Thursday, April 08, 2004

Our Beloved Pakistani Allies I'm sure they try hard, or not. I'm sure they want to help us, or not. I'm sure they are against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or not. I'm sure they are devoting what they can to the War on Terror, or not. I'm sure they are being honest with us, or not. *Sigh* To give them some defense, I am sure this wild area is a tough spot for the Pakistani's, BUT, of course their pre-incursion hubris was pretty bold. ...Now that I think about it, they sound like the Bush Administration. From today's Washington Post: "The government says al Qaeda is over there, but that is only because of American pressure," declared Zakim Khan, an elder of the Kabarkhel clan, surrounded by armed men as he spoke. "There is no al Qaeda. There are no foreign terrorists. The army is bombing the homes and families of anyone who has a beard. If they keep doing these attacks, the entire tribal belt will rise up in resistance." The Pakistani offensive and its aftermath have brought into sharp relief the perils of intervening in Pakistan's rebellious tribal area and opened a volatile dispute over whether the system of semi-autonomous, federally administered tribal agencies -- a rugged, 10,000-square-mile area described by one Pakistani newspaper as a "museum flush with Stinger missiles" and smugglers -- should even continue to exist. Pakistani officials said the military raids in the South Waziristan tribal area, which involved several thousand troops and helicopter attacks on village compounds, dismantled a nest of foreign Islamic terrorists and their local supporters. Officials said 163 people were arrested, at least 70 of them foreigners. But the army withdrew from the area last week, after eight captured soldiers and two local officials were found executed. A council of regional tribesmen negotiated the release of 12 hostages in exchange for the military pullout. Meanwhile, authorities backed off from initial claims to have cornered, wounded or captured several important foreign terrorists, possibly including top aides to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "The militants suffered casualties, but in the end they dictated the conditions and won the day," said Afrasiab Khattak, a human rights activist in Peshawar, the major city in northwestern Pakistan. "The situation is very dangerous now, because if they can stop the army in one place, they can launch attacks somewhere else." Despite the council's promise to curb extremist activities among tribal ranks, several analysts said that by outsmarting Pakistan's security forces, the militants had gained prestige among tribal people, and would probably receive more protection, especially in Waziristan, where conservative Islamic parties enjoy strong support. Residents of the Wana area said the militants included Afghan refugees and individuals of Uzbek and Chechen origin, but few if any Arabs. They have been described as veterans of the Pakistani- and U.S.-backed Islamic resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. After Soviet forces withdrew in 1989, most of the foreign guerrillas fled to Pakistan and settled among the Waziri tribes, although some fought for the Taliban before the Afghan Islamic militia was defeated in late 2001. "These are refugees who share our culture; they carry guns and wear beards, so no one can distinguish them. We consider them not foreigners but friends," said Mohammed Kabarkhel, a landowner in Wana. "The wanted men are few, but the resistance is high, because people are angry. The tribes were used by the government to fight in Afghanistan, and now people feel they are being sold out to the United States in the name of al Qaeda." ... "People are upset, because these men are holy warriors and we respect them," said Asad Khan, a beardless shopkeeper. He said the Islamic parties are popular because they fought for the Taliban and have promised to bring religious law to Pakistan. "Everyone wants sharia to be implemented here. We have no problem with this so-called al Qaeda," he added. "We know America is against Islam, and we need someone to defend us."
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