“On 6 April in Kunar, Moman (also known as Akhoon, a vetted target and Najmuddin’s bodyguard) brought nine individuals into Camp Blessing to apply for the Allegiance Program. Following these lower level applications, on 10 April, Najmuddin (a vetted second targeted mid-level insurgent commander responsible for multiple attacks in the Pech District) also surrendered to India Company at Camp Blessing, which clearly indicated that the tide had begun to turn in the volatile Pech region. India Company worked to exploit intelligence from Najmuddin while working with Kunar’s Governor to ensure his activities were monitored. Najmuddin stated he decided to turn himself in because he saw the good things the Coalition Forces were doing in the Pech District and was tired of hiding and fighting. India Company’s sustained presence forced him to reconcile. On 14 April Kunar’s Governor, Governor Wafa, held a reconciliation ceremony for Najmuddin with approximately 250 Afghans in attendance, to include local media. Governor Wafa saw the positive impact Najmuddin’s reconciliation ceremony had with his district leaders. On his own initiative, the Governor conducted a similar ceremony for Mohammed Arif, who had turned himself over to the ANP in Asad Abad two weeks earlier. Although Najmuddin’s reconciliation did not immediately end anti-government and AQAM activity in Kunar, it was a significant step that will pave the way for other insurgent leaders.”
“Debriefs with Najmuddin provided valuable insights on AQAM operations and the effectiveness of our Tactic Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) for both duration security missions and targeted detention operations.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
“10 Apr – Najmuddin, a medium valued target, surrendered to India Company at Camp Blessing, Pech District, Kunar Province.”
“14 Apr – Allegiance ceremony was held for Najmuddin in the Kunar Province” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
Taliban leader turns himself in to Marines
Cpl. Rich Mattingly
Headquarters Marine Corps
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan —A former insurgent commander swore allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan April 14 in Asadabad, agreeing to turn in his weapons and cease hostilities against Afghan and Coalition forces.
As Coalition forces have been hunting near the Afghan-Pakistani border for insurgent leaders, Najmuddin turned himself in to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, abandoning his run as one of the more elusive insurgent leaders. They were informed by a message received the morning of April 10 explaining where the commander was located and his intent. The India Company leadership quickly moved to the designated location and, crossing over a bridge into the compound, finally came face-to-face with the man they were able to recognize only from an outdated photograph. He has been allowed to participate in the Allegiance Program, a program currently offered to Taliban and HIG (Hezb-E Islami Gulbuddin) fighters who wish to stop fighting and start participating in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
“We’ve been working on this guy for a long time,” said 1st Lt. Justin Bellman, India Co. Executive Officer. “It was just a matter of time before either we captured him, killed him or he turned himself in. He made the right decision and we’re going to hope that he becomes a positive force in his community.”
A ceremony which was attended by nearly 300 civic and religious leaders from across the Kunar province was the first step in the process of repatriation for Najmuddin who explained his reasons for turning himself over to the Marines through an interpreter.
“I am tired of running,” said the former insurgent. “I realized that my community was suffering because of [our] attacks on the Coalition and I did not want that any more.”
His participation in the Allegiance Program comes on the heels of extensive duration operations around the areas Najmuddin was known to frequent in the Pech Valley. Aggressively approaching the detention of insurgent leadership in the area afforded Marines the success that had eluded other units.
“This individual orchestrated several attacks against Coalition forces before we got here and began to conduct attacks against us in Nagalam from the moment we arrived. It did not take us long to let him know that we were not going to sit back and take that,” said Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, commanding officer, America’s Battalion, continuing, “Instead we took the fight to his backyard, to the difficult, cold and mountainous terrain of the Korangal Valley – a place where roads do not take you and a place where Coalition forces had not gone for any length of time before.”
The Marines of India Company, once tasked with eliminating the threat Najmuddin posed to stability in the area, applied constant pressure to him for two and a half months.
“In that time, he didn’t have time to conduct attacks against our installations,” said Cooling. “He was too busy trying to survive and he finally got tired of it.”
While he said the constant presence of well-trained Marines was the ultimate reason he turned himself in, it was also the humanitarian outreach and rehabilitation projects in his area that Marines participated in that convinced the former insurgent leader to come forth.
Bellman, who spoke with Najmuddin, said he expressed happiness with many of the good things he saw the Marines doing in the Pech Valley and that he knew his area was improving because of the Afghan and Coalition forces.
Najmuddin was greeted warmly by everyone in attendance at the shura (a meeting of Afghan elders, religious leaders and government officials) which coincided with the ceremony. Both he and the community leaders present expressed a sincere desire for peace. After giving a short speech, he was sworn to uphold his end of the agreement by the governor of Kunar. Capt. Jim Sweeney, India Co. Commander was present for the ceremony and signed the official document as a witness.
“He has sworn to cooperate with the government,” said Sweeney, “Once he’s in the program, he has to meet with community leaders, elders and Coalition forces on a regular basis to check in.”
The governor of Kunar, Asadollah Wafa, said the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan hopes the program will put an end to local insurgencies and further drive a wedge between Afghans and the foreign-national terrorists who have been operating in Afghanistan. By accepting former insurgent “middlemen” like Najmuddin, he hopes that the money and support that keeps the insurgency alive in eastern Afghanistan will dry up.
The Allegiance Program is an effort to bring many formerly prominent Afghans back into the fold of the new government, he said. As long as an individual has committed no crimes against humanity, he may get a second chance at citizenship.
“Everyone is happy that he finally turned himself in. The community supports his decision to do so, and I think that will make a big difference in how some other Taliban fighters react to us,” said Sweeney.
“A lot of people want to come forward,” said Najmuddin. “They are scared because they’re not sure what will happen once they come forward. Once they see how well I have been treated, they will decide to turn themselves in.”
