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05 September 2009


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Well, anything by Ahmed Rashid, a fine, cynical observer based in Lahore. Less in depth but adequate, CFR did a piece "The Taliban in Afghanistan" (www.cfr.org/publication/10551/)
a while back & updated it last month. There's also a sidebar to the piece that gives other sources. Our friends at INR probably have some good stuff & I bet some of their source material is unclass.


Colonel, I simply want to say that I am not nearly smart or educated enough to comment here often, but I read religiously and pass around links, and I just want to thank you for your stellar work, as well as your commitment to the men of the USS Liberty.


Colonel, any thoughts on the Russian ship destined for Algeria that was hijacked a few weeks ago? It was reported to be carrrying timber and was hijacked in N Europe. Not a typical pirate locale.


If the Cheney/Perle Cleanbreak nano thermite terrorist attack brought down the WTC on 911 instead of OBL.

How much of your Afghanistan analysis is relevant?

None of it.

Patrick Lang


No idea. pl

Patrick Lang


What part of three planes loaded with fuel flying into three buildings did you miss?

What's your view on the "fraudulent" moon landings in 1968? pl


Sometime in Sept. 2004 (I just checked) I discovered the Indian-English security and terrorism specialist M. J. Gohel, occasionally slightly misspelled in Indian (Enlish) articles as MJ Gohel on the net, if I remember well? He was the only one who offered all of Obamas Fatwas against the West netwise then. He may be your man on classified matters since he closed down his site after a series of curious people like me discovered him, his site and his institution. For a while there was a way to circumvent the preventive shields, but then it was closed for good for us average citizen.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Asia-Pacific_Foundation>Asia Pacific Foundation

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=M._J._Gohel>M. J. Gohel


The first nine pages of Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban" has more information about the origin of the Taliban than most papers I've read on the net. Here is an extract from same.


Brian Hart

Colonel, I suggest this source for understanding Taliban groupings, "Descent into Chaos" by Ahmed Rashid. Its available from Amazon in paperback. Get the latest edition as it has been updated. Best wishes.



I have met MJ Gohel and he is one of the more well-funded self-promoting know-nothing terrorism 'experts' who rode the post-9/11 wave of attention. His only "specialties" were being non-Western (a rarity in the terrorism 'expert' community) and hoodwinking an old, inbred British Lord into advising his Asia Pacific Foundation (which lacked a physical office, by the way).


I second Optimax's suggestion about Ahmed Rashid's "Taliban". One of the things I most appreciate about this book is that while it gained a lot of attention after 9/11, it was written and published well before that event, and hence does not suffer from the historical revisionism that now pervades some analyses of Central Asia.



This series by Syed Saleem Shahzad and published by Asia Times at the beginning of the year may be one avenue:


I agree with Twit wrt to Gohel et fils. He is one fellow who is either against Islam as a whole so he sees the boogeymen all around or he is one of those Indians who is so mad about Pakistan that he sees terrorism everywhere in the ME or South Asia.


This might have a few useful things.




From the latter:

"3. While analysing the Lahore attack, one has to keep in mind certain ground realities. The first ground reality is that there are Talibans and Talibans and in each Taliban, there are mini-Talibans. As I had mentioned in one of my past articles, there are virtually as many Talibans in the Pashtun belt as there are tribal sirdars (leaders). The second ground reality is the clear distinction in behaviour and operations between the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan headed Mullah Mohammad Omar, based in Quetta, and the various Pakistani Talibans led by tribal sirdars such as Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan, Hakemullah Mehsud, who is responsible for operations in the Khyber, Kurrum and Orakzai areas, Maulana Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who is a son of the Swat soil, and Sufi Mohammad, his father-in-law, who is actually from Dir and not Swat. Of these various Talibans, only the Neo Taliban of Mullah Mohammad Omar, which was created by the ISI in 1994 when Benazir Bhutoo was the Prime Minister, still owes its loyalty to the ISI and the Pakistan Government. The Neo Taliban is active against the US-led NATO forces in Afghan territory from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but it has never been involved in an act of terrorism in Pakistani territory against Pakistani targets----whether from the Army or the ISI or the Police. All the attacks in Pakistani territory on Pakistani Govt. targets were carried out by different Pakistani Taliban groups or by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JED), which has transferred its headquarters from Bahawalpur to Swat, and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia terrorist organisation.

