Behind Afghanistan’s recent escalation in violence looms three faces familiar to the US intelligence community. Mohammed Omar, founding mullah of the “Big T” Taliban government; Jalaluddin Haqqani, his one-time cabinet minister; and the ruthless Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are most responsible for leading the anti-government charge, the LA Times reports—and all three were armed and trained by the US during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s.
But familiar or not, the trio has been impossible to take out, hiding in Pakistan’s tribal area. “Because they don’t hang their hats in Afghanistan, we really have got no options,” said one intelligence officer. The three aren’t close—Hekmatyar once fought against the Taliban—but that too is familiar. We’re fighting “a collection of loosely allied groups, chiefly of the militant Islamist variety,” said one CIA official. “We have assumed the place of the Soviets.”