Yousafzai, Sami, Moreau, Ron, Newsweek
Byline: Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
Taliban sources in Afghanistan say jihadist allies from Central Asia have started heading home. Though the exodus is being encouraged by relentless American drone attacks against the fighters' back bases in Pakistan's tribal areas, it's not necessarily good news for U.S. forces. The dislodged jihadists aren't quitting the battlefield; on the contrary, they're expanding their range across the unguarded northern Afghan border into Tajikistan to create new Taliban sanctuaries there, assist Islamist rebels in the region, and potentially imperil the Americans' northern supply lines.
The Central Asians retreated to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the late 1990s after failing to topple their home governments. Now they seem ready to try again, using guerrilla tactics and know-how they've picked up from the Taliban about improvised explosive devices. Small groups of Tajik and Uzbek militants began moving into Tajikistan in late winter 2009, says a Taliban subcommander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. In Kunduz they joined up with fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Qaeda-linked group active there and in Tajikistan. "Once these first groups made it back safely [to Tajikistan], they signaled to militants here in Kunduz and even in Pakistan's tribal areas that the journey was possible," the subcommander, who didn't want to be named for security reasons, tells NEWSWEEK. …