Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On Diversion

Two weeks ago, the GAO released a report detailing the ability of al Qaeda to reconstitute in the tribal areas of Pakistan (FATA region) and the failure of the government to prevent regression in the War on Terror.

Today, it was the State Department's turn, releasing its annual terrorism assessment. As usual, Iran is declared the largest state sponsor of terrorism. Warren Strobel, writing for McClatchy, discusses the report's application to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border:

Terror attacks in Pakistan doubled last year, and casualties from terrorism quadrupled, as extremists reasserted their hold in tribal areas and attempted to extend their reach deep into the country, the State Department said in its annual report Wednesday.

There was also a 16 percent increase in terrorist attacks in neighboring Afghanistan in 2007, the report on global terrorism trends said.

It said that al Qaida has proved "adaptable and resilient" and used a cease-fire agreement along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier to reconstitute its capabilities.

Taken together, the findings appear to confirm that the struggle against terrorism in the troubled Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which many specialists consider the central battleground in the fight against al Qaida and its affiliates, was set back last year.

While the report seems loathe to mention the Iraqi occupation and its concomitant diversion of resources, it does speak to our reliance on the Pakistani government to police the tribal regions on its western border with Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have long criticized the deal struck in September 2006 between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and militants in the North Waziristan tribal agency.

Under the agreement, which collapsed last year, the Pakistani military stopped attacks on the militants, and the militants were supposed to evict foreign jihadists and stop cross-border infiltration into Afghanistan.

Senior U.S. officials say that the deal in fact allowed al Qaida and the Taliban to reconstitute and led to an increase in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The newly-elected leaders of Pakistan of course suggest that their approach will be more effective, but it remains fact that our past reliance on the Musharraf-led government to deal effectively with the region was misguided at the least. Combined with a diversion of both attention and resources to Iraq, the ineffectiveness of Pakistan has worsened the situation and created a safe haven from which al Qaeda has reconstituted and is free to launch attacks into Afghanistan virtually unmolested.

In addition, al Qaeda has continued its expansion by "making greater use of regional groups, particularly the Algeria-based al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which once focused its attacks exclusively on the Algerian government."

The State Department's report shows in yet more light that the US policy towards terrorism, despite all of its rhetorical flourish, has done nothing to codify the nexus of terror that spawned the World Trade Center attacks, which were the impetus for the counter-terrorism effort in the first place.

To say that the occupation of Iraq has decimated our ability to root out the terrorist stockpiles from whence the attacks came is no longer an opinion or a show of partisanship. It is a statement of fact, borne out again and again by the government's own reports.

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