Osama bin Laden is allegedly helping the Taliban procure arms from Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, and deploying Arab instructors to train his army to build a fiercer force than ever, a media report said on Monday.
Afghanistan's Defense Minister Abdur Rahim Wardak was today quoted as saying that Taliban forces are now larger, more aggressive, better armed and more organised than at any time since the end of 2001 and there are 'strong indications' that al Qaeda has brought in a team of Arab instructors from Iraq to teach the latest insurgents techniques to the Taliban.
"Taliban have more men, equipment and money, better explosives and remote controlled detonators," said Wardak who a few days ago escaped a possible assassination attempt.
They are also being helped to procure arms from Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, a Newsweek report said.
Meanwhile, a European diplomat told the magazine that they too have the information that the Taliban have received new weapons and explosive devices, 'most probably because of increased financial support from abroad and some traffic between Iraq and Afghanistan through Iran'.
A commander who commands the biggest Taliban force in Afghanistan says he wants to copy the tactics and spirit of the 'glorious Iraqi resistance'.
Mohammed Daud, who spent several months in Iraq, told Newsweek that he is explaining to his fighters the lessons he learnt there.
Daud and other Taliban leaders were quoted as saying that the Afghan conflict is entering a new phase, with help from Iraq.
According to them, Osama bin Laden has opened an underground railroad to and from jihadi training camps in the Sunni Triangle.
Self-described graduates of the programme say they've come home to Afghanistan with more-effective killing techniques and renewed enthusiasm for the war against the West, the magazine said.
Daud told Newsweek that he's been communicating a 'new momentum and spirit' to the 300 fighters under his command.
But US military officers in Afghanistan told the magazine that they've seen no evidence of any direct collaboration between the Taliban and Iraq's insurgents.
"That's not to say that it couldn't happen or be in the process of happening," one senior US military officer in Kabul was quoted as saying.
Newsweek spoke to a Taliban commander from Khost province, Hamza Sangari, who has been a beneficiary of al Qaeda's renewed interest in Afghanistan. Late last year, Sangari says he received an invitation from none other than bin Laden's chief envoy to the insurgents in Iraq, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi.
"God heard and granted my request to see and learn from the Iraqi mujahedin," Sangari says.
"I've never been so well received," he says. "The Iraqi mujahideen are better armed, organised and trained than we are," he says.
He says he often heard the sounds of battle nearby. He volunteered to fight, but his instructors told him his job was to study and get home alive to fight in Afghanistan.
He says he was impressed by the way Iraqi insurgents created combat videos to help fund-raising and recruiting efforts; now similar videos of Taliban attacks are showing up
in markets along the Pakistani border.