Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pakistan and The War on Terror

Has Pakistan Become New

Front in the War on Terror?

By Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times
August 12 2006

WASHINGTON ยท The trail of evidence in the British plane-bombing terrorism investigation is leading to an uncomfortable question for the Bush administration: Is Pakistan, rather than Iraq, Afghanistan or some other country, the central front in the war on terror?

The conspiracy described by British and American authorities serves as a reminder that one of the administration's leading allies in the region is also host to some of its worst enemies. It also is igniting a debate on whether the Bush administration's effort to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has done enough to stem Islamic radicalism in a country whose citizens are among the most strongly anti-American of any in the world.

"This shows the need for more attention and more cooperation," said Hassan Abbas, a terrorism expert who is a former Pakistani security official. "But it also says that some of the skepticism about Musharraf and his intelligence [agencies] and law enforcement is well founded."

Pakistan announced Friday that it had detained several suspects, including a British national considered an important figure in the alleged British plot. U.S. and British investigators say that some of the 24 arrested in Britain, most of them British citizens of Pakistani descent, may have had ties to radical fundamentalist groups in Pakistan.

While Musharraf has helped the Bush administration fight some terrorist organizations, he has done little to halt others, or bring to justice the government officials who support them.

President Bush, who has called Musharraf a "man of courage," has given the Pakistani leader billions of dollars in aid, offered critical political support and approved the sale of such weapons as F-16 planes. In return, U.S. officials have been given many investigative leads on terrorism suspects, including members of al-Qaida. Americans also have received help on the Afghan border and pledges to halt nuclear proliferation activities.

"They've put their blood and treasure on the line in the war on terrorism," a State Department official said Friday. "They're a partner."

But while Musharraf has gone after terrorist groups he thinks may threaten his government, he has resisted efforts to crack down on other organizations that he thinks serve Pakistan's interests against rival India, or have substantial domestic support.

He has not been seen as energetic in helping U.S. forces find Taliban fighters in border regions, and has refused to go after groups that support the insurgency in the Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Co. newspaper.
Musharraf tries to appeal to both sides in
Pakistan's war against the terrorists
By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore
The London Telegraph
August 12, 2006

First the good news: Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) co-operated for several months with MI5, monitoring the British-born Muslims allegedly involved in a plot to blow up transatlantic planes in mid-air.

ISI arrested at least seven suspects - five Pakistanis and two Britons - a week ago in Karachi and Lahore, which could well have alerted others in Britain to bring forward the timing of the alleged plot.

The bad news: five years after September 11, Pakistan's military regime has still not dealt with extremist Islamic groups that launch terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Kashmir and beyond.

President Pervez Musharraf's promise in 2001 to crack down on extremism has only been partly fulfilled. The madrassas that housed foreign militants five years ago have still not been tamed.

The good news: Pakistan helps to re-supply and support 4,300 British troops in Helmand, Afghanistan. Supplies of food, water, fuel and ammunition are shipped to Karachi port and then trucked to Quetta, from where they are put on Afghan trucks for the journey to Helmand.

Pakistan has not lost a single container belonging to the British army.

The bad news: Pakistan has still not clamped down on the Taliban leadership which is operating from Balochistan province, from where it recruits hundreds of fighters to kill British troops in Helmand.

In Balochistan the Taliban arranges to receive weapons and supplies paid for by the drugs trade. Meanwhile, on Pakistan's eastern border, groups of Kashmiri extremists banned after the al-Qa'eda attacks on America, have lately turned themselves into relief charities and continue their operations despite Pakistan's attempts to broker peace with India.

Pakistan's stop-start policy is a result of the military's long standing alliance with militant Islam that goes back to the war that liberated Bangladesh in 1971. In the 1990s with ISI working closely with the Taliban and Kashmiri extremists, elected governments floundered and al-Qa'eda established itself in Afghanistan.

Today the army is allied to Islamic parties, who have spawned these militant groups. Gen Musharraf will most likely ally with them again before elections are held in 2007.

The problem for agencies such as MI5 and the CIA is that Pakistan's co-operation on single cases such as the suspected Heathrow bomb plot is hugely welcome and productive. But with their intelligence agencies seduced by such assistance, Western governments are then reluctant to urge Gen Musharraf to carry out wider reforms that would slow down the spread of extremism in Pakistan.

After September 11 Gen Musharraf promised to dismantle the infrastructure that supports extremism in Pakistan and terrorism abroad, but only a few steps were taken.

That infrastructure run by groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed provides safe houses, cash, travel documents and other facilities to al-Qa'eda and the Taliban and sets up meetings with potential recruits, such as young men visiting from London.

That was the case last year when at least two of the London Tube bombers may have got in touch with al-Qa'eda through Pakistani surrogates.

Pakistan is now awash with far more dangerous forms of Islamic extremism than ever existed before September 11. The leadership of al-Qa'eda, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and groups from Chechnya to Indonesia live along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

These groups have declared a large chunk of tribal territory a "sharia" state - that is a state practising Islamic law outside Pakistan's jurisdiction.

Anything goes here from stoning women to smashing TV sets. This Taliban style justice is spreading.

Pakistan needs to end extremism for the sake of its own population and so that it can become a genuine ally in the war on terrorism.