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The Taliban and Amir Sultan Tarar, aka Colonel Imam

Amir Sultan Tarar, aka Col. Imam is a Pakistani intelligence agent who trained Taliban leader Mullah Omar while partnering with Americans to train the Afghan resistance during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

Colonel Imam

His nom de guerre, Col. Imam; his real name is Amir Sultan Tarar. He is a tall, bearded figure, who trained at Fort Bragg, along with America’s Special Forces.

According to an article in Pakistan’s prominent DAWN newspaper:

Colonel Imam spent over two decades straddling the dangerous Pak-Afghan border. He is undoubtedly an expert on the region and some would argue that his insight is invaluable.

Colonel Imam’s final advice to Taliban leader Mullah Omar was to engage the invading forces in a prolonged struggle using guerrilla tactics, instead of taking them head on. So far, it seems that the Taliban leader heeded his advice. From the initial US-led invasion to the recent operations in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban seem to have avoided direct large-scale confrontations with coalition forces. And for the most part, they have vacated their strongholds such as Marjah ahead of major operations.


During the late 1970s and 1980s Amir Sultan Tarar controlled CIA-funded training camps for 95,000 Afghans and often accompanied his students on missions. One of Imam’s biggest backers was Congressman Charlie Wilson, the Texan who was instrumental in securing funding for Operation Cyclone, the CIA program to supply arms with which the mujaheddin would fight the Soviet troops.

[Of the Afghani insurgents] “The Afghan is a very cunning soldier,” he added. “He picks things up very quickly and never forgets. As a Pakistani unit commander I’d be training my men for six months and maybe they would remember 70%. But in Afghanistan teenagers came, had only three days’ weapon training and they remembered 100%.”

Today western intelligence agencies believe Imam is among a group of renegade officers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) who continued to help the Taliban after Pakistan turned against them following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

It is a charge he shrugs off, claiming that at 65 he has not worked for almost eight years.

Like many Pakistanis he refuses to believe the September 11 attacks were carried out by Osama Bin Laden. “An operation like that needs ground support,” he said. “I have no doubt it was carried out by the Americans to give a bad name to the Taliban government as an excuse to topple it.”

[Based on Dawn newspaper article and the book “Waiting for Allah: Pakistan’s struggle for democracy‎” by Christina Lamb]
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