Taliban And Allies Tighten Grip In North Of Pakistan




 
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Taliban And Allies Tighten Grip In North Of Pakistan
 
December 11th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Taliban And Allies Tighten Grip In North Of Pakistan


Taliban And Allies Tighten Grip In North Of Pakistan
New York Times
December 11, 2006
Pg. 1

By Carlotta Gall and Ismail Khan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban mini-state.
The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.
The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials and Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials.
This year more than 100 local leaders, government sympathizers or accused “American spies” have been killed, several of them in beheadings, as the militants have used a reign of terror to impose what President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan calls a creeping “Talibanization.” Last year, at least 100 others were also killed.
While the tribes once offered refuge to the militants when they retreated to the area in 2002 after the American invasion of Afghanistan, that welcome is waning as the killings have generated new tensions and added to the region’s volatility.
“They are taking territory,” said one Western ambassador in Pakistan. “They are becoming much more aggressive in Pakistan.”
“It is the lesson from Afghanistan in the ’90s,” he added. “Ungoverned spaces are a problem. The whole tribal area is a problem.”
The links among the various groups date to the 1980s, when Arabs, Pakistanis and other Muslims joined Afghans in their fight to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, using a network of training camps and religious schools set up by the Pakistani intelligence agency and financed by the C.I.A. and Saudi Arabia.
The training continued with Pakistani and Qaeda support through the 1990s, and then moved into Afghanistan under the Taliban. It was during this time that Pakistanis became drawn into militancy in big numbers, fighting alongside the Taliban and hundreds of foreign fighters against the northern tribes of Afghanistan. Today the history of the region has come full circle.
Since retreating from Afghanistan in 2002 under American military attacks, the Taliban and foreign fighters have again been using the tribal areas to organize themselves — now training their sights on the 40,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
After failing to gain control of the areas in military campaigns, the government cut peace deals in South Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, and then in North Waziristan on Sept. 5. Since the September accord, NATO officials say cross-border attacks by Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and their foreign allies have increased.
In recent weeks, Pakistani intelligence officials said the number of foreign fighters in the tribal areas was far higher than the official estimate of 500, perhaps as high as 2,000 today.
These fighters include Afghans and seasoned Taliban leaders, Uzbek and other Central Asian militants, and what intelligence officials estimate to be 80 to 90 Arab terrorist operatives and fugitives, possibly including the Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The tightening web of alliances among these groups in a remote, mountainous area increasingly beyond state authority is potentially disastrous for efforts to combat terrorism as far away as Europe and the United States, intelligence officials warn.
They and Western diplomats say it also portends an even bloodier year for Afghanistan in 2007, with the winter expected to serve as what one official described as a “breeding season” to multiply ranks.
“I expect next year to be quite bloody,” the United States ambassador in Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, said in a recent interview. “My sense is the Taliban wants to come back and fight. I don’t expect the Taliban to win, but everyone needs to understand that we are in for a fight.”
 


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