Mar 06 2006

Are We Closing In On Al Qaeda?

Published by at 10:28 am under All General Discussions,Bin Laden/GWOT,Pakistan

It is always interesting to look at the timing of news and wonder whether it is serendipity, coincidence or something else that causes two events to coincide. The first event was President Bush’s amazing trip to Pakistan, where the Pakistan government wanted more than they ended up receiving in terms of recognition and agreements.

The second item of interest is news out today of a third day of fighting in a northern Pakistan town bordering Afghanistan. An area known to host Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants – and possibly some big name people on America’s most wanted list:

Residents of a town in northern Pakistan along the Afghan border are fleeing the volatile area Monday as government forces and pro-Taleban militants battled for a third day.

Residents of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, are leaving the area where at least 53 people have been killed since Saturday. Authorities say among the dead are at least 46 rebels and several soldiers. Thousands of people began leaving the area Sunday.

The Pakistani army fired on suspected rebels in the mountainous area near the Afghan border overnight Sunday.

Fighting in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan region began Saturday when more than 100 militants attacked a security outpost and seized government buildings.

The fighting came days after Pakistani security forces attacked a militants’ camp used to train terrorists. More than 40 foreign fighters and tribal militants were killed in that raid near the Afghan border.

The Pakistanis were probably reminded that, while their efforts in the global war on terror have been laudable, their inability to purge this region of terrorists and their sympathasizers is a truly dangerous gamble. The political backlash of a cleansing operation is probably just as bad as allowing the terrorists to gain a strong hold inside their borders and possible destabilize the government from within. More from Rueters UK:

Scores of people have been killed in the fighting that erupted on Saturday as U.S. President George W. Bush was meeting the Pakistani leader in the capital, Islamabad, to spur his efforts in the war on terrorism.

“Helicopter gunships have been pounding militant positions around Miranshah,” a resident of the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region said. “The situation is very tense.”

The semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun lands along the Afghan border are Pakistan’s front line in the war on terror.

Many al Qaeda militants fled to the area awash with weapons after U.S. and Afghan opposition forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, and were given refuge by Taliban supporters among the Pashtun clans.

Pakistani forces have been trying to clear foreign militants from the border and subdue their Pakistani allies since late 2004 and hundreds of people have been killed.

The Pakistani military said about 50 militants and five government troops have been killed since Saturday when the militants launched attacks and seized government buildings in Miranshah in revenge for the killing on Wednesday of 45 of their comrades in a government attack.

Hopefully we have the Afghanistan border covered to capture anyone fleeing North. Here is an interesting view from the ‘other side’ – which sounds like all bravado to me:

For the past few days this region has been the scene of fierce battles between the Pakistani armed forces and the Taliban and their supporters. This, analysts believe, is the starting point of taking the nascent Tehrik-i-Nizam-i-Mustafa movement to other areas in Pakistan, that is, to enforce the Prophet Mohammed’s way of life, or sharia law, on society. Underground Islamic radical groups will surface in support of this struggle that could ultimately lead to the ousting of the Musharraf government.

People in North Waziristan who spoke to Asia Times Online claimed that the present battles between the armed forces and the tribals are unlike those of the past, which in essence were skirmishes. They said that now there was a virtual mass mutiny against both Pakistan and its pro-US government in Islamabad.

Asia Times Online broke the story about the establishment of an Islamic state in North Waziristan (see The Taliban’s bloody foothold in Pakistan, February 8th) after the Taliban took control of the area. Initially, Pakistani authorities avoided clashes and restricted themselves to the district headquarters, Miranshah. There was an unwritten accord between the Taliban and Pakistani forces that they would not encroach on each other’s areas.

However, an air raid last Friday, a day before the arrival of US President George W Bush in Pakistan, changed everything. Pakistani authorities claimed they had attacked a group of militants who were infiltrating North Waziristan after attacking a US base in Afghanistan. Local tribes maintain that the air raid killed a number of innocent men, women and children who had nothing to do with the suspect group.

Definitely something to keep our eyes on. Especially this possible new leader of the Islamist movement:

The Taliban intend to extend from their base in North Waziristan to Afghanistan to fuel the resistance there against the US and its allies. Similarly, the movement will spread to “mainland” Pakistan in an effort to topple the pro-American government in Islamabad. Pakistan is a key component of the United States’ “war on terror”.

This anti-government movement will need a leader. The jihadi hardcore is looking for one who will be untainted and not hand-in-glove with the military establishment. So far, a general consensus is emerging that international cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (Pakistan Justice Movement), might be the man for the job.

There is a lot of information on this possible new leader. He is popular, charismatic, and he knows the West all too well. One thing that has handicapped the Islamists is their ignorance of the West and how we will react. Kahn is the kind of person who could fix that problem. (Why am I thinking of Khan from Star Trek while reading about this man? Granted, I did just watch the movie again…)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Are We Closing In On Al Qaeda?”

  1. Snapple says:

    There is a little town near the Hindu Kush in Pakistan called Chitral.

    They have an on-line paper. You can see the issues and different perspectives by reading this paper.

    They do try to publish all perspectives–some you won’t care for.

    It is pretty interesting. They are sort of surrounded by Afghanistan and can’t travel in winter without going into Afghanistan to get anywhere is Pakistan. Snow is a big problem.

    It has been speculated that Osama is around there.

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