Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Our Pal Pakistan to Taliban & Bin Laden: "You can stay in the mountains if you don't make trouble"

Critics say the deal seems a total capitulation by Pakistan to terrorists residing among them.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
In a move that some say appears 'a total capitulation' to pro-Taliban forces, Pakistan signed a peace deal with tribal leaders in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan Tuesday, and is withdrawing military forces in exchange for promises that militant tribal groups there will not engage in terrorist activities.

The Associated Press reports that the agreement is meant to end five years of fighting in the province, located along the border with Afghanistan, that has claimed the lives of over 350 Pakistani troops and hundreds of militants and civilians.

Under the pact – signed by a militant leader, Azad Khan, and a government representative, Fakhr-e-Alam – no militant in North Waziristan will shelter foreign militants.

Militants also will not target Pakistani government and security officials or pro-government tribal elders or journalists, North Waziristan lawmaker Maulana Nek Zaman said.

For almost five years, Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary forces have battled local tribesmen, many believed to be allied with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, in the fiercely independent mountain region where central government powers do not reach. Bin Laden is also believed to be hiding along the porous Pakistani-Afghan frontier.

The New York Times reports that the deal "is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda." But while the militants have promised to cease attacks across the border into Afghanistan and to expel foreign fighters, the treaty has given them a significant loophole.

In one of the most obvious capitulations since it began its campaign to rout foreign fighters from the area, the government said foreigners would be allowed to stay if they respected the law and the peace agreement. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda are believed to be among the foreigners who have taken refuge in the area.

A spokesman for the militants, Abdullah Farhad, denied in a telephone call from an undisclosed location that there were any foreign militants in North Waziristan, and said the government should provide evidence of their presence.

"Why should we bother if they are not here," he said, speaking of foreign fighters.

Although Mr. bin Laden is thought to be in the area, Pakistani officials have given mixed signals as to whether he would still be considered a target by government forces. In his blog for ABC News, Brian Ross reports that Pakistani Major General Shaukat Sultan said in an interview that bin Laden "would not be taken into custody, as long as [he] is being like a peaceful citizen."

Soon after in a statement, however, the Pakistani ambassador to the US said, "If [bin Laden] is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice." The ambassador also said that Gen. Sultan's comments were taken out of context, though Mr. Ross presents the transcript of the interview in his blog.

Though the treaty was met with hugs and the exchange of greetings between Pakistani soldiers and Talibani forces upon its signing, Ismail Khan of the Pakistan newspaper Dawn said the deal sent the government "back to square one."

Like a pendulum, the government policy has swung from one extreme to another, from the use of brute military force to what appears to be total capitulation to militants. Never did the government try to intelligently combine the use of force with pursuit of dialogue. ...

For now the government has been able to achieve peace but whether it will be durable and not relapse into more chaos and lawlessness, remains to be seen. It will indeed be a daunting task for the government to ensure that there is no cross-border movement by local and foreign militants and they do not indulge in activities detrimental to peace and security.

Unless that happens, the government would continue to be under pressure from Afghanistan and the US-led coalition partners to rein in militants, prompting it to launch another operation and that may result in the unravelling of the agreement.

The Washington Post notes that the peace deal may bode ill for Afghan and US forces across the border in Afghanistan, as it could embolden militants "to operate more freely in Pakistan and to infiltrate more aggressively into Afghanistan to fight US and allied forces there."

"This could be a very dangerous development," said one official at an international agency, speaking anonymously because the issue is sensitive in both countries. "Until recently there has been relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, but now that could start to deteriorate."

The agreement could add a new element of tension to [Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez]Musharraf's visit [to Afghanistan on Wednesday], aimed at smoothing over his relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two Muslim leaders, both allies in the U.S.-led war against Islamic extremists, have clashed heatedly over allegations that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are receiving support and shelter from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan's move also appeared to complicate the U.S. role in the region. U.S. officials have praised Musharraf for his help in capturing al-Qaeda members and refrained from pressing him hard on cross-border violence. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces could reduce pressure on al-Qaeda figures believed to be hiding in the region, including Osama bin Laden, allowing them more freedom of action.

The Indo-Asian News Service reports that the US would prefer Pakistan retain control of its tribal areas like North Waziristan, in the interests of deterring terrorist groups.

"It is in the interest of Pakistan and the Pakistani people that the government be able to exercise its sovereignty throughout all of Pakistan," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in response to a question about a reported peace agreement with pro-Taliban militants in the North Waziristan region. ...

"Certainly everybody understands the importance of not having safe havens where you can have these ungoverned areas where Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, other terrorist groups can plan and launch terrorist attacks not only against Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan but against Pakistanis and Pakistan."

However, Mr. McCormack said that he was unaware of the Pakistani peace deal in North Waziristan, and noted, "This is an area that traditionally has not been under the control of the central government, so this is a historical problem, I think, in Pakistan."

Turn off MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and their Rove-approved fall-election programming. THIS and this is what Bush-Cheney and Republicans don't want you to hear about.

There is no war on terror - there is no such thing.

The attacks of 9/11/01 should have been handled as rogue terror organization attacks had been handled in the past: Through the U.S. and world criminal justice system, through diplomatic and economic reforms that would bring justice and equity to all people around the world (and not just to the rich few).

Bush-Cheney used a shocking episode that got captured on live television as a means to permanent political power for themselves and their corporate cronies, and the great shift of wealth from the poor and middle class to the richest few since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The reorganization of U.S. intelligence agencies has been for the concentration of political power. Not a penny, not one cent, has gone to shore up the physical security of the U.S. against terror attacks. The hundreds of billions of dollars that Bush-Cheney has spent of taxpayers' dollars has gone into the pockets of defense industry and energy shareholders' pockets (Bush's and Cheney's, their family's personal investments). There is literally nothing to show for the bankrupting of America.

Docks, ports, railways, highways, airports, borders, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, hydroelectric plants, dams, rivers, waterways, the water supply, our food supply, NOTHING has been made secure from terror attacks.

When he (Bush) has to, like right before an election or a vote on some legislation that is vaguely about security (the Patriot Act, for example, which has led to NO convictions or arrests of terror suspects, NONE, but is being used for non-violent homegrown drug busts), Bush-Cheney will look busy, push the Brits to prematurely raid some investigation (which later turns out to have been nothing). It has gotten them through five years and (almost) two elections.

Have we learned nothing these last years? Will they be able to hoodwink the American citizens again?

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