Det skjer illevarslende ting i Afghanistan, som samtidig byr på muligheter: Taliban blir mer lik Al Qaida i metoder og tenkning. Samtidig får de avanserte våpen fra Iran. Det betyr større risiko for ISAF og afghansk hær/politi. Men psykologisk har afghanerne neppe sans for Al Qaida-ideologi.

By killing two South Korean hostages and refusing to release the remaining 21, including 18 women, the Taliban is taking a new path that suggests it is becoming an Afghan branch of Al Qaeda.

In the past 18 months, the Taliban has adopted more aggressive tactics – such as kidnappings and suicide bombings – imported directly from the Al Qaeda-led global jihad.

It marks a departure from the Taliban of the recent past. Indeed, experts say that the Taliban’s original reason for being – an intensely tribal brand of religious fundamentalism – has all but evaporated, as Muslims of all sects participate in a movement based less and less on traditional tribal values and increasingly on anti-Americanism and terrorism.

As a result, Pashtun tribal elders, long the best hope to negotiate the release of foreign hostages, including the Koreans, are increasingly being marginalized as the Taliban moves beyond its Afghan roots.

«This is a new strategy,» says Ahmed Rashid, author of «Taliban.» «There has been a progressive Al Qaeda-ization of tactics.»

But it could also create problems for the Taliban in Afghanistan, where tribal leaders are still deeply respected. «It was surprising to me that the Taliban did not accept the reasoning of the elders and important people of Ghazni,» says Abdul Salam Raketi, a former member of the Taliban who is now a lawmaker, and was part of one of the government’s negotiating teams.

«It is really dangerous for the future of the Taliban,» he says. «If people are supporting the Taliban a little, they won’t support them at all anymore because the Taliban did not listen to their elders in negotiations.»

Elder Spandagul calls this the work of Chechens and Pakistanis who have come here to wage global jihad – and Afghan elders are powerless to stop them. In times past, tribes had their own militia, but these were disbanded with the establishment of the Western-backed government, and nothing has risen in their place. Many police patrols are unable to venture a mile from their posts.

Taliban leaves tribal roots for Al Qaeda tactics

British troops in Helmand province fighting the Taliban face a new danger as sophisticated Iranian weapons and explosives are being smuggled into Afghanistan.

In the dusty frontier town of Islam Qala, near Herat, on the Afghan side of the border with Iran, weapons and explosives such as armour-piercing roadside bombs are being trafficked to the insurgents.

The news that Taliban rebels are being armed with Iranian-supplied weapons poses an added threat to the 5,000 British troops battling insurgents in southern Afghanistan. «I have to tell the truth. It is clear to everyone that Iran is supporting the enemy of Afghanistan, the Taliban,» Colonel Rahmatullah Safi, head of border police for western Afghanistan, told The Sunday Times.

Afghan intelligence sources believe that many deals between the Taliban and the Iranians are conducted through a drug smuggler in southern Afghanistan who acts as a middle man. He is from the minority Baluch tribe; as well as smuggling heroin through Iran to Europe, he is also believed to have bought weapons off the Iranian government and sold them on to the Taliban.

The deadliest weapons known to cross the border are Iranian-made armour-piercing explosives. Colonel Thomas Kelly, an American under the command of Nato, said that the explosives that have been used to deadly effect in Iraq have been found recently in western Afghanistan.

«These are very sophisticated IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and they’re really not manufactured in any other place to our knowledge than Iran,» he said, adding that the explosives were factory made. He stopped short of saying they were supplied by the Iranian government.

Iran gives Taliban hi-tech weapons to fight British