Monday, January 14, 2008

Pakistan : Border War Claims More Soldiers Lives

Daily Bombings Turning Pakistan Into Iraq-Like War Zone

Another Taliban Rising : Pakistan Intel Loses Control Of Militants It Trained And Armed

Hundreds of Pakistan troops and police and thousands of Islamic militants have been killed in the 'border wars', mostly centred around the isolated provinces of Waziristan.

While the fighting, bombings and military action in Pakistan rarely receive in the United States the kind of media attention reserved for Iraq, the war there is now proving to be just as deadly, for soldiers, militants and civilians.

From ABC News :

At least seven Pakistani troops and 23 Islamic militants were killed in fighting in a remote tribal area near the Afghan border, the military said.

The clash in Mohmand tribal district erupted when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy, chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.

"The militants attacked a security forces convoy and the forces responded with the help of local people, killing 23 of the attackers," he said.

The battle took place in a district that has seen none of the militant violence plaguing other parts of the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

It came after a major battle last week in nearby South Waziristan tribal district, when the military said it repulsed an attack involving around 300 militants, killing up to 50 of them.

The Government has deployed 90,000 troops to the north-western tribal districts to counter the growing influence of pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, blamed for a recent wave of suicide bomb attacks across Pakistan.

President Pervez Musharraf has ruled out direct US military operations in the mountainous area amid reports from Washington that the Pentagon is considering the use of hard military power in support of CIA operations there.

A bomb blast in Karachi has killed ten civilians, and wounded dozens more. But this wasn't a suicide bomber. The bomb was believed to have been planted under a fruit stall and detonated while the marketplace was at its busiest.

And then there's this story from the New York Times claiming that Pakistan's intelligence services have lost control of the militants they have trained, armed and deployed for more than three decades. Another Taliban blowback situation in the making :

As the military has moved against them, the militants have turned on their former handlers, the officials said. Joining with other extremist groups, they have battled Pakistani security forces and helped militants carry out a record number of suicide attacks last year, including some aimed directly at army and intelligence units as well as prominent political figures, possibly even Benazir Bhutto.

The growing strength of the militants, many of whom now express support for Al Qaeda’s global jihad, presents a grave threat to Pakistan’s security, as well as NATO efforts to push back the Taliban in Afghanistan. American officials have begun to weigh more robust covert operations to go after Al Qaeda in the lawless border areas because they are so concerned that the Pakistani government is unable to do so.

The unusual disclosures regarding Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency — Inter-Services Intelligence, or the ISI — emerged in interviews last month with former senior Pakistani intelligence officials. The disclosures confirm some of the worst fears, and suspicions, of American and Western military officials and diplomats.

The interviews, a rare glimpse inside a notoriously secretive and opaque agency, offered a string of other troubling insights likely to refocus attention on the ISI’s role as Pakistan moves toward elections on Feb. 18 and a battle for control of the government looms:

¶One former senior Pakistani intelligence official, as well as other people close to the agency, acknowledged that the ISI led the effort to manipulate Pakistan’s last national election in 2002, and offered to drop corruption cases against candidates who would back President Pervez Musharraf.

A person close to the ISI said Mr. Musharraf had now ordered the agency to ensure that the coming elections were free and fair, and denied that the agency was working to rig the vote. But the acknowledgment of past rigging is certain to fuel opposition fears of new meddling.

¶The two former high-ranking intelligence officials acknowledged that after Sept. 11, 2001, when President Musharraf publicly allied Pakistan with the Bush administration, the ISI could not rein in the militants it had nurtured for decades as a proxy force to exert pressure on India and Afghanistan. After the agency unleashed hard-line Islamist beliefs, the officials said, it struggled to stop the ideology from spreading.

¶Another former senior intelligence official said dozens of ISI officers who trained militants had come to sympathize with their cause and had had to be expelled from the agency. He said three purges had taken place since the late 1980s and included the removal of three ISI directors suspected of being sympathetic to the militants.

None of the former intelligence officials who spoke to The New York Times agreed to be identified when talking about the ISI, an agency that has gained a fearsome reputation for interfering in almost every aspect of Pakistani life. But two former American intelligence officials agreed with much of what they said about the agency’s relationship with the militants.

So did other sources close to the ISI, who admitted that the agency had supported militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir, although they said they had been ordered to do so by political leaders.

The threat from the militants, the former intelligence officials warned, is one that Pakistan is unable to contain. “We could not control them,” said one former senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We indoctrinated them and told them, ‘You will go to heaven.’ You cannot turn it around so suddenly.”

There is little dispute that Pakistan’s crackdown on the militants has been at best uneven, but key sources interviewed by The Times disagreed on why.

Most Western officials in Pakistan say they believe, as Pakistani officials, including President Musharraf, insist, that the agency is well disciplined, like the army, and is in no sense a rogue or out-of-control organization acting contrary to the policies of the leadership.

A senior Western military official in Pakistan said that if the ISI was covertly aiding the Taliban, the decision would come from the top of the government, not the agency. “That’s not an ISI decision,” the official said. “That’s a government-of-Pakistan decision.”

But former Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that Mr. Musharraf had ordered a crackdown on all militants. It was never fully carried out, however, because of opposition within his government and within ISI, they said.

Western officials say that before Mr. Musharraf resigned as army chief in December, he appointed a loyalist to run the ISI and appears determined to retain power over the agency even as a civilian president.

...nearly half of Pakistanis said in a recent poll that they suspected that government agencies or pro-government politicians had assassinated Ms. Bhutto. Such suspicion stems from decades of interference in elections and politics by the ISI, according to analysts, as well as a high level of domestic surveillance, intimidation and threats to journalists, academics and human rights activists, which former intelligence officials also acknowledged.

Pakistani and American experts say that distrust speaks to the urgent need to reform a hugely powerful intelligence agency that Pakistan’s military rulers have used for decades to suppress political opponents, manipulate elections and support militant groups.

Read The Full Story Here

The more chaos, bombing and killing in Pakistan, the more likely that US and/or NATO troops will eventually be allowed in, and another occupation of the 'War on Terror' will begin, in the process completing the near total encirclement of Iran by Western military forces.