Thursday, July 08, 2004

Haven't posted anything in a looooong time. Basicaly out of laziness and busy with other things like my scam baiting page:

So, here we go...........

Recently The New Republic has come out with a new article:

July Surprise?
by John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman & Massoud Ansari

Post date 07.07.04 | Issue date 07.19.04

Late last month, President Bush lost his greatest advantage in his bid for reelection. A poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post discovered that challenger John Kerry was running even with the president on the critical question of whom voters trust to handle the war on terrorism. Largely as a result of the deteriorating occupation of Iraq, Bush lost what was, in April, a seemingly prohibitive 21-point advantage on his signature issue. But, even as the president's poll numbers were sliding, his administration was implementing a plan to insure the public's confidence in his hunt for Al Qaeda.

This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The Bush administration has matched this public and private pressure with enticements and implicit threats. During his March visit to Islamabad, Powell designated Pakistan a major non-nato ally, a status that allows its military to purchase a wider array of U.S. weaponry. Powell pointedly refused to criticize Musharraf for pardoning nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan--who, the previous month, had admitted exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya--declaring Khan's transgressions an "internal" Pakistani issue. In addition, the administration is pushing a five-year, $3 billion aid package for Pakistan through Congress over Democratic concerns about the country's proliferation of nuclear technology and lack of democratic reform.

But Powell conspicuously did not commit the United States to selling F-16s to Pakistan, which it desperately wants in order to tilt the regional balance of power against India. And the Pakistanis fear that, if they don't produce an HVT, they won't get the planes. Equally, they fear that, if they don't deliver, either Bush or a prospective Kerry administration would turn its attention to the apparent role of Pakistan's security establishment in facilitating Khan's illicit proliferation network. One Pakistani general recently in Washington confided in a journalist, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole."

Pakistani perceptions of U.S. politics reinforce these worries. "In Pakistan, there has been a folk belief that, whenever there's a Republican administration in office, relations with Pakistan have been very good," says Khalid Hasan, a U.S. correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times. By contrast, there's also a "folk belief that the Democrats are always pro-India." Recent history has validated those beliefs. The Clinton administration inherited close ties to Pakistan, forged a decade earlier in collaboration against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, by the time Clinton left office, the United States had tilted toward India, and Pakistan was under U.S. sanctions for its nuclear activities. All this has given Musharraf reason not just to respond to pressure from Bush, but to feel invested in him--and to worry that Kerry, who called the Khan affair a "disaster," and who has proposed tough new curbs on nuclear proliferation, would adopt an icier line.

Bush's strategy could work. In large part because of the increased U.S. pressure, Musharraf has, over the last several months, significantly increased military activity in the tribal areas--regions that enjoy considerable autonomy from Islamabad and where, until Musharraf sided with the United States in the war on terrorism, Pakistani soldiers had never set foot in the nation's 50-year history. Thousands of Pakistani troops fought a pitched battle in late March against tribesmen and their Al Qaeda affiliates in South Waziristan in hopes of capturing Zawahiri. The fighting escalated significantly in June. Attacks on army camps in the tribal areas brought fierce retaliation, leaving over 100 tribal and foreign militants and Pakistani soldiers dead in three days. Last month, Pakistan killed a powerful Waziristan warlord and Qaeda ally, Nek Mohammed, in a dramatic rocket attack that villagers said bore American fingerprints. (They claim a U.S. spy plane had been circling overhead.) Through these efforts, the Pakistanis could bring in bin Laden, Mullah Omar, or Zawahiri--a significant victory in the war on terrorism that would bolster Bush's reputation among voters.

But there is a reason many Pakistanis and some American officials had previously been reluctant to carry the war on terrorism into the tribal areas. A Pakistani offensive in that region, aided by American high-tech weaponry and perhaps Special Forces, could unite tribal chieftains against the central government and precipitate a border war without actually capturing any of the HVTs. Military action in the tribal areas "has a domestic fallout, both religious and ethnic," Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri complained to the Los Angeles Times last year. Some American intelligence officials agree. "Pakistan just can't risk a civil war in that area of their country. They can't afford a western border that is unstable," says a senior intelligence official, who anonymously authored the recent Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and who says he has not heard that the current pressures on Pakistan are geared to the election. "We may be at the point where [Musharraf] has done almost as much as he can."

