Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taliban & Al Qaeda Taking the Fight -- To Pakistan

The New York Times is reporting that the Taliban and al Qaeda, operating from their safe havens in Waziristan of the North West Fronteir Province (NWFP), are behind several recent suicide attacks aimed at targets inside Pakistan. The attacks are apparently meant as reprisals for prior attacks by the government of Perez Musharraf and as a warning against taking any future action.

[I]n recent weeks the suicide bombers have turned on Pakistan itself, carrying out six attacks and killing 35 people. Militant leaders have threatened to unleash scores more, in effect opening a new front in their war.

Diplomats and concerned residents see the bombings as proof of a spreading “Talibanization,” as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Perez Musharraf, calls it, which has seeped into more settled districts of Pakistan from the tribal areas along the border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have made a home.

In Peshawar and other parts of North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the tribal areas, residents say English-language schools have received threats, schoolgirls have been warned to veil themselves, music is being banned and men are told not to shave their beards.

Then there is the mounting toll of the suicide bombings. One of the most lethal killed 15 people in Peshawar, most of them police officers, including the popular police chief.

The police, on the front line of the violence, have suffered most in many of the suicide attacks, diplomats and officials say. They are increasingly demoralized and cowed, allowing the militancy to spread still further, they warn.
. . . .
The creeping militancy has frustrated government agencies, who disagree over what to do about it, according to one intelligence official.

There is consensus that a large-scale military operation, like the kinds that have failed in recent years, is not the solution. But some diplomats say that the series of peace deals that the government struck with tribal leaders and militants in South and North Waziristan has not worked either.

For instance, according to another Western diplomat, General Musharraf knows the North Waziristan agreement is only 20 to 30 percent effective, but he continues to back it for lack of another plan.

The accord has brought some order to the area’s capital, Miram Shah, according to officials with knowledge of North Waziristan. It has also forced a split among the militants, with the more aggressive followers of Mr. Mehsud and their Qaeda allies congregating in the town of Mir Ali, they said.

Some officials are now arguing that the government should move against the militants in Mir Ali, while supporting the more reasonable ones.

Read the entire article here. I posted an editorial here from a Pakastani paper that dealt with the growing threat of Talibanization spreading its tentacles out from the NWFP into Pakistan proper, as well as another Pakistani editorial here on Musharraf's problems with the NWFP safe havens. Ultimately, neither Musharraf nor the United States and NATO can allow these Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens to exist. But for now, Musharraf must make some hard decisions of how to address the problem.

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