Pakistan A 'Hotbed' For Terror
Lawless tribal belt is al-Qaeda training ground
Peter Goodspeed, National Post
Published: Friday, February 15, 2008
For centuries the wild Pakistani tribal area -- stretching 1,000 kilometres along the Afghan border -- has been lawless, violent and remote. Now, it is rapidly becoming a central front in the U.S.-led war on terror.
The harsh mountainous territory, which Pakistan doesn't control and is off limits to U.S. troops, has become a breeding ground for jihad and the chief training centre for al-Qaeda.
Just days before Pakistanis vote in a crucial election, their country is being threatened by a new generation of radicalized Islamist insurgents who have allied themselves with international terrorists.
Fighters in the tribal areas have been blamed for carrying out more than 60 suicide attacks in Pakistan in the last year, including the Dec. 27 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. But fears are growing another high-profile attack could ignite the sort of chaos Islamic radicals thrive on.
But as al-Qaeda and the Taliban dispatch suicide bombers from the tribal belt to attack Pakistani security personnel and politicians, there are increasing indications Pakistan has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda and the ideological heartland for Islamist terrorists worldwide.
According to top U.S. security officials, South Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan, is the new headquarters for al-Qaeda's global operations and forms the centre of a web of terror plots and assassination attempts that reaches into Europe and the United States.
In testimony before Congress last week, retired admiral Michael McConnell, the U.S. director of national intelligence, stressed al-Qaeda has "regenerated its core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks."
"Al-Qaeda has been able to retain a safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) that provides the organization many of the advantages it once derived from its base across the border in Afghanistan, albeit on a smaller and less secure scale," he said.
"The FATA serves as a staging area for al-Qaeda's attacks in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as a location for training new terrorist operatives, for attacks in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States.
"The next attack on the United States will most likely be launched by al-Qaeda operating in the 'under-governed regions' of Pakistan," he added
Judging from online videos and local reports from Pakistan, a study published yesterday in the CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, estimates "al-Qaeda is running as many as 29 training camps in the [FATA] region that are less elaborate than those found in Afghanistan in the 1990s."
But those camps funnel new recruits or "Lions of Islam" into the fight against NATO forces, including Canadians, in Afghanistan, and train potential terrorists from overseas to launch attacks.
Unlike the large military-style camps al-Qaeda used in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, the new training in Pakistan's tribal areas is being done in small groups and is specially tailored to prepare Western recruits for attacks.
On Monday, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that officials in Germany's federal police believe four men in their 20s are being trained in Pakistan to conduct terror attacks in Germany.
Also on Monday, David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, while encouraging NATO to redouble its efforts in Afghanistan, noted that 70% of all terrorist incidents in Britain had their origins in Pakistan.
In the last six months, Danish, German and Spanish officials have all broken up alleged terror plots that are linked to Waziristan.
Last month in Barcelona, police claimed to have broken up a plot to attack Spain's transit system and in four neighbouring countries.
"In my opinion, the jihadi threat from Pakistan is the biggest emerging threat we are facing in Europe," said Judge Baltasar Garzon, Spain's top anti-terrorism magistrate.
"Pakistan is an ideological and training hotbed for jihadists, and they are being exported here."
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Some Pakistan Women Warded Off Voting
America will invade Pakistan and while we are at it we will make sure Islamists can't take control of Pakistan's nukes.
Quote:America will invade Pakistan and while we are at it we will make sure Islamists can't take control of Pakistan's nukes.
from my limited understanding , the easiest way to unite most muslims is to invade pakistan .
the genie is already out of the bottle - just another one of my opinions .
It is is definitional insane to worry about the feelings of people who are trying to kill you. There is only one proper response - kill them first.
Pakistan's prickly foreign relations
Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid on why relations between the US and Pakistani militaries are at their worst since the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In recent weeks there has been a crescendo of international criticism aimed at Pakistan for cutting peace deals with the Pakistani Taleban on its territory, that give both Pakistani and Afghan Taleban the freedom to cross the border and attack Nato forces in Afghanistan.
Senior US officials and legislators, Nato commanders, European leaders, the UN and the Afghan government have voiced their anger and frustration.
At the same time, relations between two critical allies in the war on terror - the US military and the Pakistan army - seem to be at their worst since the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Pakistani troops are pulling out of all the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan that are home to Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders and thousands of their fighters, according to senior Nato military officers and diplomats in Kabul.
The Taleban now virtually rule over the seven tribal agencies that make up the Federal Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata).
Moreover they are making dramatic inroads into the settled areas of the North West Frontier Province. The peace deals are allowing the Taleban to cross into Afghanistan in ever increasing numbers.
This is a source of great frustration to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is under severe international pressure to do more to improve governance and fight corruption if his government is to receive more aid at a high level donors conference in Paris on 12 June.
''I am asking the world to concentrate on ending the sanctuaries for the terrorists,'' said President Karzai.
