politics, history and the war on terror
Sunday, June 20, 2004
The Pak Attack 

Pakistan appears to be getting serious with its war on radical Islamists. After numerous clashes in the Western tribal regions last March between Pakistan's army and tribes sheltering al Qaeda fighters that fell short of the objectives, there has been enormous political pressure within Pakistan not to resume operations. Pakistan has attempted to resolve the problems without sending in the army; the tribes were warned they must turn in sheltered suspected al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, but they did not heed the calls of the government. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has not given in to the domestic pressure, and chose to fight. The current offensive began last week, after lengthy attempts to negotiate with tribal leaders failed. A main target of the offensive was former Taliban leader Nek Mohammed, who has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks, including an ambush of a Pakistani general in Karachi.
Nek is a 26-year-old former Taliban commander and loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He outright rejects any compromise in handing over foreign fighters to Pakistan (read US) authorities, such as Aiman al-Zawahir or his al-Qaeda boss, Osama bin Laden (if he is even alive) and Uzbek leader Tahir Yuldevish.
Tank Killers

While America is not officially helping Pakistan in the Waziri region, anecdotal evidence exists that America is providing technical assistance in the form of guided missiles and intelligence gathering. A little over a week after the new offensive began, Pakistan gets results, and confirmed Nek Mohammed has been killed and the situation in the tribal regions has calmed down.
His supporters were made to believe that Nek was “like a tank” and that the Pakistan Army was unlikely to eliminate him physically, he said. “I think Nek’s followers are in deep shock because a new dimension — the use of guided missiles — was added to the operation. There was no quick reaction on the first day after his burial because his followers were probably taking stock of the situation before launching a counter-strike,” a former Inter Services Intelligence official said. He said the government must be ready for any ‘adventure’ by Nek’s followers to avenge his death. Intelligence sources said situation was being monitored closely. They said foreigners and Nek’s followers would stay quiet for some time.
Continuing the fight?

In conjunction with the renewed offensive in the tribal areas, Pakistan is also working to fight terrorism on the domestic front. President Musharraf is working to purge its intelligence services and military of radical Islamists and al Qaeda supporters. This week an al Qaeda cell has been arrested in Karachi and included among them is Abu Mosab al-Balochi, a cousin of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the mastermind of 9-11 who was also arrested in Pakistan last year.

While Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism have been criticized as too tepid, it appears a concerted effort is being made to rid itself of al Qaeda and the Taliban's influence. Pakistan has a long way to go, however, as its support for the Kashmiri insurgency and its relative inaction for Kashmiri terrorist organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Harakat ul-Mujahidin (all of which have since been renamed to disguise appearances due to laws that ban the groups) contributes to its domestic problems and the spread of radical Islam in the region. Each of the terror groups mentioned above have connections with al Qaeda, and have provided training, shelter, support, finances and personnel to carry out attacks within Pakistan and Kashmir.

One wonders how long Pakistan can continue to support as well as oppose the Islamists. Saudi Arabia has successfully played both sides for a long time, but recent events in the Magic Kingdom make it likely the House of Saud will make a decision. Based on Pakistan's current actions, it appears more likely they will turn on the Kashmiri cells and continue its hunt for al Qaeda. But there are no guarentees. It is crucial that America cultivates the relationship with Pakistan and presses for internal change and liberalization, as Pakistan is a nuclear power with a small but violent portion of the population that is opposed to America. We cannot allow Pakistan to fall to the Islamists as access to nuclear weapons would likely force an immediate response from America, Israel and India. Placing Pakistan in the enemy column will decrease the chance of successfully prosecuting the War on Terror, and increase the prospect of the nightmare scenario coming to fruition: terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons and using them on American soil.

Posted by bill roggio @ 11:55 AM

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