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Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe?

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  • ummyakoub
    Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe? Washington has new doubts about one of its most crucial partners in the war on terrorism By TIM MCGIRK I ISLAMABAD AND MASSIMO
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 6, 2003
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      Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe?

      Washington has new doubts about one of its most crucial partners in
      the war on terrorism

      HARD-LINERS: A leader of the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, an Islamic bloc,
      blasts Musharraf at a rally in Peshawar last week

      Sunday, Sep. 21, 2003

      Pakistani generals routinely deny that their army retains any
      sympathy for the Taliban. But here is a secret they managed to keep
      quiet for several months. In early summer U.S. soldiers scrambling
      after Taliban remnants along the craggy mountains of southeastern
      Afghanistan made a surprising discovery. Among the gang of suspected
      Taliban agents they nabbed were three men who, it emerged in
      interrogations, were Pakistani army officers. Authorities in Pakistan
      clapped the three in a military brig; an official from military
      intelligence called them "mavericks." But the news of their capture
      alongside enemy fighters underscored a persistent issue in Washington
      and Kabul: Whose side, exactly, is Pakistan on?

      The longer the war on terrorism continues, the more questions the
      U.S. seems to have about Pakistan. Just how devoted is President
      Pervez Musharraf to fighting terrorism? Is Pakistan undermining
      stability in neighboring Afghanistan? Is it flirting with the
      potential disaster of a new war on the subcontinent by harboring
      militants fighting India in the disputed region of Kashmir? What role
      does Islamabad play in the proliferation of nuclear weapons
      worldwide? On so many issues of U.S. concern, Pakistan is a crucial

      Certainly Washington continues to appreciate Musharraf's decision to
      side with the U.S. after 9/11. That meant breaking ties with the
      Taliban, which Pakistani authorities had nurtured; assisting the U.S.
      in changing the regime in Afghanistan and in running down remnants of
      Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda as they fled their sanctuary there; and
      restraining Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Says a U.S. official of
      the Pakistanis: "We're certainly better off with the level of
      partnership we have with them than if we had none."

      But the faintness of that praise contains at least a hint of
      disappointment. No one expected Musharraf to reorient Pakistan toward
      moderation instantaneously. Even if his security chiefs saluted his
      new orders, rogue operations were inevitable. Plus, Musharraf has to
      balance Washington's demands against the fact that many Pakistanis
      are sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and particularly to the
      militants in Kashmir. For those reasons, the Bush Administration has
      settled on what a State Department official calls "the carrot
      approach with Pakistan." In his scheduled meeting with George W. Bush
      in New York City this week, the fifth session Musharraf has had with
      the President since 9/11, he can expect a continuation of that
      policy. But he will also feel an urgency in the air. It's sparked by
      Washington's concern that it needs better results from Islamabad at a
      time when a resurgent Taliban is using Pakistan as a base for strikes
      against U.S. and government forces in Afghanistan, threatening the
      stability of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Says Norbert Van
      Heyst, the outgoing commander of the nato peacekeeping force in
      Kabul: "It is well known that beyond the border, the remnants of the
      Taliban and al-Qaeda have the chance to reorganize," including
      establishing training camps.

      One reason the Pakistanis have failed to stop these militants is
      geographical. The border area in Pakistan where Taliban and al-Qaeda
      survivors have coalesced is made up of semiautonomous tribal lands
      where the central government's authority is limited and where
      promilitant fervor runs high. In early September U.S. soldiers backed
      by helicopters and fighter aircraft herded dozens of fleeing Taliban
      fighters out of the mountains in Afghanistan's Zabul province toward
      the border, while Pakistani forces waited to grab them as they came
      across. By the third day, tribal protests had become so widespread
      that Islamabad called off the hunt. Not one Taliban fighter was

      Islamabad, meanwhile, is resisting U.S. demands that its forces be
      allowed to mount their own search parties inside the tribal
      territories. That scenario, explains a Pakistani military officer,
      could lead to an armed tribal uprising. "You get these hotshot cia
      guys who come in on a six-month rotation, and they want to tear up
      everything—mosques, villages—to get bin Laden," a Western diplomat
      comments. "Well, the Pakistani army has to live with the fallout."

