mullah Raheem’s claim of complete control of most of the province.
To counter Coalition propaganda and attract more jihadi recruits, the Sar-i-Pul mujahideen use mosques and other public places to preach the religious obligation of jihad and the justification for fighting the Afghan government.
Raheem claims to have coordinated military operations against the government with mujahideen in other provinces, including the rural areas of Darzab (Jowzjan Province) and Bilchiragh (Faryab Province). There is no mention in the Taliban’s monthly military statistics of any attacks in Sar-i-Pul (alsomod.org, October-November, 2009), although Taliban sources claim the killing of two local officials in the Bilchiragh district of Faryab province (aljazeeratalk.net, November 18).
Raheem asserts that the Sar-i-Pul mujahideen are currently planning future terror attacks to liquidate enemy posts and district centers in Sar-i-Pul. The Mullah calls upon the Afghan people to support jihad like they did against the Soviets, adding that the latest events indicate that the full liberation of Afghanistan will come soon.
Alleging Taliban control of over 80% of Afghanistan and anticipating victory soon, al-Somod magazine suggests the mujahideen’s future attacks should concentrate on taking prisoners of war. In any future negotiations with the United States, the Taliban believes Coalition POWs would not only further its position and pressure the United States to release Afghani and Muslim prisoners in U.S. jails, but would also force the United States to make concessions to Taliban demands. These demands include war compensation, the trial of U.S. and British political and military officials for war crimes and the reversal of all U.N. resolutions against the Islamic Emirate. In the field, kidnapping Coalition personal would divert enemy resources from fighting the Taliban to the protection of its facilities and personnel. The Taliban is also aware of the undercover intelligence agents of the Coalition countries. These should be targeted and taken as POWs as well, insists al-Somod.
Many jihad forums carried links to al-Somod and some forum participants hailed this latest issue in particular because of the Taliban’s claim of imminent victory.