Sweeney also expressed hope that Najmuddin is only the first in a line of insurgents who will decide to lay down their arms and cooperate with the Afghan government. To facilitate that, America’s Battalion will continue its aggressive operations throughout Afghanistan’s eastern region.
Taliban officials brought in from the cold
Authorities pin hopes on reconciliation effort to break insurgency
Declan Walsh in Khost
Peals of laughter rang through the remote Afghan farmhouse as neighbours rushed to welcome home the long-lost son of the soil. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged. Teenage boys offered trays of sweet tea. The women waited patiently in a back room, silent and unseen as ever.The bearded man at the centre of the hubbub, Mufti Habib-ur-Rehman, allowed his solemn face to crack into a grin. “It’s good to be back,” he said.
Smile he might. Days earlier Mr Rehman, 35, a one-time Taliban governor, had been a wanted man. He lived as a fugitive across the border in Pakistan, 20 miles to the south. He had not seen his family in years. US troops were offering a $2,500 (£1,360) award for his capture, dead or alive.
Last month, after secret negotiations brokered by local mullahs – and promises from the Americans not to shoot – he came in from the cold.
“I am not a terrorist. I am here to work for the reconstruction of my country,” he said before pledging allegiance to the president, Hamid Karzai.
Mr Rehman is one of dozens of mid-level Taliban officials who have defected to the government this year, a process which US officials hope is the beginning of the end for the insurgency that has dogged them since 2001.
Reconciliation efforts in at least four southern provinces – led by governors, mullahs and tribal leaders – have netted a small but influential group. They include a handful of commanders and the former governor of Helmand province.
On Tuesday the former Taliban foreign minister, Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, said he would contest a seat from Kandahar in next September’s parliamentary elections.
The US military, anxious to free troops for Iraq and reduce its $10bn annual bill in Afghanistan, is four-square behind the reconciliation efforts.
The generals also want to quell trouble before the parliamentary election, shortly after which 5,000 British troops are due to arrive.
US officials advocate narrowing the wanted list to about 100 senior Taliban, allowing the remainder to return home free, and they say reconciliation is working.
Last week Colonel Gary Cheek, the US commander for eastern Afghanistan, said: “Our enemies are significantly weaker than a year ago and their influence continues to wane.”
Col Cheek had given the green light to Mr Rehman, who held a press conference at which he embraced Khost’s governor, Merajuddin Pathan. “The past is clear for everyone,” Mr Rehman told the cameras. “What counts now is the future.”
It may not be so simple. Last week Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader, scotched hopes of an early truce by rejecting an amnesty offer from the Afghan government’s lead negotiator, former president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi.
“We don’t need any guarantee of safety from the government,” a Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, told Reuters. “Mullah Omar, our leader, is not hiding. Rather, he is fighting.”
On a bad day, talk of the Taliban collapsing seems utterly fanciful. Since early last month the coalition and insurgents have had a series of bloody exchanges that have killed 30 Afghan soldiers, three Americans, one Romanian and, reportedly, 150 Taliban.
In one incident nine Afghans were killed in a machine-gun ambush as they got off a truck; in another two US marines were shot inside a cave. In another attack suspected Taliban militants killed five Afghans working on a US-funded reconstruction project.
Determined to scuttle rumours of their impending demise, the militants relaunched their radio station, Voice of Sharia. They evaded the authorities by using a mobile transmitter.
Afghan officials insist a peaceful solution is within reach. Three programmes in Khost – a town once home to Osama bin Laden – claim to have attracted between 10 and 20 militants each.
Their focus is North Waziristan, a mountainous areas across the border in Pakistan, which has by all accounts become a Taliban bolthole.
Syed Muhammad, a returned Talib, said that in Miriam Shah, North Waziristan’s main town, Taliban fighters cruised the streets and local mullahs preached jihad.”They say that Islam is in danger from America. It is destroying Afghanistan first, and then it will come to Miriam Shah,” he said during an interview in the governor’s garden.
Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) plays a hotly disputed role. Three former Taliban said that the spy agency, which fostered the Taliban in the 1990s, was funding and training its militants. “It is an open secret,” said one, who requested anonymity.
According to Mr Pathan, rogue ISI officers are working against their government and the military intelligence service, which is loyal to President Pervez Musharraf.
Pakistan’s leading anti-terrorist commander, Lt Gen Safdar Hussain, denied the allegations. “There is no state within a state,” he said at his headquarters in Peshawar. “The old guard from the jihadi days are long retired. Everyone in the ISI works under my command.”
Whatever their support base – Arab donors are also suspected of contributing money and arms – many Taliban are getting sick of fighting, said Mullah Rahmatullah Mansoor, a militant cleric who returned home last year, and later secretly met Mr Karzai.
One issue hindering reconciliation was the continued detention of Afghans at Guantánamo Bay, he added, an issue that sparked nationwide riots last week after Newsweek alleged that a Qur’an had been flushed down a toilet. About 17 people were killed and 100 injured.
A political minefield lies between the Taliban and a happy homecoming. Analysts say Mr Karzai has stalled announcing a full amnesty because he fears a backlash from the former Northern Alliance, whose leaders were once bitter Taliban enemies and now hold powerful positions in Kabul.
Human rights groups say the Taliban must be held accountable for their numerous abuses, such as the stoning of women charged with adultery and the mass execution of enemy soldiers.
Despite the optimism of the peaceniks, scepticism about a mass return remains. Amir Shah Kargar, a burly Khost man who spent five years in a Taliban jail, shook his head slowly.
“Only the American spies will come back,” he predicted. “But the hard core, those with a real ideology, they will never give up alive.”
Source: The Guardian