The great Taliban robbery
Believe it or not but Taliban have captured one Chinook and one Black Hawk helicopter of the US armed forces in Pakistani tribal areas. This "Taliban robbery" is actually the main cause of recent tensions between US and Pakistan. The parts of these helicopters were loaded in eight big containers from Karachi port a few days ago and these containers were on their way to Afghanistan by road from Karachi to Jalalabad. When these containers entered Khyber Agency area near Jamrod, Taliban stopped the containers and looted all the parts of world's most expensive and lethal helicopters. Pakistani para military forces in the area tried to confront Taliban but they suffered heavy losses due to the darkness of night. This is the area from where Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan
Tariq Azizudin was also kidnapped in February this year.
It was not the first Taliban robbery against American convoys in Pakistani tribal areas. Taliban looted and burned many oil tankers in the past which were going to Afghanistan for supplying fuel to the NATO forces.
Recently Taliban came to know that NATO forces are using Pakistani road links for transportation of military helicopters and other heavy weapons. They started attacking big containers in Khyber Agency two months ago. It is learnt that Taliban first captured a small Cobra helicopter in a "highway robbery". They filmed all the stolen parts of this helicopter and supplied the CD to their allies in Afghanistan. Some people in the Farah province of Western Afghanistan showed interest in purchasing Cobra helicopter, and parts of the helicopter were smuggled
to Farah. Taliban sold this Cobra to some unidentified customers just for a few hundred thousand dollars.
Taliban have again filmed all the stolen parts of CH-47 Chinook helicopter and Black Hawk helicopter. Chinook is a versatile twin-engine helicopter, which was also used to help the earthquake victims in Pakistani Kashmir in October 2005 by US army. Taliban have sent the CD again to many people for attracting customers from some neighbouring countries of Afghanistan. They have not got any customer yet because the stolen parts with extra engines and tyres are still in the custody of Pakistani Taliban. Some diplomats in Islamabad are very much aware of this recent Taliban robbery but they are not ready to speak on record. When this correspondent contacted the US embassy in Islamabad for official version, Press Counsellor Elizabeth Colton said, "The embassy has no comment on this as the information appears to be only hearsay". When this correspondent informed the embassy spokesperson that he had seen the pictures of stolen parts of helicopters with his own eyes, she again said "no comment".
It is worth mentioning that Taliban captured some unexploded Tomahawk missiles in Khowst area of Eastern Afghanistan in 1998.These missiles were fired on Al Qaeda hideouts after the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Taliban handed over some of the unexploded US missiles to Chinese in 1998.
Top US military officials demanded recently that Pakistan start an operation in the tribal areas for recovery of their stolen helicopters. They expressed concerned that instead of initiating an operation against Taliban, the new Pakistani government is negotiating peace with Taliban. US is also investigating reports that the Pakistani government exchanged famous Taliban leader Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund and Mansoor Dadullah for the release of ambassador Tariq Azizudin.It is learnt that these two Afghan Taliban leaders were not released and they are still
in the custody of Pakistani authorities.
A Pakistani official told this correspondent, "We arrested Mansoor Dadullah from the border area near Chaman last year and handed over to Afghanistan but Mr Karzai released Mansoor Dadullah for a kidnapped Italian Journalist. Nobody is appreciating that this time we have not released Dadullah for our ambassador Tariq Azizudin, and this is a difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan".
Pakistan embassy in Kabul has offered top Afghan and US officials to come and see Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund and Mansoor Dadullah in a Pakistani prison with their own eyes. Despite the intense US pressure, the new Pakistani government is determined to continue peace talks with militants in the tribal areas. Pakistani authorities have made it clear to the tribal militants that they should not use Pakistani soil for attacking any other country. On the other hand, Pakistani officials have also explained their political compulsions to US officials, and said peace talks have reduced suicide attacks in Pakistan and the new political government would like to continue political efforts to combat terrorism in Pakistan.
Many responsible people in Pakistani foreign office are of the opinion that Taliban have increased their attacks in Afghanistan recently due to incompetence of Afghan National Army and NATO forces. Taliban used a fuel tanker packed with 1,800 kilograms of explosives a few days ago to break a jail in Kandhar.Taliban released their 400 comrades along with 1,100 other prisoners in that operation. Yesterday, Taliban captured Arghundab district
of Kandahar province. It was also a big blow to credibility of NATO and Karzai government but both are now trying to divert international attention by attacking Pakistan. Taliban have recently conducted bloody operations against NATO forces in Shenwro district of Parwaon province in the North,Taren Kot city of Uruzgan province in the south and
Poli Alm city of Logar province close to Kabul.All these areas are not close to Pakistani borders and Taliban are attacking NATO with logistic help from local population. US commanders are under a lot of pressure and they have
recently attacked Pakistani forces in South Waziristan just to create an impression that they are suffering due to weak cooperation from their "most trusted ally".
It is learnt that the high command of Pakistani security forces have requested the government for permission to respond in a hard hitting manner to any attack from Afghanistan in future. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher will visit Pakistan and Afghanistan shortly. It is expected that he will try his best to bridge the gaps between Islamabad and Kabul.