Taliban extend sphere of influence, says expert

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 06:40 hrs

Afghanistan's Taliban militants are expanding their influence further into regions outside their traditional power base, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) said.

'Their intake from non-Pashtun ethnic groups is growing, from where the Taliban hardly recruited in the past,' AAN co-director Thomas Ruttig said.

That trend was particularly obvious in Kunduz province in north-eastern Afghanistan, where German troops are based, he said.

In a report released Tuesday, the AAN criticised a significant lack of understanding about the nature of the Taliban movement by the international community.

The Taliban were no longer a tribal Pashtun movement, but have turned into a political Islamist movement in which ethnicity no longer plays a role, which opened the Taliban to non-Pashtuns, Ruttig said.

An increasing number of Afghan Tajik and Uzbek commanders were joining the Taliban movement, the German analyst said.

In the north-east, historically not Taliban territory, the militants have gained a foothold. 'In Kunduz (province) they have fundamentally changed the situation,' Ruttig said.

The increased Taliban influence in the province made the use of non-Pashtun tribal militia against the militants insufficient.

'Tribes do not function any longer as closed units,' he said.

There were also indications that the Taliban are trying to establish a presence in central Afghanistan.

'This would be a step toward being active again in the whole country,' Ruttig said.