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Pakistan: Fighters snub olive branch

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    Foreign fighters snub Pakistan s olive branch An April 30 amnesty deadline came and went without a single registrant. By Gretchen Peters
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2004
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      Foreign fighters snub Pakistan's olive branch
      An April 30 amnesty deadline came and went without a single
      registrant.
      By Gretchen Peters
      http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0503/p07s01-wosc.html

      May 03, 2004

      [NOTE: The term "foreign" is a propaganda wordplay. The fighters are
      locals interested in defending their country against the invasion of
      American foreigners.]

      In a setback to Islamabad's new strategy, an April 30 amnesty
      deadline came and went without a single registrant.

      By Gretchen Peters | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

      ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants hiding
      out in this country's semiautonomous tribal belt have ignored an
      April 30 deadline for foreigners to register with the government and
      lay down their arms.

      Pakistani authorities this weekend quietly extended the amnesty
      offer, expressing hope that an extra seven days would convince the
      militants to live in harmony with the federal government here, and to
      cease attacking US troops over the Afghan border. Officials also
      encouraged local tribal leaders to vouch for the safety of those
      foreigners who cooperate.



      HUNT: A tribal force searched for fugitives in South Waziristan last
      month.
      KAMRAN WAZIR/REUTERS

      "This has been a farce from the start," says Ahmed Rashid, author of
      The Taliban. "I think it won't be long before we see some action from
      the Americans on this."

      Diplomats and analysts say the recent events represent a significant
      setback to the war on terror and the hunt for top Al Qaeda leaders,
      but have come at a time when the Bush administration is largely
      preoccupied with Iraq. Pointing to the spurned amnesty offer, many
      doubt the government's peace option has a serious chance and instead
      view it as a way to postpone a difficult military offensive.

      "These are the same hardened terrorists who won round one in March,"
      says one foreign diplomat. "Why on earth would they give up now?"

      In March, Pakistan's military got badly bruised when a mission to
      capture or kill an estimated 400 extremists in South Waziristan left
      more than 100 soldiers and civilians dead, and failed to capture any
      Al Qaeda.

      Pakistani authorities then convinced tribal chieftans in South
      Waziristan to form a lashkar, or tribal army, to hunt down the
      militants themselves. The irregular force staged a war dance before
      heading to hills with red ribbons tied to their rifles so they would
      know not to shoot each other. However, they failed to round up
      foreign militants.

      Finally, last week, a top commander of the Northwest Frontier
      Province, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, traveled to South Waziristan to
      meet local militants who support the foreign fighters, telling a
      cheering crowd wearing long robes and enormous turbans that, "the
      impression this is the den of terrorists has been proven wrong."

      It was an ironic statement, given that video footage of the meeting
      shows one of the militants, Naik Mohammad, arriving to greet military
      officers with his Uzbek bodyguard in tow. Local sources in South
      Waziristan say the Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan, an extremist
      group closely allied to Al Qaeda and to Mr. Mohammed, organized his
      security for the event.

      "We have neither surrendered nor laid down our arms," said another
      militant, former Taliban commander Maulvi Abbass, hours after the
      deal. "I have been with the Taliban from beginning to end."

      Washington so far has remained publicly silent about Pakistan's peace
      deal with the militants, yet privately, senior US military officers
      are upset. US troops hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives in
      Afghanistan routinely pursue enemy combatants who cross the border.

      Indeed, the peace deal in South Waziristan came just two days after a
      Taliban ambush in nearby Khost Province killed football-player-turned
      Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

      Some Pakistani military officials are horrified since so many of
      their own soldiers lost their lives in the operation in March and now
      have little faith that the peace initiative will bear fruit.

      "It's very much like the situation in Iraq," says Talat Massood, a
      former secretary of defense. "They are finding it difficult to go the
      military way, and they are also on the defensive politically."

      Pakistani officials have insisted that a peace deal with local
      militants, like Mohammed and Abbass, will help them separate the bad
      guys from the really bad - or allow them to co-opt the local
      militants while they focus their effort hunting Al Qaeda.

      • Additional reporting by Mujib-ur Reham in South Waziristan.

      *********************************************************************

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