While some captured Taliban fighters have been portrayed as “humiliated” and “sobbing,” other Islamic militants are well on their way – or have already arrived – home.
“Once their wounds are healed,” they will “reorganize” and be ready for a “new mission,” according to the influential Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.
Though defeated in battle by the United States and its allies, the embattled al-Qaida “veterans” return to their respective villages, from Saudi Arabia to Morocco, commanding respect – and even leadership – of local militant organizations.
Many militants have returned “enlarging the local Islamic movements and [assuming] leadership of them,” according to the paper.
Local authorities in the Islamic world are watching warily as those involved in the fighting in Afghanistan return home, but they are not expected to seek assistance from the international community, preferring to “wash” their own “dirty cloths,” according to Corriere della Sera.
In Algeria, where tens of thousands have already died during a prolonged civil war between the government and Islamic militants, the national authorities are attempting to avoid additional fighting. The Algerian government is prepared to treat returning fighters as “prodigal sons” – as long as the former Taliban militants return “peacefully” to their homes.
Dozens of al-Qaida fighters have slipped into Somalia, torn for years by a many-sided civil war that has left the country without a functioning national authority. The local Somali warlords fear an Islamic rebellion arising in the far north and south of the country, fomented by the newly arrived militants.
Some of the al-Qaida organization are finding their way to the Balkans, a region still suffering civil strife, especially in Macedonia. The Islamic fighters have been seen in Albania and in Bosnia, a primarily Muslim nation that, like Macedonia, was once part of the Federation of Yugoslavia.
Not all of the al-Qaida entering into the Balkans using Bosnian passports are Bosnians, according to Corriere della Sera. Some are also of Egyptian, Tunisian or Algerian origin.
The article from Corriere della Sera appears to verify earlier reports of links between militant Islamic fighters in Afghanistan and in the Balkans.
According to a Sept. 22 report from Radio Yugoslavia, “former Muslim leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Alija Izetbegovic, approved the issuance of Bosnian passports to citizens of various Islamic nations who proved themselves to be “meritorious combatants” during the Bosnia-Herzegovina struggle against Yugoslavia.
Citing the Sarajevo weekly newspaper DANI, Radio Yugoslavia stated that Izetbegovic on one occasion ordered 50 passports “to Mujahedin [Islamic warriors] from Islamic countries who fought on the Bosniak side” during Bosnia’s war for independence in the mid 1990s.
Not all al-Qaida fighters, however, have enjoyed a homecoming. The Corriere della Sera article warns that there is still an appreciable pool of displaced soldiers on the Afghan/Pakistani border seeking escape. The number is “at least” 2,500 Islamic militants.
The most reliable method of crossing the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan is through bribery, according to Corriere della Sera in another report.
In event of capture, between $1,600-$3,300, depending upon one’s rank in the Taliban, has proven, so far, to purchase freedom. If the detainee lacks funds, the family contributes, or “in several cases,” even local tribal chiefs have “opened [their] purses.”
Although defeated, the militants escaping the collapse of the Taliban are not repentant. They remain loyal to Mullah Omar and still, by and large, unquestionably support Osama bin Laden. Those coming across the Afghan/Pakistani border also universally condemn the United States, as well as its main ally on the ground, the Northern Alliance.