Safiullah Gul: US troops leave Zhawar Killi

PESHAWAR: US troops Thursday left Zhawar Killi area, some 30 km southwest of Khost in Afghanistan, after investigating the locals about Taliban and al-Qaeda members.

The US troops had started packing up after the reports that the US was targeting some more areas for the hunt of Osama bin Laden and dismantling the al-Qaeda network. As the Washington shifts the war against terror to the Pacific, where in Philippines the US soldiers set up camp on Thursday on an island in the southern Philippines to join operations against Muslim rebels linked to Osama bin Laden, a new phase in Washington's war against terror begins.

The United States is sending about 160 special-forces and 500 support and technical staff to Basilan and the nearby city of Zamboanga to join the Philippine military in fighting the Abu Sayyaf.

A source in the Pakistani tribal town of Miran Shah, bordering Afghanistan, said the US marines boarded helicopters after fixing reconnaissance apparatus in order to detect suspected terrorists.

The US jets had carried out intense bombing for more than a fortnight in the Zhawar Killi area after it bombed the Tora Bora caves complex.

The Zhawar area is also a home to complex caves and tunnels built by the mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The caves and complexes were said to be accommodating a huge quantity of ammunition dumped during the war against Soviet Union, which was itself supplied by the United States.

The two-week bombing was not only meant to hunt the Saudi-born fugitive and prime suspect of September 11 attacks in US, Osama laden and his key supporter, the former Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar but also to either destroy the munitions or carry them away. The move was also meant to debar the use of ammunition by the hiding Taliban or al-Qaeda members in the area. The structures that were found on the surface had been leveled and the openings of the caves were closed by the bombings.

The bombings in the area not only destroyed the al-Qaeda hideouts but also demolished houses and forced the inhabitants to leave the area and migrate to some safe place, with many taking refugee in the Dandae Killi area of the Saaedgi, Miran Shah.

A man belonging to the Gurbag tribe, who has been freed from US marine custody, said that his family was forced to migrate due to heavy US bombardment.

"When I went to collect my belongings from my home, US commandos got hold of me. They enchained me and detained me for six days. One of the marines gave me one dollar after freeing me."

When The Statesman approached an official of the political administration he, on seeking anonymity, said many of the Gurbaz tribesmen of Afghanistan managed to trickle through the borders and took refugee with their fellow tribesmen in this Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan, surrounding Saedgi.

About the infiltration he said the Frontier Corps has sealed Afghan border at Saedgi to prevent any trickling of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters into Pakistan.

He also disclosed that one reason of the US troops leaving the area so soon was that many Pashtoon tribal leaders in Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces -- just south of Tora Bora—in the eastern Afghanistan have sympathies with the Taliban and have balked at cooperating with US forces in the hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda members, weapons caches and intelligence. The reluctance of the Pashtoon tribal chieftains has left US forces with only a few allies in the eastern Afghanistan.


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