''The war is not in every village but it is continuing because of the sanctuaries outside Afghanistan and we have to succeed in convincing the world to shut them down."
He said the increasing tempo of the Taleban insurgency in the south and east of his country was making it more difficult to provide people with the security needed for improving governance and faster reconstruction.
President Karzai said what is needed is a joint strategy by Pakistan and Afghanistan, but he is still looking for a viable partner on the Pakistani side to plan and conduct such a strategy with.
Nato commanders are further frustrated by the fact that Pakistani generals have told their American counterparts that not only are they pulling the army out of Fata, but they are unwilling to allow the army to be retrained or re-equipped by the Americans to fight the necessary counter-insurgency mountain war on its western borders with Afghanistan.
Instead the bulk of the Pakistan army will remain deployed on its eastern border and train for any possible threats from its traditional enemy India - wars that have always been fought on the plains of Punjab.
Over 80% of the $10bn in aid Pakistan has received from Washington since 9/11 has gone directly to the military and much of it has been used to buy expensive weapon systems for the Indian front, rather than the small ticket items needed for counter-insurgency.
(DONATIONS ARE MOST WELCOME BY PAKISTAN !)
Nevertheless Pakistan will continue to deploy its 100,000 strong paramilitary forces along its long, porous border with Afghanistan.
The US military is now providing training and equipment to the Frontier Corps, the principle paramilitary force which is poorly trained and equipped.
Pakistan has lost more than 1,000 paramilitary and regular soldiers since the army launched its first offensive against the Pakistani Taleban in 2004 and the army is badly shaken with low morale.
The peace deals with the extremists have allowed for increased Taleban attacks in Afghanistan.
The number from the Pakistani side of the border into Afghanistan doubled between March and April this year, compared to the same time span last year.
There are now an average of 100 terrorist attacks a week compared to 60 attacks last year.
Nato officials also report a dramatic increase in the number of Pakistanis, Arabs and others nationalities now fighting alongside the Afghan Taleban in Afghanistan.
'Determined to win'
One result of the deals in Fata became visible when 30 journalists were invited to an unprecedented press conference on 23 May in South Waziristan agency held by Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taleban and the main host for Afghan Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders in FATA.
The journalists saw few signs of the Pakistani military while the Taleban were re-occupying army check posts that had been abandoned.
At the June donors conference President Karzai will ask for $50bn commitment for the next few years although such funds are unlikely to materialise.
Major aid donors are demanding that he gets tougher with drug lords and corrupt Afghan officials.
''Karzai has to do more for himself and convince the Afghan people he is determined to win this war to rebuild the nation," said a Western ambassador in Kabul.
Next year there will be presidential elections and there is already intense speculation in Kabul as to who all will stand against President Karzai.
There are attempts to forge alliances among both the president's fellow Pashtuns and the non-Pashtuns so that a common candidate to oppose him can be agreed upon.
President Karzai is confident he can beat off any challenge, but he still lacks a team to run his election campaign and lacks an agenda to offer the people.
At the same time he is acutely aware that by being an incumbent president Afghan people will judge him more by his past achievements or lack of them, than what he tells them he will do in the future.
The crisis in both Afghanistan and Pakistan remain uppermost in the minds of the presidential candidates contesting the next US election, but it seems that the Bush administration still lacks a clear strategy as to what to do about Pakistan's reluctance to fight the extremists.
Zahid Hussain in Islamabad and Jeremy Page in Lahore
US and British diplomats were scrambling to broker a truce between Pakistan’s feuding political leaders tonight as thousands of black-suited lawyers defied a government ban to launch a mass protest across the country.
Richard Holbrooke, the new US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, telephoned Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s President, to discuss the unrest, which has raised fears that the army could take power once again.
“Mr Holbrooke conveyed the anxiety of the US Administration over the worsening political crisis and asked the president to find ways to end the strife,” a senior Pakistani official told The Times.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, also spoke to Mr Zardari as lawyers and opposition activists clashed with police at the start of a “long march” from major cities towards Islamabad, the capital.
Organisers hope that hundreds of thousands will join the march, due to end with a rally in front of the national parliament on Monday, to demand that the government reinstate judges deposed under Pervez Musharraf, the former president.
Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister whose party quit the government last year over the same issue, has urged Pakistanis to join the march and to rise up against their weak civilian government.
The Government responded by banning protests in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, detaining more than 300 activists on Wednesday and arresting dozens more today.
The United States and Britain now fear that further unrest could undermine the Pakistani army’s efforts to fight al-Qaeda and Taleban militants in Pakistan’s northwest, or even force it to take over the government again.
Q&A: Pakistan's political instability
Tension between the government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has grown in recent months.
The government has warned that if protests led by the PML-N turn violent, its leaders could be charged with sedition. The PML-N has in turn accused the government of behaving in the same undemocratic way as President Pervez Musharraf before he resigned in August 2008.