      And within the army, there seem to be strains of resistance to the
      U.S.-led effort against al-Qaeda and its allies. Pakistani military-
      intelligence sources say army investigators in early September
      arrested three officers, all "below the rank of lieutenant colonel,"
      for suspected ties to al-Qaeda. Two of the officers were based in the
      tribal areas. All three, say the sources, were fingered by al-Qaeda's
      top planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They are in Pakistani military

      Thought to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed was caught
      last March inside an army officers' colony in Rawalpindi. Authorities
      say he was sheltered there by a serving army major. A senior military-
      intelligence official denies that al-Qaeda has any support in the
      military beyond this "tiny cell." But according to Talat Masood, a
      retired lieutenant general and a writer on security issues, a strong
      anti-U.S. feeling pervades the army. After Musharraf's government
      turned against the Taliban at Washington's prodding and failed to
      condemn the civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan, says
      Masood, "there was a sense of betrayal inside the armed forces."

      Weeding out extremists in the military may not be easy. For years,
      the top brass drummed into midranking officers a sense of Islamic
      mission. A Prophet-length beard helped an officer's promotion, as did
      praying five times a day. Now, says Masood, "the army is taking
      measures against officers who are too religious minded." Those deemed
      overly fanatic are discreetly steered into nonsensitive or dead-end
      jobs, he says, and a soldier needs permission from his commanding
      officer before he is permitted to grow a beard.

      The difficulty of redirecting the army toward moderation is
      illustrated by Musharraf's struggle to reform Pakistan's powerful
      internal-security apparatus, Inter-Services Intelligence (isi], once
      the Taliban's No. 1 ally. These days, says a Western diplomat in
      Islamabad, the isi's top brass carries out Musharraf's bidding, but
      some of the lower-echelon officers seem to retain ties—ideological
      and financial—with their former Taliban proteges. Says this
      diplomat: "At some level, these guys see the Taliban as an insurance
      policy for what happens next in Afghanistan."

      These same countervailing forces are at play in Islamabad's relations
      with militants fighting to expel India from the part of Muslim-
      majority Kashmir that it occupies. The militants' cause is popular
      within the Pakistani security forces and among Pakistanis in general.
      After India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed, nearly went to war over
      the conflict in May 2002, Musharraf assured Bush that there were no
      militant training camps in Pakistani territory. Deputy Secretary of
      State Richard Armitage reminded Musharraf of that guarantee when the
      two met in the northern city of Rawalpindi before Musharraf's last
      meeting with Bush in June. Armitage then produced a dossier of
      satellite photos showing camps of that nature. "Musharraf acted
      outraged and upset," a State Department official tells TIME, but it
      wasn't clear to the Americans whether he was angry that the camps
      were functioning or that the U.S. had uncovered them.

      Musharraf has failed to sustain his promise to crack down on
      extremist groups that in the past fed fighters to the Kashmir cause,
      carried out sectarian killings and attacked Westerners. In January
      2002, at the insistence of the U.S., Musharraf banned five such
      groups. Yet the government has allowed them to resurface under new
      names. Abdul Rauf Azhar, formerly of Jaish-e-Muhammad, says, "We are
      still doing our work."

      Azhar is not just any militant. Indian police suspect him of
      organizing the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to secure
      the release of his brother Maulana Masood Azhar, among other
      prisoners, from an Indian jail. The two Azhar brothers top India's
      wanted-terrorist list, but Pakistan brought no charges against Abdul
      Rauf. Musharraf did vow to keep Masood under house arrest, but staff
      members at his ornate mansion in Bahawalpur say he is free to travel,
      give incendiary sermons against the U.S. and collect donations for
      the Kashmiri insurgency.

