Security

Military operations force Taliban leaders into hiding along Pakistan border

By Sulaiman

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An Afghan air force warplane flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. Repeated operations by Afghan and NATO forces have forced Taliban leaders to flee and leave their followers to face dire situations on the battlefield. [US Air Force]

KABUL -- Pressure from Afghan and coalition forces has compelled Taliban commanders to abandon the battlefield and go into hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, security officials say.

"The group's local leaders and commanders have fled to the bordering areas to avoid being targeted and killed. They have left their members alone on the battlefield," said Mohammad Zubair Arif, a spokesman for the Defence Ministry.

"We regularly conduct 8 to 12 operations every day," he added. "One hundred or even more Taliban militants are being killed every day."

'Cursing leaders'

Military operations are taking a toll on the Taliban leadership, agreed Gen. Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, a former deputy minister of Interior and a military analyst.

"The Taliban recently have been under severe military pressure," he said in an interview.

"The heightened intensity has forced Taliban leaders and commanders to escape and take refuge in comparatively safer areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he added.

"When the Taliban's leaders and strategists escape and go into hiding, it is clear that the low-ranking militants find themselves alone and without any battle plan, which makes them vulnerable to danger," he said.

"Because of the recent military pressure, the Taliban leaders and commanders have backed off from fighting to avoid being killed and have taken refuge in the border areas," said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a military affairs specialist and former spokesman for the Defence Ministry.

"They have abandoned their fighters on the battlefield, which has caused chaos among the Taliban and resulted in a surge in Taliban casualties," he added.

Amrullah Saleh, former chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said he has seen intercepted messages by militants denouncing their leaders for continuing the campaign of violence and for rejecting peace.

"Their rank & file are cursing leaders for rejecting ceasefire & settlement," he tweeted on June 6.

Sacrificing the rank and file

Taliban commanders have no reluctance to sacrifice the lives of militants, while they flee and their families enjoy being far from the dangers of the battlefield, said Aminullah Shariq, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

"Families of the Taliban leaders live in comfort -- far from war and violence," he said. "Leaders of the group have kept their foot soldiers in the dark, and they do not tell them the truth.

"They use them as weapons to achieve their goals and those of neighbouring countries," said Shariq.

"Almost all of the fighters dying in combat are low-ranking militants," said Shariq. "Key Taliban leaders try to avoid being killed so that they can achieve their goal."

"Many efforts have been employed by the Afghan government and the United States to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, but the group still hasn't decided to put an end to the violence through [peace] talks," said Safiullah Hashemi, a member of the Meshrano Jirga (upper house of parliament) from Samangan Province.

"In my view, the only option the Afghan and coalition forces have is to hit the Taliban. All the Afghan people welcome the kind of combat pace that can destroy the Taliban, or at least force them into starting negotiations and putting an end to the war," Hashemi said.

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