September 24, 2008


Militants shake off Pakistan's grip (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 9/24/08, Asia Times)

Journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai, a renowned expert on Pashtun culture, tribalism and the Taliban, argues that just as Islamabad's elite, foreign diplomats and undercover international intelligence agents are devastated by the Marriott bombing, the tribals are equally incensed by the daily aerial bombardment of Bajaur Agency and Dara Adam Khel in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Pakistani security forces don't make any concessions for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and its main rituals, such as the pre-dawn feast (sahur) and the evening breaking of the fast (Iftar).

The tribals believe that non-Pashtun Pakistanis don't care about the massacre of Pashtun tribes by the security forces or the large-scale displacement of people - over 400,000 have been displaced from Bajaur during recent operations there.

The upshot is that the writ of the state of Pakistan has been reduced to the offices of the chief minister and the governor's house in the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Peshawar.

Information gathered by Asia Times Online through contacts in the Taliban suggests that over the past few months of military activities in the tribal areas, the Taliban have identified the main weakness of the Pakistani security forces in Bajaur - they cannot take control of land. Instead, they have resorted to aerial bombing, which allows the militants to easily take shelter in the maze of mountains that runs across the border into the Afghan province of Kunar.

If the Pakistani forces do try to establish land control, militants can quickly return to Bajaur and force them to retreat.

That's it in a nutshell: no one cares what happens in this historically ungoverned and ungovernable region. It's a free-fire zone.

The failure to conform to civilizational norms has consequences.

Afghan Leader Sees 'First' Hope in Winning Anti-Terror War (AFP, 9/24/08)

Karzai also endorsed a plan voiced by his defense minister for a joint US-Afghan-Pakistani military task force that would be empowered to operate on both sides of the border.

"A force to act together on two sides of the border? A new idea but a welcome idea, I'll back it," he said to a question.

He also said that any surge in international troops for the war in Afghanistan should be involved in flushing out militants in border "sanctuaries" in Pakistan instead of penetrating deeper into Afghan villages.

Underlining the need to have a regional approach to fighting terrorism, Karzai said any assault should be "concentrated on the sanctuaries -- on those that train extremists, equip extremists, motivate extremists and then send them across" to Afghanistan.

"The surge, in other words, will work only if you concentrate the deployment of troops at the right places where we need them," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 24, 2008 7:22 AM
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