10 September 2008

Pakistan: The Heart of Terror

Taliban Fighter in the FATA, Pakistan (from NYT)

President Bush announced today that more Marines (a battallion's worth which is ~500-1000) and more soldiers (a combat brigade which is ~2000-4000) are headed to Afghanistan later in the year as opposed to Iraq. This is a good strategy, as violence has been increasing in Afghanistan and declining in Iraq. But the prez sez that the major battlefield with Al-Qaeda is in Iraq:
Al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly declared that Iraq is the central front of their war with America -- but it is not the only front. As al Qaeda faces increased pressure in Iraq, the terrorists are stepping up their efforts on the front where this struggle first began -- the nation of Afghanistan.
General Petraeus has similar thoughts in an interview today:
It is still assessed that Iraq is still viewed as the central front, if you will, for al-Qaida and extremism of that flavor.
Al-Qaeda (through Zawahiri) has indeed mentioned that the conquering of Iraq will help instill a caliphate extending all the way to Spain. But these are their ultimate goals in their bizarre ideology, and not necessarily a sign of their actual mainstream presence. A look at this extensive and profound NY Times Magazine shows where the true heart of terrorism lies in waiting. It's complicated by the fact that the Taliban exerts control of the tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan, some of the Pakistan's military appears to be in cahoots with the Taliban thugs, and the foreign jihadists share similar goals with the Taliban of de-stabilizing both Pakistan and Afghanistan. An anonymous tribal chieftain explains:

“There are many Arab fighters living in South Waziristan,” Jan told me. “Sometimes you see them in the town; you hear them speaking Arabic.

“But the important Arabs are not in the city,” he continued. “They are in the mountains.”

A frightening, but absolutely necessary read.