Mar 31 2008
It seems my speculation on which way the new Pakistan government are being born out with reporting in the LA Times today (not your typical right wing news outlet).
When it comes to relations with the United States, the public mood is angry. It is highly likely that some U.S. military actions routinely allowed under the old government will be subject to greater scrutiny.
But some analysts and officials said that despite a universal desire to put the United States on notice that the center of gravity has shifted away from Musharraf, many basic elements of the American-Pakistani relationship will remain in place, even in all-important security matters.
Despite the anger directed at Washington, there still are many areas in which the new government is likely to work with the United States, including counter-terrorism.
“It wouldn’t be fair to characterize it as a change in fundamental goals,” said Husain Haqqani, a Boston University professor who is expected to play a senior foreign policy role in the new government.
“In fact, in my opinion, the elected government will be far more effective because it will have popular legitimacy, and whatever commitments are made to the Americans will not be undone on legal or other grounds,” Haqqani said.
Musharraf was thought to have given tacit approval for U.S. airstrikes in the tribal areas, including a missile attack that killed a senior Al Qaeda figure in January.
U.S. intelligence has warned for more than a year that elements of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have regrouped and strengthened in the tribal areas, where the Pakistani government has almost no authority. Pakistani military efforts in the borderlands have had little effect.
“There may be some new parameters set on outside types of intervention,” said a Western official in Pakistan, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But I think we will still be able to achieve certain objectives that would be in everyone’s interests.”
In other words, we are still aiming at al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of the Taliban as they have regrouped from defeats in Iraq to the tribal regions of Pakistan. This view of what is happening was re-emphasized by General Hayden, head of the CIA and former head of the NSA, in a recent intervierw. That one interview spawned off a plethora of reporting with various angles emphasized. This VOA article notes the fact that al-Qaeda leadership is pretty surely hold up in the region, with some fascinating details that makes one wonder where the intel came from:
The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency says al-Qaida has established a safe haven in the tribal areas near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that it presents a “clear and present danger” to the West. VOA’s Kent Klein reports from Washington.
Many people probably know the term “Clear and Present Danger” is very specific terminology that the US government uses when it is going to use a preemptive strike. It indicates a coming military action. This wording is used throughout the reporting and tells me a major counter terrorism effort is being prepared.
The article goes on to provide supporting details about al-Qaeda’s presence:
The CIA chief said the situation in the border region has resulted from a 2006 agreement that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reached with some tribal lords, that the Pakistani army would leave that region alone.
“Absolutely disastrous,” said Hayden. “To be fair to President Musharraf, in different times and in different circumstances, all of us would think that what he had decided to do was wise, was patient, was what he needed to do over the long term. The problem was what was happening over the short term. He was, in fact, pulling forces and the writ of the Pakistani government back from the tribal region, and al-Qaida and the Taleban were having more and more free rein there.”
General Hayden said he believes Osama bin Laden is in the border area, and that the al-Qaida leader is an “iconic figure,” but not involved in the operations of the group. The CIA head said much of al-Qaida’s operational force consists of Egyptians. He said every effort is being made to capture or kill the terrorist group’s leadership “from the top to the bottom.”
The fact Hayden sees how Bin Laden has become a figure head and it is the Egyptians who have taken control of operations – as was reported a few months back:
Intelligence officials have told The Sunday Telegraph that bin Laden has not chaired a meeting of al-Qaedaâ€™s ruling shura, or council, in more than two years.
Instead, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Ladenâ€™s nominal number two, is credited with rebuilding the terror network since the Afghan war in 2001.
Intelligence sources in Washington have revealed that Western spy chiefs were recently forced to revise dramatically their view that al-Qaeda was so depleted that it was little more than a cheerleader for extremists.
Instead, British and American intelligence agencies believe that a network of terrorist cells, funded, controlled and supported by al-Qaedaâ€™s central command, based in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, is in place again.
This is amazing confirmation of the earlier reporting and of such detail one feels like we are looking into their camps on closed circuit TV. What is not good news are the details about the new AQ trainees were selected because of their ability to meld into the populations of the West:
CIA head Michael Hayden says Al Qaeda is training fighters who have a ‘Western’ appearance and would be more likely to be able to penetrate US borders to mount terrorist attacks.
In a rare public interview, General Hayden said the new recruits were being trained on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which he said was a safe haven that presented a “clear and present danger” to the West.
“They are bringing operatives into that region for training, operatives that wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dallas with you when you’re coming back from overseas.
“They look Western, [people] who will be able to come into this country without attracting the kind of attention that others might.”
Other reports suggest he referenced “Dulles” International Airport outside DC. But the point is clear, AQ has found a refuge to regroup for one final blow against America and the West. And they are preparing for that blow by using western looking (maybe even western native) fighters and suicide killers. The use of the term “Clear and Present Danger” means the US has formally identified these gathering forces as a threat and are signaling clearly to the world we intend to remove that threat as soon as possible.
Keep your eyes on Pakistan folks, this will be one of those locations that might go down in history – just as the Battle of The Bulge did in WW II.
Update: In a really dumb move the terrorists have threatened the Pakistani government with serious consequences if they do not sever all ties to America:
Local Taliban militants have asked the new government to end relations with the US and enforce Sharia in tribal areas and have warned tribal elders against meeting US officials.
The warning was issued at a public meeting held in Enayet Kalli near Khar on Sunday which was attended by thousands of tribesmen chanting anti-US slogans.
â€œTaliban are patriotic people and do not want to fight with their own government. We have waged jihad against America. But the country will suffer as long as Pakistan remains an ally of the US in the ongoing war on terror in the region,â€ Maulvi Faqir said.
The new government, he said, should not repeat mistakes of the previous government and must change its internal and external policies. He said the militants were ready for talks with the government.
The meeting urged the government to remove all new checkpoints from the area and lift a ban on non-customs paid vehicles.
The Taliban leaders warned elders of â€˜consequencesâ€™, if they met US officials.
That is their version of either ‘with us or against us’. Let’s see, the choice is a ragtag bunch of violent thugs who brutalize women and children to cover up for their insatiable insecurity complexes or the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet who would be forever grateful for defeating the brutal thugs. Let me think now………