Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dealing With The Pakistani Terrorism Problem

Pakistan's problems are massive and well documented. A nuclear armed Muslim country with a dysfunctional government, a rising tide of radicalism - much of it tied to Saudi funding of salafi / deobandi madrassas, and a large section of the country wholly in control of radical Islamists of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Indeed, most of the terrorism in the world today can be traced through to Pakistan. Arnaud de Borchgrave examines this problem and makes some sound suggestions:

Most terrorist trails lead back to Pakistan, Britain's MI5 (internal intelligence service) concluded a year ago.

An average of some 400,000 Pakistani Brits a year fly back to the old country for vacation or to visit their relatives. From the airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, where they land, side trips to the madrassas — Koranic schools — where they were originally radicalized, or to a terrorist training camp in the tribal areas that straddle the Pakistani-Afghan border, go undetected.

There is no way to keep track of thousands of passengers arriving from the United Kingdom every day. Nor can MI5 cope with up to 1,000 a day returning to their U.K. homes from trips to Pakistan.

Since September 11, 2001, German intelligence services were happy to report to Western colleagues they had no such problem with Germany's 2.8 million-strong Turkish minority — mostly second- and third-generation German-speaking Turks long established and integrated in German life.

Last week, a high-ranking German internal security delegation met with heads of several U.S. intelligence agencies to explain how their comfortable assumptions had to be re-examined. German intelligence services have uncovered a direct al Qaeda link from Germany via Turkey to Pakistan — for young radicalized German Turks.

Mostly recruited on the Internet from al Qaeda Web sites, these terrorist wannabes have made their way to al Qaeda's privileged sanctuaries in the Pakistani tribal belt that straddles the Afghan border. German security has uncovered more than 100 such cases.

Topic A for last week's German visitors with their U.S. counterparts was Pakistan — and what to do about the privileged sanctuaries al Qaeda and Taliban have secured in at least three of the seven tribal agencies known as FATA (for Federally Administered Tribal Areas).

Western intelligence services agree that U.S. and NATO forces now in Afghanistan can only mark time and lose ground to Taliban until FATA's safe havens are rooted out militarily.

This would have to be coupled with economic aid for tribes whose lifestyle hasn't changed much since the fourth century B.C. when Alexander the Great gave the Hindu Kush a wide berth, hurried through Afghanistan before finding the Khyber Pass to exit into India's Punjab to what is now Pakistan's cultural capital of Lahore.

The terrain is one of the world's most difficult — jagged mountains rising to 15,000 feet interspersed with valleys, deep and narrow ravines, crevices and fissures, all dotted with thousands of caves with concealed entrances.

The millions of Pashtun tribesmen that inhabit the tribal areas share a centuries-old code called "Badal," or revenge. Also a moral code known as Pashtunwalli — or hospitality is sacred.

Under steady Bush administration pressure since the Battle of Tora Bora in November and December 2001, when Osama bin Laden and some 50 terrorist cohorts escaped, then acting President Pervez Musharraf ordered some 35,000 troops into FATA where they had been forbidden to go by treaty since independence in 1947. These were gradually increased to 100,000. (In an interview published Friday, Mr. Musharraf emphatically ruled out having U.S. troops join the fight against al Qaeda on Pakistani soil.)

. . . The way the German visitors understood their interlocutors in Washington last week, three options are being considered by the Bush administration — all admittedly bad:

(1) The United States bypasses Mr. Musharraf, deals directly with the new Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, 55, who has attended several staff courses in the U.S., and is regarded as pro-Western. The next generation of Pakistani officers earned their promotions when the U.S. imposed all manner of punitive sanctions against Pakistan for its then still secret nuclear weapons buildup. No one is sanguine about Gen. Kayani's ability to rekindle any enthusiasm for going after Taliban and al Qaeda in FATA.

(2) More military aid for the Pakistani army in return for acceptance of joint Special Forces operations in FATA — U.S. rangers coming in by helicopter directly into suspected Taliban-controlled villages, and "painting" targets for unmanned Predators to bomb. No optimism here either as Congress is loath to appropriate more military aid beyond the current $1.3 billion for this year. Most of the $11 billion doled out since September 11, 2001, has gone into big-ticket military hardware items of no value for FATA fighting. Pakistani generals also resent U.S. micromanagement of military assistance.

(3) Unilateral U.S. covert operations in FATA. These would not remain secret very long, most probably leaked by Pakistani intelligence to local media. The country, already a giant powder keg since Benazir Bhutto's assassination last month, would erupt. From Peshawar to Karachi and from Lahore to Quetta, an angry anti-Musharraf mood is palpable throughout the country. Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of a rebellious unit led, for example, by an anti-U.S. Islamist one-star general.

The overall Taliban commander in FATA is Baitullah Mehsud, the man accused of having ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Posing as a tribal leader, turban wrapped around his face, he was one of the signatories to the Sept. 5, 2006, nonaggression pact with Mr. Musharraf, which guaranteed (a) Taliban fighters would not be allowed to cross into Afghanistan; (b) Pakistani soldiers would cease operations against Taliban. It was snare and delusion from the get-go.

Already, anti-Musharraf rioters have torched thousands of cars and trucks, video stores, movie marquees, gas stations and electric power pylons in widely scattered parts of the country.

Flour and power shortages and angry citizens abound throughout Pakistan, now clearly the site of the world's most dangerous crisis. Five candidates belonging to outlawed extremist organizations are running in the Feb. 18 elections in Jhang District alone.

Deafening allied silence greeted Defense Secretary Bob Gates' Afghan request for more NATO troops. So the Pentagon is now drawing up plans to move some 3,200 additional troops, all Marines, to Afghanistan, bringing U.S. and coalition forces to 50,000. But it's still the wrong target. The country is fractured, divided — and at war with itself. This won't change until Taliban is booted out of FATA.

Read the article here.It doesn't take a military genuis to know that it is almost impossible to defeat a determined opponent if you allow the opponent a secure base of operations. And that is what our enemies have in the tribal areas of Pakistan today. How to destroy it without destabilizing the Pakistani government is the conundrum.

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