by Joshua Foust on 12/3/2008 · 1 comment

I was playing around with Twitter searches, and I saw that the short-lived governor of Kandahar—Major-General Rahmatullah Raufi, who was appointed to his post after the July prison break—had been sacked. What was remarkable about this was that there are rumors that Arsala Jamal of Khost is to be his replacement.

Digging further, I saw that there a lot of Indians discussing the role that BJP—the Bharatiya Janata Party of India—played in the 1999 Kandahar hostage negotiations.

Taliban fighters in front of IC-814 in Kandahat on December 27, 1999.

This was a watershed moment of sorts for the Taliban. On Christmas Eve, 1999, five Pakistanis hijacked Flight IC-814, enroute from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Delhi, India. After landing at Amritsar, and then Lahore, and then Dubai, the plane eventually wound up in Kandahar. By this time, the hijackers had stabbed one Indian to death, and demanded the release of several Pakistani prisoners. After landing, the plane was encircled with tanks and other Taliban soldiers, and the Taliban government both denied the right of Indian commandos to raid the plane for fear of “foreign militaries” in their territory, and denied they had the ability to carry out a raid themselves.

After much negotiation, the Indian government, which was run by the BJP at the time, agreed to release Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e Mohammed, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, a prominent anti-Indian Kashmiri militant, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who has ties to JeM, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen- al-Islami, another Kashmir group.

So here’s why this matters. A lot of people on Twitter are thinking about the Indian government’s role in releasing known terrorists, centering primarily on the Kandahar incident. It is indeed noteworthy that Pakistani nationals would find ardent protectors in the Taliban, and that in the process would then free militants known to focus primarily on Kashmiri separatism. Following this train of thought, so the argument seems to go, leads one to indirectly (or perhaps directly) fault the BJP for releasing men who have had a major role in fomenting Islamic extremism in Pakistan, and thus indirectly blame them for creating the conditions under which these extremists carried out successive waves of terror attacks on Indian territory.

It is a tenuous chain of thought. But I honestly would not have dreamed of it even existing had I not been toying around on Twitter. What a remarkable tool.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Paul C December 4, 2008 at 2:55 am

Mining Twitter for open source intelligence – now that you’ve discovered it, it seems so obvious. I imagine our beloved intelligence services are already digging in, especially after Mumbai. Not that it’ll make that much difference 😉

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