      Ultimately, the most explosive issue between the U.S. and Pakistan is
      the nuclear one. American intelligence officials believe Pakistani
      scientists have shared—with North Korea and Iran—the technology they
      developed on their way to becoming a nuclear power. That is a
      possibility Washington cannot ignore when North Korea is explicitly
      threatening to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists unless the U.S.
      gives in to Pyongyang's demands for security guarantees, diplomatic
      ties and economic aid. U.S. officials do not think government agents
      are responsible for the leakage of Pakistani technology, but the U.S.
      has repeatedly asked Pakistan to impose tighter export controls and
      remains unsatisfied with Islamabad's response.

      Of course, Musharraf has his frustrations with Washington. Like many
      Pakistanis, he thinks the U.S. has not sufficiently compensated
      Islamabad for its sacrifices in the war on terrorism. Several dozen
      Pakistani security men have died in shoot-outs with al-Qaeda since
      9/11, and two were accidentally shot last month by U.S. troops. Among
      the rewards Islamabad seeks are for the U.S. to unblock the sale of F-
      16 fighter planes to Pakistan, open U.S. markets to Pakistani
      textiles and apply more pressure on New Delhi to settle the Kashmir
      dispute. "Here we are, fighting and dying in Bush's war," a Pakistani
      general recently told a Western diplomat, "and we're not getting
      anything in return."

      When Musharraf and Bush met in June, the President's message to the
      Pakistanis was, according to a State Department official, "If they
      really are committed (to fighting terrorism], we're willing to
      entertain any request they want to make." Ahead of this week's
      meeting, U.S. officials anticipated that Musharraf would arrive with
      a wish list of military, economic and trade concessions and a rundown
      of what he would do on the counterterrorism front if granted those
      benefits. "Then people will decide what the pain thresholds are,"
      says the official. Those limits will be determined in part by the
      ache of the intolerable status quo.

      —With reporting by Timothy J. Burger/ Washington, Ghulam Hasnain/
      Bahawalpur and Syed Talat Hussain/Islamabad

      Diamer terrorist camp dismantled

      By Ismail Khan

      PESHAWAR, Oct 4: Paramilitary forces backed by the Pakistan Army
      scoured and dismantled a terrorist training facility in the Northern
      Areas on Saturday. Troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps and
      Pakistan Army launched the operation in Tangir sub-division of Diamir
      district early in the morning to search the training camp.

      "It was a search and dismantle operation," ISPR spokesman Maj-Gen
      Shaukat Sultan told Dawn.

      The action follows intelligence reports that there was a terrorist
      training camp in the area, he said. The operation was conducted
      mainly by ground troops but reports said army helicopters were also

      The camp was deserted by the time the troops arrived. "There was
      nobody there," Lt-Gen Sultan said.

      Locals in Tangir told Dawn by telephone that the camp that was used
      by Harkatul Mujahideen, a militant outfit fighting in Kashmir. It was
      a small facility that had been abandoned about a month or so ago.

      The camp, called Bajajiano Maskar, was located in the small Tangir
      valley on the bank of River Indus, about 6km to the north of
      Karakoram Highway. Comprising three residential blocks, the camp once
      housed 20 to 25 trainees, they said.

      The ISPR spokesman declined to name the group operating the camp.
      However, he said the camp was a terrorist facility that was involved
      in domestic terrorism, including terrorist killings, sectarian
      killings and blockade of the Karakoram Highway from time to time.

      "The camp has no connection with Al Qaeda but the possibility of it
      receiving patronage from outside cannot be ruled out," the spokesman

      He said the troops destroyed the administrative infrastructure and
      other 'logistics.' "There were no arms or ammunition there," he

      Our Gilgit correspondent adds: Apart from some Gilgit-based army
      units, that had proceeded to Tangir on Friday, some 20 truckloads of
      armymen were summoned from other areas to take part in the operation,
      sources said.

      At least, four helicopters were seen hovering over the valley,
      assisting the troops busy in the operation on the ground, they said.


      US praises action against Al Qaeda
      KABUL, Oct 5: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on
      Sunday praised Pakistan's "tremendous effort" in launching a major
      operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the border
      region with Afghanistan.....(AFP)




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