Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Afghan peoples fed up with Talbi

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    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Afghan peoples fed up with Talbi

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Taliban and their extremist allies have been winning territory but losing hearts and minds in Pakistan, where they are meeting fresh resistance and polls show the broader population turning against them.

    The Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups along the lawless border with Afghanistan have alienated the Pakistani public with harsh tactics even as they have seized more territory, said Latif Afridi, a politician in the unruly Northwest Frontier province.

    "Ordinary people are fed up with Talibanization," Afridi said. "They have killed hundreds of people and have burned down homes."

    Pakistan's government has sent 90,000 troops to drive militants from the tribal zone but has unable to stop the Taliban.

    In remote villages, militants are imposing a strict version of Islam: beheading moderate clerics and pro-government officials; closing girls schools; ordering women indoors; banning computers and TV; torching video stores; and bombing barbershops out of a belief that Muslim men should not be shaven.

    U.S. intelligence agencies, in this year's National Intelligence Estimate report, warned of a "heightened threat environment" partly because the tribal areas have become a haven from which al-Qaeda can plan and train for terror attacks.

    Militants have already spread terror into Pakistan's cities with suicide attacks. The latest came a week ago, when a suicide bombing in Karachi killed more than 130 people and disrupted the homecoming of exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

    After the slaughter in Karachi, "more people will come forward and offer information" about the extremists, said Ikram Sehgal, political analyst and editor of Pakistan's Defense Journal. "It was pure carnage. … It will turn the majority against them."

    The fight seems to be shifting:

    •Some local militias have taken up arms against the Taliban's al-Qaeda-linked allies.

    Early this year, tribal leaders backed by the Pakistani government, drove extremists from Uzbekistan from parts of South Waziristan, a border district. A similar campaign against foreign fighters began this week in North Waziristan, said military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad. Anti-Taliban tribal forces have attacked militants near the Khyber Pass, Afridi said.

    "In the entire tribal area, people hate them," said Sailab Mahsud of the Tribal Union of Journalists.

    •The percentage of Pakistanis supporting suicide bombings has fallen to 9% from 33% in 2002, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released in July.

    •The percentage of Pakistanis who call extremism a serious problem for the country rose to 74% in August and September from 64% in June. One factor: terror attacks that followed the government's decision to storm a radical Islamabad mosque. The figures come from a poll of 4,009 Pakistanis by the International Republic Institute, democracy-promoting arm of the U.S. Republican Party.



    Second, a fully fledged assault on Waziristan is due within days. "This has now become inevi table," a high-ranking military officer told the NS. "We are taking daily casualties. If we don't take the militants on with our full might, the morale of the army will sink even further." Unlike previous operations, which target ed specific militant bases or tried to block guerrilla movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, "the aim now is to pacify the entire province".

    Forces would be deployed in all major cities, such as Mir Ali, Angor Ada and Magaroti, with the aim of establishing permanent army bases manned by thousands of military and paramilitary troops. The entire region will come under Pakistani military control, administered under the direct command of the newly appointed vice-chief of the army staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani. (When and if Musharraf removes his uniform, General Kiani will take over as chief of the army staff.) "We estimate the all-out assault will destroy the centralised command structure of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, making their operations sporadic and largely ineffective," says the military officer.


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