Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pakistani Tribesmen to Fight Militants

Developments in the tribal areas of Pakistan have a powerful bearing on the course of affairs in Afghanistan and also, eventually, in Pakistan. That the tribes are now turning against their 'guests' suggests a new set of issues in the area. Many of us have worried about the rise of the Taliban and the continued strength of Al Qaeda, and we sometimes suggest that they constitute a renewal of an Afghan movement that once had sufficient strength to oust the Soviets and overturn the communist government in Afghanistan. Sometimes people invoke the myth of Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires, reminding us of the British experience in the nineteenth century. But the new Taliban and Al Qaeda have, at this time, a much less powerful source of supply and support than the Afghan groups once had against the Soviets. If in fact Pakistan truly enforces its claims over Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and if the Saudis and other rich oil sources back away from supporting them, then the movement will have some major problems. The tribes, no doubt prompted by the Pakistan military, seem now to be turning against the "foreign militants" among them. This, over the long run, is significant.

By Riaz Khan
The Associated Press
"Tribal militias in the South Waziristan region have turned viciously against several hundred Uzbek and Chechen fighters [that] ... are suspected of links with al-Qaida..."
" 'About 1,000 ordinary people came with their guns,' Khan told an Associated Press reporter by telephone. 'Pamphlets were distributed calling for every man to stand up to these Uzbeks and disarm them ... The response was tremendous,' "
"U.S. and Afghan officials are concerned that South Waziristan and other parts of Pakistan's remote tribal belt are a haven for Taliban fighters..."
"Two Pakistani security officials confirmed the forming of the tribal militia."
"Hussain Khan, a Wazir tribesmen ... said the council, or jirga, was assembling a total force of 1,800 men, and that they would begin deploying Wednesday to several nearby villages where the fighting continue to rage."

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