ThreatsWatch.Org: PrincipalAnalysis

The Kurdiranistan Trail

By Steve Schippert

The level of violence in Afghanistan has steadily increased over the past year, with the number and methods of attacks in Afghanistan becoming more and more reminiscent of attacks carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including suicide bombers, kidnappings, murders of foreign reconstruction workers and attacks on police stations. The weaponry and explosives used has become much more sophisticated as well, including Russian and Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.

To understand how the tactics and weapons now used in Afghanistan have become a mirror of the same in Iraq, it is important to understand the Kurdiranistan Trail, a conduit of weapons, information and sometimes human resources between the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq and mountain passes of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Kurdiranistan Trail: Supplying a Revived Taliban

The Kurdiranistan Trail is a primary supply route for a newly armed Taliban, recognized as such as the September 2005 Afghanistan elections drew near. The Kurdiranistan Trail, stretching from the northern Kurdish region of Iraq through the breadth of Iran and into Afghanistan, is a relatively direct land route used to smuggle arms primarily from the seized arsenals of the fallen Saddam Hussein regime.

Kurdiranistan Trail MapAmong the higher-tech arms making their way to the Taliban are Chinese and Russian made shoulder-fired surface to air missiles as well as arms sold to Hussein by the French. This is a considerable capabilities enhancement for the Taliban, who cling to existence following the rout by the American military in 2001. Far more deadly than firing unguided RPG's at US helicopters, The Kurdiranistan Trail likely supplied the shoulder-launched missiles that brought down an MH-47 Nightstalker helicopter, killing the crew and an entire squad of Navy SEALs in June of 2005.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan, some members of the Taliban were sent to northern Iraq for training. They stayed long enough to learn from and fight with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq and have since returned to Afghanistan to bring the Iraqi-style resistance tactics to the Taliban... complete with the wagon train of deadly supplies that surely still commutes as often and as loaded with tools of the trade as possible.

Oriented with the Ansarul Islam [Ansar al Islam] in northern Iraq by al-Qaeda-linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they were taught the guerrilla tactics then being successfully applied in various Iraqi cities - and which still are. The group returned to Afghanistan some time ago. One of the members was Mehmood Haq Yar, an expert in guerrilla and urban warfare.

The Afghan Taliban have learned and begun to adapt the highly de-centralized Iraqi strategy and tactics. Lower profile, smaller footprint, more agile and nearly autonomous operations, linked more by their common thinking than direct communication.

Asia Times Online has learned that this Iraq-style resistance is to be activated in Afghanistan. The central command of the Iraqi resistance has been eliminated and various groups, mostly Islamists, are engaged in guerrilla activity on an independent basis. This decentralization is the guarantee of their security and successful clandestine operations.

An identical tactic has been adopted in Afghanistan. On the advice of Haq Yar, all prominent commanders have withdrawn from the battlefield. The most prominent ones, such as Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, Saifullah Mansoor and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, took refuge in tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the rest were asked to stay with the local population.

This caused a lull in the resistance, which was the aim.

A spike in Taliban violence has been fully realized, complete with new tactics and better weaponry, since prior to the Afghanistan near the elections as the learning curve collides with both opportunity and necessity. Unfortunately for the Taliban, a 'spike in violence' complete with decentralized operations, Middle Eastern style suicide bombers and even guided Russian and Chinese anti-aircraft missiles, does not equate victory.

Just more death and violence. Now-voting Afghanis have likely seen enough of that. Tough as nails by necessity for decades, they will likely shrug and weather the storm, and move on.

Untouched in all of this is the simple and telling fact that fully two-thirds of The Kurdiranistan Trail treks through the friendly confines of Iran. That issue is a book unto itself, most likely the next installment in this saga.