Al Qaeda: Internal Power Struggle Looms

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's moment of triumph was brief. Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque—a complex in the heart of the normally sleepy capital of Islamabad that had been occupied by extremists—the retaliations began. Early last week Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants launched suicide attacks against several Pakistani military convoys. Another bomber walked into a police recruiting center, killing 29 in a single gory blast. The next...

By The Book: Taliban Fighters Play by Their Own Rules

In case a Taliban fighter wonders what is expected of him, he can now refer to a nine-page, blue and white, pocket-size pamphlet called the Layeha, which Mullah Mohammed Omar began distributing last month. The book (NEWSWEEK obtained a copy, and has seen Taliban fighters carrying it in several parts of Afghanistan) lays down 29 strictures for conduct on the battlefield and in villages, as well as sanctions faced by those who break the rules: strict Islamic justice. CLASS DISMISSED...

The Rise of Jihadistan

You don't have to drive very far from Kabul these days to find the Taliban. In Ghazni province's Andar district, just over a two-hour trip from the capital on the main southern highway, a thin young man, dressed in brown and wearing a white prayer cap, stands by the roadside waiting for two NEWSWEEK correspondents. It is midday on the central Afghan plains, far from the jihadist-infested mountains to the east and west. Without speaking, the sentinel guides his visitors along a sandy horse trail...

In the Footsteps of Zarqawi

If you hoped his June 7 death might be the end of the line for Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, you really don't want to see the newest recruitment videos for the Taliban. Although they never mention the Jordanian-born terrorist by name, the echoes of his Internet videos--and his sheer viciousness--are unmistakable and chilling. The star is Mullah Dadullah Akhund, a one-legged guerrilla commander in southern Afghanistan who now seems bent on matching or exceeding Zarqawi's ugly reputation.In one scene,...

A War on Schoolgirls

Summer vacation has only begun, but as far as 12-year-old Nooria is concerned, the best thing is knowing she has a school to go back to in the fall. She couldn't be sure the place would stay open four months ago, after the Taliban tried to burn it down. Late one February night, more than a dozen masked gunmen burst into the 10-room girls' school in Nooria's village, Mandrawar, about 100 miles east of Kabul. They tied up and beat the night watchman, soaked the principal's office and the library...

A Violent Wake-Up Call

Urbane, dapper hamid karzai has always come off well in the international spotlight. But the Afghan president looked decidedly uncomfortable last week as he addressed his own nation following a riot in Kabul on May 29--triggered by a deadly traffic accident between a U.S. military convoy and civilian vehicles that killed seven people. The violence was the worst to strike the capital since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. The mob's rage was directed partly at the U.S. military--but also,...

A Friend in Need

Even with all the troubles that followed, Mohammad Gulab says he's still glad he saved the U.S. Navy SEAL. "I have no regrets for what I did," the 32-year-old Afghan told NEWSWEEK recently. "I'm proud of my action." Nevertheless, he says, "I never imagined I would pay such a price." Last June, foraging for edible plants in the forest near his home in the Kunar-province village of Sabray, Gulab discovered a wounded commando, the lone survivor of a four-man squad that had been caught in a Taliban...

A Risky Feud

Summit meetings are meant to improve relations. But two recent high-level confabs--one in February between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf, and the other U.S. President George W. Bush's trip to Islamabad earlier this month--have had the opposite effect. For the cameras, both looked like the usual well-scripted, feel-good affairs--but in fact they've laid bare a serious rift between Afghanistan and Pakistan, America's two key allies in the global war...

Wanted: A Few Good Taliban Recruits

Taking a cue from the media-savvy Iraqi insurgency, the Taliban has produced its first fund-raising, recruiting and training VCD shot entirely in Afghanistan. Taliban sources say that over the next few months, Mullah Mohammed Omar's anti-U.S. movement hopes to distribute hundreds of thousands of copies of the hour long VCD throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wealthiest of the gulf states. "We want to motivate people, make them emotional, so they'll join, contribute to and support our...

A Harvest Of Treachery

In the privacy of his sparsely furnished house in Kabul, a veteran Afghan Interior Ministry official says the situation may already be hopeless. Although he has no authorization to speak with the press, and he could be in personal danger if his identity became known, he's nevertheless too worried to keep silent. "We are losing the fight against drug traffickers," he says. "If we don't crack down on these guys soon, it won't be long until they're in control of everything."His pessimism is...

Unholy Allies

At sundown, the most- wanted man in Ghazni province comes roaring down a country road astride his motorcycle. Mohammed Daud, 35, commands the biggest Taliban force in this area roughly 100 miles southwest of Kabul. But today he travels with just one bodyguard. The two bikes wheel into a melon patch, trailed by a billowing cloud of red dust. Climbing off his machine, Daud launches into a glowing account of where he spent the first few months of this year and what he's done since his return. "I'm...

TERROR BROKER

Hardly anyone was more surprised by Iraq's insurgency than Osama bin Laden. The terrorist chief had never foreseen its sudden, ferocious spread, and he was likewise unprepared for the abrupt rise of its most homicidal commander, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Bin Laden and his aides knew the Jordanian-born Palestinian from Zarqawi's Afghan days, but mostly as a short-tempered bully and a troublemaker. So in the late summer of 2003, unwilling to sit on the sidelines, bin Laden sent two of his most...

LAST DAYS OF THE TALIBAN?

Mullah Mohammad Rafiq, a 28-year-old Taliban fighter with kohl-lined eyes and shoulder-length hair spilling from his black turban, couldn't believe his good luck. Last summer his 20-man guerrilla unit was summoned to the district of Argandab in Kandahar province to rendezvous with Mullah Shahzada Akhund. A senior Taliban commander, Shahzada had just been released from nearly three years' imprisonment by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At sunset one day, Rafiq's unit was ordered to...

