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The grim dangers in FATA

By Rahimullah Yusufzai  Posted by Abdus Sattar Ghazali (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Senior political analysts, Rahimullah Yusufzai, says that there is every indication that the situation in Afghanistan would worsen in the coming months and years in view of the inability of NATO and Afghan government forces to inflict a military defeat on the Taliban and the refusal of the latter to give up.

“As there are strong links between the militants operating on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border and the US-led armies in Afghanistan and the Pakistan Army in FATA are committed to fight them in their respective areas of operation, we have to accept the reality that the Pakistani tribal belt will remain a battleground for the foreseeable future.”

In an article in the News International, titled The grim dangers in FATA, Mr. Yusufzai says:

 It is difficult to believe the US assertions with regard to the risks that FATA poses to its security. Despite claims that Osama bin Laden, his deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al-Qaeda operatives were hiding in the tribal areas, no evidence has been presented to support this claim. There has been no sighting of the Al Qaeda leaders in any tribal agency, not even South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur where US missile strikes carried out in violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity are often justified by belatedly making the claim that Dr Zawahiri was the target of the attack. Leading Al Qaeda members Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Abu Zubaida and Mustafa Sethmarian captured in Pakistan were apprehended in cities such as Rawalpindi, Karachi, Mardan, Faisalabad and Quetta, and not in the tribal areas. The few Al Qaeda operatives killed or captured in FATA weren't that important. In any case, they were described as important by the US authorities after getting them killed, even though their names didn't figure in the FBI's list of most wanted Al Qaeda figures, and there wasn't any known monetary reward for their capture.

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Catchy names such as "Al Qaeda Central" have been used to describe Waziristan in sections of the Western media to promote the theory that AlQaeda's leaders were hiding there and planning new attacks against the US and its allies. It is mere conjecture to make that sort of claim without first establishing the presence of bin Laden and his associates in South or North Waziristan. Once that is established, there would be some justification for the US to ask Pakistan to assist it in bringing the Al Qaeda leadership to justice for allegedly sponsoring the 9/11 and other attacks. The US had made that sort of demand from the Taliban regime, which was harbouring bin Laden and refusing to deliver him to the Americans. Pakistan isn't protecting the Al Qaeda leader and is apparently unaware of his whereabouts. In fact, the Pakistani military, despite its former chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf's claims, has failed just like the NATO forces and the fledgling Afghan National Army in delivering a decisive blow against Al Qaeda and killing or capturing bin Laden.

It is worth considering whether Al Qaeda is still capable of planning and executing major terrorist attacks of a scale matching 9/11. There has been no terrorist attack in the US since 9/11 and the ones in Madrid, London, Bali and Istanbul were much smaller in scale and directed at soft and civilian targets. This led Western governments and analysts to conclude that Al Qaeda no longer possessed the capability to plan and execute major terrorist attacks. Besides, bin Laden has cut off links with his cadres in a bid to survive. Apart from his symbolic importance, there is little to suggest that bin Laden is involved in planning fresh attacks against the US or its allies. But recently, US government functionaries started claiming that Al Qaeda has regrouped in FATA and was planning new attacks against Western targets. There isn't much evidence to support this claim, except the fact that Pakistani Taliban commanders such as Baitullah Mahsud having links with Afghan Taliban and, allegedly, with Al Qaeda, have fought the Pakistan military to a standstill and forced it to conclude peace deals with them. Mahsud, by his own admission, is sending fighters to Afghanistan to fight the NATO forces, but this doesn't mean he is harboring the world's most wanted man.

One possible purpose of the US posturing on FATA is to force Pakistan to cancel all peace accords with Mahsud and other Pakistani Taliban militants and allow NATO air-strikes in the tribal areas. The US is also seeking permission for NATO and Afghan troops to cross the border for "hot pursuit" into Pakistan. In a worst-case scenario, the US may be following its Iraq example by labeling FATA as a threat to its security and writing the script for a possible ground and air attack on the tribal Agencies such as the two Waziristans.

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