In 2001, Mullah Muhammad Omar’s Taliban fighters had been routed and he was on the run. Afghans were, mostly, cheering the return of girls’ education, music and even shaving. Now, Mullah Omar’s insurgency has regained much of the ground it lost. Former CIA Afghan expert Bruce Riedel says, “He’s a semiliterate individual who has met with no more than a handful of non-Muslims in his entire life. And he’s staged one of the most remarkable military comebacks in modern history.” American officials are trying to make sense of his comeback: Is Omar the brains behind Taliban tactics or does he have help from Pakistani intelligence? Might the Taliban be amenable to negotiations or can his network be divided and weakened in some other way? Does it require the Taliban’s total defeat? US commander General Stanley McChrystal’s recent report concluded, “the insurgents currently have the initiative” and “the overall situation is deteriorating”. And Omar’s own statements make the same basic points: The mujahedeen are countering with “sophisticated and cutting-edge technology” as the Taliban movement approaches “the edge of victory”. Need advice? Ask the Russians, the British, the Persians, Alexander the Great….
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