After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces,Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the US said on Friday it would send more troops there this year.
In interviews,Taliban fighters said preparations for the influx of US troops were being made. The refortified alliance was forged after Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar sent emissaries to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to join forces and turn their attention to Afghanistan,Pakistani officials and Taliban members said. The overture by Omar is an indication that with the prospect of a US build-up,the Taliban feel the need to strengthen their own forces in Afghanistan.
The new Taliban alliance has raised concern in Afghanistan,where NATO generals warn that the conflict will worsen this year.
The Pakistani Taliban is dominated by Baitullah Mehsud,Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulavi Nazir,who have often clashed among themselves,based in North and South Waziristan.
Omar dispatched a six-member team to Waziristan in late December and early January,several Taliban fighters said in interviews in Dera Ismail Khan. The Afghan Taliban delegation urged the Pakistani Taliban leaders to settle internal differences and help counter the planned increase of US forces in Afghanistan,the fighters said.
The Pakistan Taliban leaders agreed. In February,they formed a united council Council of United Mujahideen. In a printed statement the leaders vowed to put aside their disputes and focus on fighting American-led forces in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban,Zabiullah Mujahid,denied that the meetings ever took place or that emissaries were sent by Omar.
We dont like to be involved with them,as we have rejected all affiliation with Pakistani Taliban fighters, Mujahid said. We have sympathy for them as Muslims,but there is nothing else between us.
Several Pakistani officials confirmed the meetings and said the overture might have been inspired by Sirajuddin Haqqani,an Afghan Taliban leader.