Thursday, May 13, 2010

DTN News: Pakistan FEATURE ~ Tribal Terror By Australia Network News

DTN News: Pakistan FEATURE ~ Tribal Terror By Australia Network News Source: DTN News / Australia Network News (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - May 13, 2010: The wild tribal badlands along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan are often called the most dangerous place on earth, the most likely hiding place of the world's most wanted terrorists. Pakistan has long been accused by the United States of providing shelter to the Taliban groups that are attacking Afghanistan from the tribal areas. But Pakistan now claims that the reverse is true - that because NATO has pulled its troops out of remote areas and into Afghanistan's cities, the militant groups attacking Pakistan have free reign on the Afghan side of the border. The Federated Tribal Areas of Pakistan, known as FATA, lie along the western border with Afghanistan. They're one of the most wild, ungovernable areas on the planet. For over 200 years the British tried and failed to establish control, and settled instead for a series of treaties with the tribes who live in the region. It's an arrangement that's largely still in place today, with the Pakistan government virtually invisible. The result is a safe haven for all kinds of criminals, and all persuasions of militants. Despite repeated attempts to dislodge groups such as the Taliban from their strongholds, the Pakistan Army has found that attempts to crack down on the militants, has been like chasing smoke.

Created: Fri, 07 May 2010 09:32:32 GMT-0400

VIDEO from Australia Network News

Newsline's Thom Cookes reports from Pakistan's Federated Tribal Areas

Imtiaz Gul from the Center For Research and Security Studies, says the porous nature of the region has hindered the Pakistan army's efforts. "We have to keep in mind...that it's very very porous, very poorly governed, you don't have enough of human resources to deploy." "So at the moment you apply pressure, these people simply move out to other locations and then try to reorganise themselves." For the last seven years there's been an increasingly bloody civil war between the army and Islamic militants who want to overthrow the government, and impose sharia law across all of Pakistan. Major General Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistan Army says 2009 has been the bloodiest year so far for his troops. "Virtually every day there were about 10 soldiers casualties. It was a very deadly, one can say." "But this is because the space has been denied to these organisation in their traditional bases so they are on the run." "They are in a desperate situation and they want to strike hard at soft targets." Despite General Abbas' confidence that the army is making progress against the militants, there's already been one failed peace deal between the two groups. Pakistani commanders are also complaining that when they put pressure on the militants, they slip across the border into Afghanistan. Army frustration Brigadier Zafar Iqbal, from the Pakistan Army says now that the NATO forces have withdrawn to Afghanistan's population centres, the militants have free reign in FATA. "On the [Afghan] side, they have sanctuaries...they have their camps where they can go, where they rest, where they even reorganise and come back...that's what's disturbing us." Brigadier Zafar says the lack of co-ordination between the Pakistan Army and NATO forces in Afghanistan is frustrating. "Our operations are linked to the situation on the other side. So these operations could be very effective if the [Coalition forces] conduct operations which are complementary. Then we can handle this very easily and effectively. But that's not what is happening." NATO commanders in Afghanistan have long complained of exactly the opposite problem. They claim the Pakistan Army is sheltering the Taliban militants who are attacking Afghanistan. But Imtiaz Gul from the Center For Research and Security Studies says demands by NATO and the US pose a challenge for Pakistani authorities. "Here's a dilemma for the Pakistani military, [that is] whether to go after those people who do not pose a direct threat to Pakistani interests at all." "The predominate consideration within the Pakistan government is do you really want to antagonise those people who are permenant residents of this region, where as the Americans would be gone, the foreign troops would pull out after some time from Afghanistan." According to General Abbas, despite the pressure from the United States, it's all a matter of priorities. "Some organisations, or a group which is not directly attacking the state, which is not directly threatening your own military or your own police. Therefore one would like to give it a low priority," he said. "It would not be wise to move against a threat which is not bothering you directly." But even where the Army is fighting with those militants trying to overthrow the Pakistani government itself, there is a strong sense that it is going round in circles. Peace deals At tribal meetings, or jirgas, it's the ancient tribal laws of Pashtunwali that apply - not the laws made in the Pakistan parliament, or administered by the courts. Sometimes the militants and the army directly agree not to attack each other. Sometimes the tribal elders claim they can raise a militia to control the militants, and that the army isn't needed any more but the deals almost always break down. Samina Ahmed, from the International Crisis group says every peace deal cedes territory and political space to militants. "What does happen is when you cede political space to them, the stronger they become and they attack the military again and the military goes and attacks strongholds." And so despite the thousands killed, and millions displaced from their homes, the civil war in the tribal areas is deadlocked. Samina Ahmed says in order for the deadlock to be broken, the FATA must be changed. "Any counter-insurgency will be unsuccessful if the politics isn't right and the politics will basically require a change fundamentally change in FATA itself." And that change means dragging FATA into the 21st century, and under full control of the Pakistani state. Despite the Pakistan Army's active role in the region, General Abbas says it's up to the politicians to come up with a solution. "It needs political reconciliation, a revisit of intergration, but I leave that to the politicians, it's not a military problem." But with a young and weak civilian government, caught up in its own struggle for survival, the chances of that change seem remote. *To read this article in original form, please click here .....Australia Network News *This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News, contact:

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