Magazine article Newsweek

Pakistan Loses Control

Magazine article Newsweek

Pakistan Loses Control

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Moreau

The Afghan Taliban's three operational chiefs have gone deep underground, senior insurgent officials tell NEWSWEEK, and meetings of the leadership have been canceled until further notice. The three--former Taliban civil-aviation minister Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, former Taliban provincial governor Mullah Mohammad Hasan Rahmani, and military commander and former Guantanamo inmate Abdul Qayum Zakir--had operated with impunity from their rear bases inside Pakistan for years until the arrest near Karachi in February of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group's director of day-to-day actions at the time. (Top leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has been in hiding since he fled Afghanistan in late 2001.)

Now, however, the three have dropped out of sight; they may no longer even be in Pakistan, several Taliban officials say. "They are in safe areas where the [Pakistani] military has no control," says a top Taliban intelligence officer, requesting anonymity for security reasons. The fugitive leaders stay in separate locations to ensure their safety, the intelligence officer says, and they communicate only with oral or written messages relayed by couriers, never electronically. "These men are younger and stronger than Baradar and can stand the rigors of staying in Afghanistan or elsewhere," he adds. "We are not going to sit quietly like chickens in a cage waiting for the butcher to grab us one at a time for slaughter."

The disappearance of the Taliban's top leaders might sound at first like good news for U. …

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