4. The third ground reality is the distinction between the Pakistani Punjabi Taliban and the Pakistani Pashtun Taliban, All of them advocate the same Wahabised Islamic ideology based on the Sharia, but their ethnic composition differs. The term Punjabi Taliban is used to refer to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the LEJ. Punjabis constitute the majority of their cadres. All of them except the JEM are of the 1980s/ 1990s vintage. The JEM was born in 2000 through a split in the HUM. Of these organisations, the LET, like the Neo Taliban, is the favoured tool of the ISI, which uses the Neo Taliban in Afghanistan and the LET against India. Like the Neo Taliban, the LET too has never attacked a Pakistani target in Pakistani territory. In fact, there has never been a confirmed instance of an attack by the LET on foreign targets in Pakistani territory lest it create problems from the ISI. The JEM and the LEJ never hesitate to attack Pakistani Government targets, either on their own or at the instance of Al Qaeda. The attitude of the HUM and the HUJI is ambivalent.

5. The fourth ground reality is that while the Pakistani Punjabi Taliban and the Neo Taliban have been in existence for over a decade, the Pakistani Pashtun Talibans are a product of the commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July, 2007, in which a large number of Pashtun tribal children, many of them girls, were killed. It was after this that tribal sirdars such Fazlullah, Baitullah and Hakeemullah called for a jihad against the Pakistan Army and the ISI in retaliation for the raid. While the TNSM has been in existence since the early 1990s, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came into existence after the Lal Masjid raid."


Sigh, no hard information here: http://ramansterrorismanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/05/pakistan-on-boil-on-brink-again.html, simply an assertion:

"6. The Pashtun anger is the root cause of the mushrooming Taliban organisations right across the Pashtun belt. There are Talibans and Talibans. There are as many Talibans as there are tribal chiefs. Instead of trying to understand the Pashtun anger and to mitigate it, President Barack Obama, his advisers and aides have been fueling it further through their insensitive and thoughtless statements and comments, which tend to project the Pashtuns as a whole as accomplices of Al Qaeda, paint an apocalyptic characterisation of the developments in the Pashtun belt and unnecessarily over-stress the role of the security forces in dealing with the violence resulting from the Pashtun anger.

7. Unless and until the Pashtun anger is understood, addressed and mitigated, the spread of the Taliban virus cannot be arrested and reversed. The most important role in this regard has to be that of the progressive Pashtun politicians of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. There are many progressive Pashtun leaders. Let us not forget that the leftist movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan had its strongest roots in the Pashtun belt. Neither the Obama Administration nor its predecessor administration of George Bush has had time for the Pashtun leaders of the Pashtun soil."



You give me too much credit for I've only read the first nine pages of "Taliban." I will pick it up because he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Have read other articles and seen videos by Rashid.

The poor Afghans are caught between the cruelty of the Taliban and collateral damage of NATO. They don't care if the bombings, like the one with the two tanker trucks, were mistakes. They just feel the pain of seeing friends and family dead and injured.

I don't have the answer but I don't think it's high tech or sending anthropologists or social scientists dressed as soldiers to understand the people. Military uniforms have a different meaning to the Afghans that they do for us. We need people who dress like the locals, speak their language, eat with them and smell like them, to gain their confidence. Drop USAID and instead of trying to create Western style democratic institutions, work directly with the tribes, find out what they want, fund them directly and employ them to rebuild their country to what it was like in the 1970's. We should make the effort to be on their side, instead of trying to get them on our side. Then they might work for us if they thought we were working for them.