Pushing Musharraf to go after Al Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president's reelection is at stake.

Massoud Ansari reported from Karachi.

Problem with that is Both us and Pakistan have been going after Al Qaeda into the tribal areas with force for a couple years now. Ever since 2002, only 9 months after 9/11. Apparently the idiots over at TNR have forgotten, which blows their theory (read: lie) right out of the water. (And note all the "anonymous" sources they used). Going into tribal areas is not that new.

Christian Science Monitor
from the June 28, 2002 edition

Pakistan joins war against Al Qaeda in its tribal areas

Pakistani troops are hunting for some 40 Al Qaeda fighters who escaped after a battle earlier this week.

By Jawad Naeem | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

ISLAMABAD – The nocturnal raid this week by Pakistani troops – with FBI assistance – on an Al Qaeda hide-out was the first cooperative effort of this kind on Pakistani soil.

According to sources in Islamabad, five FBI agents worked alongside nearly 50 Pakistani Army soldiers during the operation near the Afghan border. But the US agents were not involved in the two-hour firefight.

This marks the first major combat operation inside Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas, and underscores the shift in the war on Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan. In May, US special forces and Pakistani troops searched a madrassah in Northern Waziristan.

This latest ongoing operation is also an acknowledgment by Islamabad, say analysts, that Osama bin Laden's followers are regrouping in its territory – and that President Pervez Musharraf's government is willing to cooperate fully with US efforts.

"The incident in South Waziristan is a grim reminder that Al Qaeda is very much present in Pakistan and that it is able to find shelters in the tribal areas," says Afzal Niazi, a political analyst in Islamabad. "Flushing out the fugitives from their hideouts in a tribal region carries risk of trouble with locals, but it is a risk the authorities have got to take."

As such, it's unlikely to be the last Pakistani operation in the tribal areas. US military officials estimate that up to 1,000 Al Qaeda fighters have fled into the region from Afghanistan.

The clash Tuesday began around midnight in South Waziristan, a mountainous province inhabited by fiercely independent and deeply religious ethnic Pashtun tribesmen to whom bin Laden and the Taliban are considered heroes of Islam.

According to information gathered from Pakistani security and intelligence sources, the operation involved a strike force of three Pakistani units with 16 soldiers in each. It was initiated after the FBI intercepted communications in mid-May indicating the presence of Al Qaeda members in the area.

For Pakistani troops, the attack quickly turned chaotic. The fortress-like Al Qaeda compound is located in Azam Warsak, in a densely populated residential area some 20 miles from the Afghan border. For that reason, Pakistani military sources say the use of tanks or jet bombers would have produced too many civilian casualties.

As the troops entered the gates of the compound, they were hit by machine-gun fire and grenades. For two hours the battle raged, leaving 10 Pakistani soldiers dead, including a major and a captain.

When the fight was over, Pakistani troops found two dead Al Qaeda fighters lying beside their machine guns. They were identified as Chechens from the papers recovered from their pockets.

There was no trace of some 40 others who were believed to have been hiding in the house along with some women and children.

"They all managed to slip away in the darkness, while the two Chechens fought with machine guns," says a military source in the area.

A Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, says two concerns weighed on the minds of the personnel during the operation.

"There were some women and children inside the building, and there were other houses around it, and because of the concerns the law enforcement personnel had to proceed with care and avoid use of lethal force," he says.

Sources in South Waziristan say troop reinforcements arrived Thursday in Wana, the main town in the area, to beef up the search for the escaped fighters, who are believed to include Chechens and Arabs.

Authorities have summoned tribal chieftains from the area to Wana to tell them to cooperate in the operation or risk punitive action, the sources say. Authorities reminded tribal chiefs that under a 1901 law governing the semiautonomous tribal areas, it is their responsibility to ensure no unlawful activity takes place.

Yesterday, troops were conducting house-to-house searches, and the entire area was under curfew. Soldiers were making forays into the mountains to scan cave hideouts, sources there say.

Witnesses say some 20 tribesmen have been taken into custody, and the authorities have demolished several houses, a form of reprisal against suspected criminals under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a harsh law inherited from British colonial rule.

The tribal territory is widely believed to be a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres fleeing the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, and speculation continues that bin Laden himself may be hiding somewhere in the region with local support.

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