May 14, 2011
Taliban's message from Charsadda blasts
By Rama Rao Malladi
Charsadda blasts signal that the Taliban will be the 'new' al-Qaeda for the Af-Pak region, while the "real' al-Qaeda will shift focus to West Asia particularly Yemen and possibly Iraq. It raises the question: When will Washington learn to look beyond the immediate? Accepting half-hearted support and duplicity neither serves American interests nor does crying "foul' enhance its global stature
::::::::By Rama Rao Malladi
IMG 1 The Al Kuwaiti brothers, Bin Laden's trusted couriers in Abbottabad are said to be from Charsadda, in the NWFP. So the two deadly bombings at Charsadda on Friday, which claimed 70 plus lives, are most likely a revenge attack carried out by TTP to avenge Operation Geronimo at the Abbottabad. On its part, the Taliban has set any lingering doubts at rest by quickly claiming responsibility for the twin blasts. Its target was the Frontier Constabulary soldiers, who were about to leave their training centre on a 10-day leave. They were in civilian clothes and were about to board busess. The FC training centre is located in the Shabqadar Tehsil of Charsadda. Between 8-10kg of explosives were reportedly used in the attacks and upto 12 vehicles were destroyed in the explosions.
Not surprisingly, a Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan telephoned a news agency, AFP, and held out the prospect of more attacks. "This was the first revenge for Osama's martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan", he reportedly stated from an undisclosed location.
In this age and day, more so after the way Osama scent was picked up, it should not be a problem for the agencies in Peshawar to trace the call and pin point its location. Yes, the call could have come from a public telephone booth. Even that nugget would help in spreading the net properly to catch the Islamist brigands.
Charsadda blasts signal that the Taliban and its several factions will be the new al-Qaeda for the Af-Pak region, while the "real' al-Qaeda will shift its focus to West Asia particularly Yemen and possibly Iraq. Yemen-based al Qaeda franchise, AQAP is active in the Arabian Peninsula. It has reportedly eclipsed the al-Qaeda when Osama bin Laden was alive both ideologically and operational strategies -wise. Nasir al-Wahayshi, who is also known as Abu Basir, is its leader. An ethnic Yemeni, he worked closely with Osama bin Laden on the Afghan theatre, and according to some analysts, he was for a while bin Laden's personal secretary,
This focus shift by Al Qaeda and Taliban will be felt in Kabul, and Kandahar besides Delhi and Washington. For a variety of reasons. Firstly because Pakistan has been engaged in giving respectability to the TTP and make the US to enter into dialogue with them. Washington, on its part, appears to go along with the "talks' process, in the absence of any other viable alternative proposal on the table as of now. Secondly because Pakistan army will be more than happy to outsource to TTP its enterprise in the troubled Waziristan and shift its gaze towards the border with India. Such a focus shift on the part of the army will serve an immediate requirement of dousing the Abbottabad flames, and re-energising the Zia drill of bleeding India with a thousand cuts. If nothing works, fallback upon the India bogey has been the time tested practice for the Pakistan army and the Pakistani right wing politicians.
What trajectory Pakistan-United States relations will take in the days ahead remains unclear. On the one hand, the Kayani army is threatening to limit its support for the U.S. activities against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It has cancelled the visit to Washington of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne. He was scheduled to meet his U.S. counterpart, Adm. Mike Mullen, during his five day stay from May 22. Officially the reason given for the cancellation was "prevailing environment', which in essence means the public display of mistrust by Americans in the wake of Osama operation. .
On the other hand, Washington appears to let bygones be bygones and bring back the cordiality, if not the warmth, that has characterized the US-Pak military and intelligence cooperation. While President Obama downward, who ever matters in the US hierarchy, have rolled back their harsh indictment of Pakistan and have begun to give a benefit of doubt to the Kayani -- Pasha combine for the Osama rendezvous in Abbottabad apparently as the price for the help on the Afghan theatre. Coalition Support Fund (CSF) has just announced a $300 million dollar package for Pakistan and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led by Democrat John Kerry, wants to give Pakistan a larger role in Afghanistan as a result of its relations with the Taliban. \
All this raises the question: When will Washington learn to look beyond the immediate? The argument advanced by some western analysts that the US is stretched to the limit doing what it is doing in Afghanistan and that opening a new front in Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is well beyond the capabilities of either forces in Afghanistan or forces in the U.S. reserves, is frankly no argument at all. The US must make its choice. Accepting half-hearted support and duplicity neither serves American interests nor does crying "foul' enhance its global stature.
Rama Rao Malladi is New Delhi based senior journalist and distinguished commentator on South Asian and Central Asian issues. He is a regular contributor to several publications in and outside India. His articles are featured in News Blaze.Rama is consulting editor to an English monthly. He is the coordinating editor at POREG. He has his own on-line journal, www.southasiantribune.com, which is an advt free portal. Rama also works with Syndicate Features, a Delhi based feature service, which his wife, Vaniram,is managing for the past ten years.