Entire Taliban-al Qaeda Force Heads for Mountain Refuges
Friday, November 16, was the day Mulla Mustafa Omar ordered Taliban forces to abandon their southern stronghold of Kahandar and head for the towering Hindu Kush mountains in the north.
While most of the media picked up Iran Radio’s claim that Osama bin Laden had fled to Pakistan, debkafile‘s military sources report that, to the contrary, the two fraternal forces, Taliban and al Qaeda, are in mid-implementation of one of the most complex and compressed military and logistical operations of the war, scheduled to be completed over the weekend. Bin Laden is very much present in organizing the move.
These are the details as revealed exclusively by debkafile‘s military sources:
In under a week, under intense US aerial bombardment, the joint command collected their 50,000 strong armies from around Afghanistan and moved them over hundreds of miles to pre-specified points in the southeast and northeast of Afghanistan. They are now on their way to meet up in the Hindu Kush and PamirMountains, which the onset of winter has already made impassable.
From their mountainous fastnesses, the Taliban and al Qaeda troops will make forays into the neighboring mountain areas of Tajikistan, the Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir and the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Accordingly, debkafile‘s military sources report, the 201st Russian mechanized rifle division especially trained in anti-terrorist mountain combat, has been placed on the ready and deployed in the Pamirs on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan frontier, to stave off any possible infiltration by the retreating troops.
From Kashmir comes word that the local Indian commander has ordered the 16th and 21st Corps of the Indian army to take up positions in the mountainous regions between India and Pakistan, with the 15th Corps in Leh also on the ready, to head off any incursions.
When he ordered Kahandar evacuated, Omar left south of Kabul a Taliban contingent to cover the retreat and provide a safe corridor from Kabul and Jalalabad, up which the main force is due to head for the mountains in the next 48 hours. Small knots of US Special Forces have been trying to throw a spanner into this move. Their presence has forced US bombers to hold off bombing the retreating force, lest they harm their own men. The Talilban command has made good use of this respite to work up speed.
Once the southern contingents are safe in the mountains, the 20,000 Taliban and al Qaeda troops fighting in the northern stronghold of Konduz will also begin moving out and heading for the mountains. Friday, November 16, the US, Russian and Northern alliance commands grasped that the fierce battles in Konduz were no more than a rearguard action to give the southern units time to settle into the underground bases prepared for them in the mountains. Already, the desertion of Konduz has begun, as small groups of fighting men join their comrades in the mountain hideouts. They make their way up smugglers’ tracks by night to escape detection, so that the evacuation may take up to Monday or Tuesday, November 19 or 20, to wind up.
By the time the Northern Alliance break through into Konduz, they are likely to find the enemy gone.
debkafile‘s military experts observe that, if the Taliban and al Qaeda commanders manage to pull this tactic off to the finish, it will be a mark of their ability to move fast and their exceptional operational resilience. Since last Monday, November 12, when the Northern Alliance launched its lightning advances, the Taliban and al Qaeda have withdrawn from most parts of Afghanistan at relatively low cost in casualties, moving a 40-50,000 strong army all the way to fortified mountain bases.
Our experts believe the two commands may have learned some lessons from the Israeli military withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000, which was managed without casualties in a single night.
As to the claim that one of Osama bin Laden’s senior commanders, Muhammad Atif, was killed in a US air bombardment, debkafile‘s military experts rates this loss as being of limited tactical import. In the last few years, the ex-Saudi terrorist’s chief did not employ Atif as his top tactician, but put him in charge of al Qaeda bases and training facilities in Afghanistan, including the Hindu Kush fortresses. Bin Laden’s most senior military commander today is Muhammad Ahmed Hamze – nom de guerre Abu Hamze – who serves directly under bin Laden, Ayman al Zuwahiri and Mullah Omar, as top operational chief.
Our intelligence and military experts also discount the “documents” discovered in a base south of Kabul, which claimed to bear instructions on how to build nuclear weapons and missiles. Crude red herrings, the instructions turn out to be translations of materials available in any bookshop or Internet site.
The only member of the al Qaeda network, aside from its top leaders, who knows the truth about the group’s weapons of mass destruction resources is a chemical engineer called Midhat Mursi, or Abu Kebab, a member of the Egyptian Jihad Islami. At the Tora Bora base near Jalalabad, Mursi built and managed the network’s facilities for the manufacture of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxic weapons and trained agents in their use. In Western terms, Abu Kebab may be regarded as the director of bin Laden’s nuclear program.
As of September 9, two days before the suicide attacks against the WorldTradeCenter and the Pentagon, the facility was evacuated and Mursi transferred to a hideout near bin Laden in the Hindu KushMountains.