Isn't this how the CIA worked with the Warlords?

It's just a pipe dream I suppose but I hate to see us give back control to the Taliban, knowing what little I do of their methods.

Mark Stuart

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over "this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children" in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom's primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed.

So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. As the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel. Today, every Saudi is a Gazan, and we remember well the words of our late King Faisal: "I hope you will forgive my outpouring of emotions, but when I think that our Holy Mosque in Jerusalem is being invaded and desecrated, I ask God that if I am unable to undertake Holy Jihad, then I should not live a moment more."

By Turki bin Faisal Al Saud
Published in the Financial Times: January 23 2009

Any thoughts Sir on that? I just thought it interesting from someone who led for over 25 years the Saudi Intelligence that he would also make reference to his late father's famous speech.


Beaver, Twit, your comments on M. J. Gohel confirm my suspicions about him then. Admittedly my contribution was a bit tongue-in-cheek, I was really confused in post 911 times. It felt than that some (Richard Perle comes to mind) discovered security as a future industrial money spinner. And from a bonanza perspective wouldn't it be good to feed the rage? But he also seemed to be well connected in some posh British circles and felt very neoconnish. But I realized also very fast that I missed basic knowledge in the field and that it was really complex.

Thanks for your comments.


I would extend Beaver's endorsement of Syed Saleem Shahzad's work to his entire oeuvre. No other reporter even comes close.

andy mink

Dear Colonel Lang,

I´ve been wondering about the tribal makeup of the Taliban, too – I think A. Rashid goes into that in his “Taliban”: if I remember correctly he discusses the ancient divisions between the Durrani (or Abdali) and Ghilzai branches of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. I wonder how far the U.S. and Nato have identified clans and subdivisions of the tribes within these federations as “Taliban” or “friends”. What really puzzles me as an uninformed observer is Karzais position as a Durrani aristocrat (and distant relative of the founder of the Afghan empire, Ahmad Shah Durrani). Doesn´t he have any pull with at least some tribes or is he using his lineage to built a warlord-like base? Ahmad Shah must have been a impressive figur, a great warrior and speaker, but also a great poet.

So I´m no help here, but would be really interested to learn from others.

Best, Andy Mink

Gautam Das


From my very limited knowledge of the subject, it appears that the Durrani (Abdali) Pathans and the Ghilzais have buried the hatchet for the time being. Mullah Omar, the top Taliban leader, is a Ghilzai, so is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the 'sardar' of the Hizb-e-Islami (HeI), one of the 'Taliban' outfits.

Once the foreign troops leave Afghanistan, they may well carry on with their traditional rivalry again. Right now, all the Pathans, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are indignant about the presence of foreign troops in A-stan. Not surprisingly, they are as inflamed about it as they were when Soviet troops were there and doing more or less the same thing, minus the drone attacks. This enraged Pathan opinion includes that of the Pathan officers and men of the Pakistan Army, about 25-30% of that army (not counting the Frontier Corps, where the enlisted men are all Pathans). The Pathan officers in the Pakistan Army include Generals.

Not too different at the receiving end when foreigners' warplanes bomb your village, or those of your cousins.

Gautam Das


The following are declassified U.S. documents dating from Nov. 3, 1994, when the Taliban first appeared on radar, to Jan. 9, 2002. I'm sure many here have read them, but for those who haven't, they are intersting docs.


Howard C. Berkowitz

Rashid is excellent. I have been keeping up summaries, with additional sources, at http://en.citizendium.org/Taliban, http://en.citizendium.org/Taliban_in_Pakistan, with a number of linked subarticles.


Dear Col.:

With respect, your treatment of Rob is a little too brusque. Yes, he was too, but that doesn't help either.

Two planes hit two buildings; not three as you stated. Given the video floating around on the net, with WTC 7 falling so cleanly and quickly--and hours after WTC 1 and 2 went down--it's to be expected that people will ask, in essence, "Why?"