Why have the PPP and the PML-N fallen out?
Violence mars Pakistani anti-government protest
By BABAR DOGAR " 51 minutes ago
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) " Pakistan's opposition leader defied house arrest on Sunday to lead anti-government protests that briefly turned violent before becoming a jubilant show of force against the country's pro-Western president.
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif called the mass rally a "prelude to a revolution."
The power struggle between the former prime minister and President Asif Ali Zardari threatens to paralyze the government and, alarmingly for the U.S., distract the nuclear-armed country from its fight against Taliban militants operating along the Afghan border.
But by evening the mood was festive as police pulled back, and thousands of flag-waving supporters and cheering lawyers turned out to cheer Sharif, a local favorite.
"People have responded very overwhelmingly to the call of the hour, and I am thankful to the nation," Sharif told Geo television by phone from his car. "This is a prelude to a revolution."
Washington worries that the crisis will further destabilize the shaky the year-old government and prevent it from being an effective ally in the fight against insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.
Though Sharif, his politician brother and scores of other opposition party members were initially ordered under house arrest, Sharif was allowed to leave his residence unchallenged.
Rao Iftikhar, a senior government official, said authorities had reached an "understanding" with Sharif that he would address the rally and return home.
But Sharif said his "destination" was Islamabad and his slow-moving convoy wended its way toward one of two main exit roads leading to the capital, about 180 miles (300 kilometers) to the northwest.
Later, the crowd swelled to many thousands. Many were black-suited lawyers campaigning for an independent judiciary, but most appeared to be Sharif supporters chanting "Here comes the lion!" in reference to his party symbol and "Go Zardari go!"
The political turmoil began last month when the Supreme Court disqualified the Sharif brothers from elected office, over convictions dating back to an earlier chapter in Pakistan's turbulent political history.
Zardari compounded the crisis by dismissing the Sharifs' administration in Punjab, Pakistan's biggest and richest province, of which Lahore is the capital. The brothers then threw their support behind plans by lawyers to stage the sit-in.
On Saturday, after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif by telephone, the government announced it would appeal the Supreme Court ruling in the coming days.
Zardari refuses to reinstate a group of independent-minded judges fired by his predecessor, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Many observers suspect Zardari fears the judges could challenge a pact that quashed long-standing corruption charges against him and his wife, slain former leader Benazir Bhutto.
I think Hillary Clinton should do another "Reset Button" visit to Pakistan. She should have all previous "corruption charges" against the Nawaz Sharif on hold as well as those against Bhutto's husband. Musharaff certainly left some undetonated political bombs behind when he left. The US should have those bombs defused i.e. the current judges in the Pakistani Supreme Court shouldbe removed somehow as they are the destabilizing factor.
Sharif joins Pakistan protesters
Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has joined supporters on a march to the capital Islamabad to stage an anti-government protest.
Hours ahead of the planned march, there were reports that President Asif Ali Zardari had agreed to reinstate sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The reinstatement of Mr Chaudhry and other judges has been a key opposition demand amid a growing political crisis.
Mr Sharif earlier defied an apparent bid to place him under house arrest.
Hundreds of police had surrounded his home in Lahore but the government denied that he was being detained.
Mr Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), has been planning a "long march" to arrive in Islamabad on Monday to stage a sit-in to demand the reinstatement of judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf.
Mr Sharif is expected to arrive in Rawalpindi - near Islamabad - in the early hours of Monday.
He is due to be joined there by his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, former chief minister of the Punjab, and leaders of the lawyers' movement demanding the judges' reinstatement.
The campaign over the judges has become a power struggle between Mr Sharif and President Zardari, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad.
The government has arrested hundreds of opposition activists and banned rallies, saying they could trigger violence.
Our correspondent says it is not clear if Mr Sharif will be able to reach Islamabad, given the authorities have blocked routes leading to the capital.
She says the unrest has alarmed the West, which wants Pakistan to focus on the battle against the Taleban on the Afghan border.
( i imagine that president zardari is somewhat more concerned about his short-term survival than paying attention to the wishes of the west .
just my opinion - hbg )
President Zardari - the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - promised to bring back the judges when he took office last year following his wife's assassination.
From Times OnlineMarch 16, 2009
Nawaz Sharif celebrates victory in Pakistan stand-off as judges are reinstated
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s opposition leader, called off a protest march to the capital this morning after the Government, under pressure from the Army and the United States, bowed to his demand to reinstate a sacked chief justice.
Lawyers and opposition supporters were celebrating after Asif Ali Zardari, the beleaguered President, agreed to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry as the country’s top judge from March 21.
Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister, announced Mr Chaudhry's reappointment in a dramatic dawn television address to the nation following a series of meetings with Mr Zardari and Ashfaq Kayani, the Army chief.
"I announce the restoration of all deposed judges, including Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, according to a promise made by the President of Pakistan and myself," Mr Gilani said. "Let's move ahead together with other political powers."