HAMID KARZAI: 'THERE HAS TO BE PROGRESS'

Eight million Afghan men and women braved Taliban threats and bad weather to cast their ballots during Afghanistan's first free presidential election this fall. A solid 55.4 percent voted for Hamid Karzai. Last week Karzai was inaugurated in the company of top U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.Will Karzai now be able to impose his will on a country that continues to be plagued by warlords and militants, where the biggest money earner is...

'TALIBAN ARE WELCOME'

Eight million Afghan men and women braved Taliban threats and bad weather to cast their ballots during Afghanistan's first free presidential election this fall. A solid 55.4 percent voted for Hamid Karzai. Last week Karzai was inaugurated in the company of top U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Will Karzai now be able to impose his will on a country plagued by warlords and militants, where the biggest money earner is opium? In an...

A SAVVY HORSE TRADER

Surrounded by a bevy of bodyguards, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad quickly strode out of the house of Afghan presidential candidate Yunus Qanooni and through a gaggle of journalists waiting outside. "The real show is inside," said the impeccably dressed, Afghan-born envoy as he rushed to his armored car last week, after the country's first post-Taliban presidential election. He was being modest. These days, Khalilzad's highly persuasive diplomacy is the real show in Afghanistan.Dressed in a...

'LIVING DEAD' NO MORE

During the reign of the Taliban, when movies, music, television and women's education were banned, Roya Sadat wanted to be a filmmaker. She wrote scripts, and studied books on drama and moviemaking that had been smuggled in from neighboring Iran. "I always had hope that change would come one day," says Sadat, 23. Within a year of the Taliban's collapse in late 2001, she produced a 20-minute movie that showed "how Afghan women were like the living dead." The movie caught the attention of Golden...

'We Don't Recognize The Results'

Even before the polling booths closed in Afghanistan's first-ever direct presidential election, all 15 candidates running against incumbent Hamid Karzai denounced the election as a fraud and refused to recognize the results.The resulting turmoil bewildered the millions of Afghan voters, most of whom were casting their first ballots ever. Facing unseasonably cold strong winds, blinding dust storms and death threats from Taliban guerrillas, they made their way to the polls today, many traveling...

STRIKING A BARGAIN

It's easy to spot where the secret negotiations are taking place in Kabul. Look for heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues blocking traffic, or for armadas of luxury four-by-fours with tinted windows double-parked. Inside restaurants, private residences and guesthouses around Kabul, presidential candidates are meeting with each other or the representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man to beat in the country's first presidential election on Oct. 9. Rather than building their...

ON THE BORDER: THE BOOMERANG EFFECT

Rafiq Bahai has seen better days. His Pakistani-based group of jihadis, the Al Badr Mujahedin, once led fierce raids on Indian troops in the disputed territory of Kashmir. But last year this regional commander's wings were clipped. President Pervez Musharraf ordered Bahai's recruiting offices shut down, his phone lines cut and his bank account frozen. His Pakistani military handlers have forbidden him from raising funds or recruiting openly. Knowing he is under surveillance, Bahai recently met...

The Harder Hunt For Bin Laden

Outwardly, Osama bin Laden's protectors in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan affect a haughty unconcern. Taliban fighters in Pakistan, interviewed last week, laughed at the spectacle of a disheveled and down-and-out Saddam Hussein getting hoisted out of his hole, utterly abandoned by aides and bodyguards who once pledged to die for him.Taliban fighters hiding in plain sight in Pakistan say this will never be the fate of bin Laden, his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Mullah Mohammed Omar,...

Bin Laden's Iraq Plans

During the muslim holy month of Ramadan, three senior Qaeda representatives allegedly held a secret meeting in Afghanistan with two top Taliban commanders. The confab took place in mid-November in the remote, Taliban-controlled mountains of Khowst province near the Pakistan border, a region where Al Qaeda has found it easy to operate--frequently even using satellite phones despite U.S. surveillance. At that meeting, according to Taliban sources, Osama bin Laden's men officially broke some bad...

Holy War 101

Abdul Bari's school day begins at 4 a.m. The freckle-faced, outgoing 9-year-old, an Afghan poppy farmer's son, wakes up on the tile floor he shares with four dozen other students at the Jamia Uloom Islamia religious academy, in the untamed mountains of Pakistan's tribal areas. After morning prayer services, he fixes tea for the older boys and himself, eating a bit of bread before classes start at daybreak. Students spend most of the day reciting the Qur'an; memorizing every one of its 6,666...

Rumors Of Bin Laden's Lair

Gray-bearded and almost toothless, Khan Kaka lives in a mud house with a weather-beaten pine door beside a little plot of corn and vegetables. But to his neighbors in this corner of Afghanistan's remote Kunar province, the gangling, tobacco-chewing old man is one of the most respected figures in the Pech River valley. It's all about connections: since 1996 Kaka's son-in-law, an Algerian named Abu Hamza al Jazeeri, has been a special bodyguard to the man Kaka calls loar sheik--"big chief"--Osama...

Flowers Of Destruction

Opium has been a lifesaver for Ghulam Shah. The 35-year-old Afghan farmer could barely feed his family on the few hundred dollars a year he earned growing wheat. But last year, liberated at last from the Taliban and its ban on poppy farming, Shah raised enough to pay all his debts and take his teenage daughter to Pakistan for kidney surgery. He estimates this year's crop at roughly 25 kilos of raw opium--about $9,000, a fortune in a country where most people earn less than $1 a day. "Now I can...

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