The technical answer is here: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/factsheet/wtc_qa_082108.html

Once the scenario of cut water lines (as a result of the collapse of the other buildings) is explained, and the very specific sequence of failing columns is grasped--with a special role for a certain kind of truss at the top--then the rapid failure of WTC 7 becomes not such a mystery.

Is this really what happened? I've dealt with all kinds of experts in my life, and I can tell you true that the real answer to that is that experts, all too frequently, do not police their assumptions and the evidence all the way through unless someone competent is badgering them. But yes; in this case, it would appear to be true. It would actually take hundreds of hours of interviews to make sure, but the hypothesis and evidence all appear to hang together.

The reason for the skepticism in Rob's question is not just a post-Watergate distrust of all things government. It's actively and unnecessarily encouraged by the government, so we should give him something of a break. What I mean is this: The Pentagon had a zillion cameras on it. On 9/12 it could have shown stills of the plane entering the Pentagon. Instead, it takes five years and a lawsuit to make that happen. Pathetic.

On a different, but related, note, given that the NRO and others had wargames scheduled on 9/11, it would appear that someone on the other side knew of this and decided to get a jump on our OODA cycle by timing the attack to coincide with the games. That way, when the first call came in of a hijacked plane, the responder could waste a few minutes trying to clarify whether it was the game or real life. And that's what I recall actually was the testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Sure, it was clarified in a hurry, but an edge is an edge in a fight, especially within a tight timeframe, as in NYC. By not aggressively handling the PR aspects of this, the government needlessly adds fuel to the conspiracy fires. In that regard, the NIST link above is a good model: simple, orderly, factual. But it took a long time to produce and was under-reported.

Had our government been a little more forthcoming, and explained how and why the enemy might have had access to information about our wargames, for example, and might have preferred such a circumstance for an attack (as I think Mr. Scheuer eventually did explain in one of his books), rampant speculation could have been tamped down a bit. Robs of the world would be more informed.

Honestly, the skills it takes to really assess these events properly take years to develop. And we all can think of many high-ranking officials who never really achieved anything approaching mastery. It's good to remember how hard the skills are to acquire, and to encourage the questions.

These are also difficult puzzles to put together. The box should say: "800,00 pieces. Ages 40 and up." I mean, if Robert Dreyfus is even half right with his book "Devil's Game," then it's by all means possible that Mohammad Atta spent time at Monterey. If we were pursuing a broad strategy of supporting the Islamists as a means of crushing the pan-Arab nationalists, an equally good question might be, "Why wouldn't he?"

I'm not calling for a tin-foil rally, but more candor--even if it's at the policy level and written in such a way that only true geeks would appreciate it, would be helpful. A few more breadcrumbs on the trail,please.

Furthermore, and not to be too hard on the government, remember the passport, or whatever it was that supposedly was found on the Pentagon lawn. Deus ex Passport. Or the suitcase with all of the hijackers' names, etc.? I don't likely have half of this right, but the point is that the government was certainly not beyond running propaganda on its own citizens. For the record, I think that's a bad move.

And now to give Rob some company and show my own ignorance: are we really working with the Saudi's to send the Mooj into Lebanon and Central Asia? (Cause we're such good buddies.) Someone should lash Wolfowitz to the mast.

Glad to learn, stir the pot,




Friends of mine in the Pentagon saw the burned aircraft fuselage inside the
building. In addition to that several people whom I have known for a long
time watched the plane fly past along Columbia Pike in Arlington. A naval
officer friend watched the plane fly past the Navy Headquarter Annex at the
level of his windows on the ridge next to the marine barracks, Henderson
Hall. He could see the people in aircraft through the windows. The impact
noise then followed. I find this kind of thing interesting. How do you
feel about Bigfoot? Pl

Mark Stuart

Bigfoot?! mmm...woof!

What is the saying again: big feet big...?
Oh sorry you were not talking to me Sir!?

Cato it's for you. An other good myth to chew on.(so to speak).


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