Back in May I asked where the militants, who were chased out from the Swat valley and the rest of Malakand, would go eventually. Then on July 21 I noted how the US military seemed to have developed a consistent line of reasoning - that the fighting on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line was seen as diverting key supplies of the insurgency in Afghanistan - already by the end of June. I found this strange (premature and yet oddly consistent; almost as though it would have been a diplomatic gesture towards the Pakistani side), and I promised that I would keep an eye out on this; now in this post I am mentioning something closely connected (contradicting the U.S. military's line).
First we need to pick up another thread. Back towards the end of June, Joshua Foust was already discussing an interesting possibility, citing an e-mail he received from someone on the ground (in Mazar-i-Sharif I presume). I will quote the contents of the letter which he excerpted in his post.
"In the Uzbek areas of northern Afghanistan, we’ve been hearing the IMU and Tahir Yuldash invoked more and more often over the past year. The IMU name has shown up on night letters, and local government figures (initially dismissive) are now publicly claiming that Yuldash is behind the recent escalation of insurgent activity in Jawzjan province — especially in southwestern Darzab district and Qush Tepa district, where anti-government forces carried out a dramatically successful assassination of the district governor, police chief, and head of intelligence back in March."
This may of course be just about rebranding, as Joshua Foust noted: an armed group, or armed groups, affiliated earlier on with the Taliban, now claiming to be something else entirely. But Abbas Daiyar mentions another possibility as well. And this is where all this becomes relevant to discussing the aftermath, and the second-order consequences, of the Pakistani military operations earlier in the year.
"According to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, these men have moved to the northern parts of Afghanistan after the recent military operation by the Pakistani Army. Spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, General Zahir Azimi, gave a press conference on July 22, 2009 with the spokesman of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The General pointed out that the reason behind the increasing militant attack in Kunduz is because of the agreement in Moscow allowing US military supplies through Russian territory across Northern Afghanistan. He confirmed that the arrival of Tahir Yaldosh's men in the north have disrupted the electoral process. Prior to this operation, the Ministry of Defense had confirmed the arrest of some foreign nationals from Kunduz."
This is interesting. I failed to notice news of this press conference on July 22. Even if one has to be automatically a little sceptical about any news discussing Uzbeks in Afghanistan, indications of some kind of IMU presence are now regularly coming in. Something that is interesting to ask is how Uzbeks, say, from Uzbekistan, living for years in places like Waziristan, then making some trouble in Malakand, would then make a decision to go and make trouble in Jowzjan, Sar-i-Pul, Kunduz etc.? I mean, you can't just set out for there one day, when the going gets tough in your earlier place of residence, can you?
Update (17:45): interesting to see this post by Joshua Foust, too. Mentions three predominantly Tajik districts in Kapisa province (Kohistan, Mahmud Raqi and Kohband), recently inundated with apparently well-organised insurgent teams, busy shipping into and across the area arms and explosives - teams made up mostly of recruits from Pakistan if the source of the information is correct.