Kashmir at Risk: Taliban-JeM Camps Flourishing in Afghanistan
JeM cadres trained at camps in Nangarhar are being regularly infiltrated into J&K for terrorist operations
“First we take Manhattan,” Leonard Cohen sang years ago.
First, they took Kabul, then the next one, according to the buzzing in the area, is going to be Jammu & Kashmir. I'm talking of Taliban and Jaish-e-Mohammed, of course. And, above all, of their puppeteer, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
In the past year or so, Jaish-e-Mohammed, through its ISI handlers, has maintained close ties with the Afghan Taliban and has been providing them with a continuous stream of Pakistani recruits from the provinces of South Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.
Nangarhar Has Been 'Practically' Handed Over to JeM
The JeM’s training camps, including the one at Balakot, have supplied a sizeable number of battle-hardened fighters who have aided the ground successes of the Afghan Taliban. Further, the JeM has also provided suicide bombers to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network for executing attacks in Afghanistan. Now, according to local sources, the province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan has practically been handed over by the Taliban to the JeM.
There are a number of training camps in the area. Some are under the direct control of the Taliban, and they accomodate only small groups of JeM members, while other camps, called ‘Mustaquir’ camps, are used exclusively by the JeM.
Earlier, these camps were used for imparting training to Haqqani and Taliban cadres, and were later handed over to JeM members in lieu of the training facilities provided by the JeM to Haqqani fighters in Pakistan.
JeM cadres have been shifted to Nangarhar – on ISI instructions – from Khyber Agency and from Pan Chinar, on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Since then, new recruits and fresh trainees are brought on a regular basis to these camps from various districts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
AK47s, LMGs, Rocket Launchers: What Eyewitnesses Have Seen
The expenditure of these camps, including maintenance, logistics and salary for instructors, are borne by the JeM. A number of training camps are located in the Khogyani district, in the proximity of villages or any place where civilians live, and have all kinds of facilities: hostels for trainees, grounds, masjid, classrooms and residences for instructors. In-charges and cadres of JeM are accommodated in separate camps and share the locations with senior functionaries in the civilian areas.
The training schedule at the camps includes physical training, classroom lessons, dismantling and mantling of weapons, handling of arms and ammunition. The firing practise is, however, done away from the camp due to the close proximity to civilian locations. Eyewitnesses have seen a range of AK47s, LMGs, rocket launchers, grenades, explosives being used for training. The trainees are also given jungle survival training gear in Kunar Jungle, near the Nuristan border.
JeM cadres trained at camps in Nangarhar are being regularly infiltrated into Jammu & Kashmir for terrorist operations.
The attack on the Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu in February 2018 was conducted by three Pakistani cadres trained at Khogyani camp. A number of these trained cadres are active in the Valley.
There is, in fact, a specific training schedule for the fidayeens deployed in Kashmir. Besides the 'ordinary' teachings, the trainees are also given a 10-day special capsule module that includes storming into army camps, camouflage, concealment, survival techniques and fabrication of IEDs, plus 20 days of firing practices and infiltration techniques into replicas of areas like Neelam, Sharda, Kotli, etc.
Asghar & Masood
Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar Kashmiri, brother of Masood Azhar, is in charge of the Nangarhar camps. The same fellow, just to be clear, who supervised the Balakot camp and who has been in charge of actively recruiting fidayeen cadres for the past year at least. Asghar, despite being at a point placed officially under protective custody, has been seen holding multiple meetings with ISI operatives. In particular, a few months ago, Asghar accompanied to Islamabad his brother Masood Azhar to meet their ISI patrons – to discuss, according to sources, the role of the JeM in the incoming months.
The same sources maintain that during the meeting, there were few differences on the issue. The ISI was giving very clear directions to Azhar and his associates: they should have supported the Taliban during the first months, focusing more on Afghanistan than on Kashmir. However, Ashgar insisted that the group could easily do both, ie., focus on Kashmir as well as support the Taliban.
The ISI line, of course, prevailed, and the JeM, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba, was put on the job of raising funds for the Taliban and facilitating the movements of jihadists (including al Qaida members) from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The rest is history.
The Taliban took Afghanistan and Masood Azhar, a few days after Kabul's fall, rushed to Kandahar to meet with Taliban leaders in order to coordinate joint operations between the two groups. During the meeting, Azhar was strongly advocating the need for the two groups to focus on jihad in Kashmir instead of pursuing political objectives.
So, it’s just a matter of time. First, we take Manhattan, J&K will follow. America is gone, terrorist groups can act and train undisturbed, and finally, the ISI can focus on the next ground.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)
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