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Midlevel commanders reluctant to fight

  |   Feb. 22, 2011 at 7:03 AM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Taliban field commanders, tiring of the war in Afghanistan, are reluctant to resume fighting ordered by their leaders hiding in Pakistan, a commander said.

These field commanders, who have been pushed into Pakistan following recent defeats in Kandahar and Helmand provinces by newly arrived U.S. troops, are being pressured by their leaders to return to the battle areas, but they are not keen to do so, The New York Times reported.

Their latest losses and general weariness after nine years of war are showing up as they contend with their leaders in Pakistan.

"I have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight," the Times quoted an unidentified veteran Taliban commander as saying. The 45-year-old commander said he has been a member since the group's founding.

Speaking to the newspaper in Kandahar, the commander said: "Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders and the leaders over their demands to go and fight."

The report said the situation also points to the difficulty of ending the insurgency as long as the top leadership remains secure and protected by Pakistan.

Taliban members told the Times the top leaders, urged by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies that want to maintain their influence in Afghanistan, keep pressuring the midlevel commanders to continue their insurgency across the border, however reluctant they may be.

Kandahar residents, who know the Taliban, said the commanders also don't have much of a choice as they, too, rely on Pakistani sanctuaries where they keep their families.

The commanders' differences with their leaders also are partly the result of successful raids by U.S. forces.

A Taliban supporter in Helmand told the Times about 500 insurgents, including most of the commanders in the province, were eliminated last year.

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