Afghan mayor turns Taliban leader
The former mayor of Afghanistan's Herat province is now the most powerful local Taliban commander.
Ghullam Yahya Akbari told Al Jazeera that he will not negotiate with the Afghan government as long as foreign troops are on Afghan soil.
Given exclusive access to one of his 20 mountain bases hidden deep inside rugged terrain that Akbari says were also used to fight the Russians, Al Jazeera's Qais Azimy found a group of at least 60 well-armed Taliban fighters.
Akbari's steely resolve to fight foreign forces comes amid reports of many soldiers defecting to the Taliban. Many are unhappy with the "un-Islamic" ways of the foreign troops.
Some in Akbari's camps were just teenagers, others old enough to be enjoying retirement, but all had left families behind and were committed to the fight to push international troops out of Afghanistan.
"I will continue jihad against the Americans who have invaded our soil until the last drop of blood remains in my body," Askar, one of the fighters, said.
The food they eat is mostly dry bread, but the fighters do have satellite television and complaints appear rare.
"We are not doing jihad for our stomachs, we are doing jihad for Allah," another fighter said.
Akbari said the 20 mountain bases under his charge were also used by some of the same fighters to drive out the Russians in the 1980s.
"People may wonder why we live up in the mountains. That's because we want to avoid civilian casualties and fight with guerrilla tactics," he said.
The former mayor is not interested in peace talks and said he would even turn his guns against Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, if he negotiated with the Afghan government.
"I do not believe that Mullah Omar would do that but if they sit with the Afghan government and negotiate then for us they will be like all the other members of the government and we'll continue our jihad," Akbari said.
A spokesperson for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) dismissed suggestions of an increase in Taliban support.
"While they were in power this was the worst administration in the history of the country so why would the people of Afghanistan want the Taliban back?" Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette said.
But Al Jazeera's Azimy said the group had grown in its reach since he last met the fighters more than a month before.
It now held three young policemen hostage and appeared to be a real threat, he said.