Pakistan Border Poses Danger: CIA
WASHINGTON -- The situation in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where al-Qaida has established a safe haven presents a "clear and present danger" to the West, the CIA director said Sunday.
Michael Hayden cited the belief by intelligence agencies that Osama bin Laden is hiding there in arguing that the U.S. has an interest in targeting the border region. If there were another terrorist attack against Americans, Hayden said, it would most certainly originate from that region.
"It's very clear to us that al-Qaida has been able for the past 18 months or so to establish a safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, and that they're bringing in operatives into the region for training," he said.
Hayden added that that those operatives "wouldn't attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles (airport, outside Washington) with you when you're coming back from overseas _ who look Western."
Washington has sought reassurance that Pakistan's new coalition government will keep the pressure on extremist groups using the country's lawless northwest frontier as a springboard for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.
Over the weekend, Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, pledged to make the fight against terrorism his top priority. But he said peace talks and aid programs could be more effective than weapons in fighting militancy in tribal areas along the Afghan border. It was the new government's latest rebuke of President Pervez Musharraf's military tactics, which many Pakistanis believe have led to a spike in domestic attacks.
On Sunday, Hayden declined to comment on reports that the U.S. might be escalating unilateral strikes against al-Qaida members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas out of concern that the pro-Western Musharraf's influence might be waning. Hayden only would say that Pakistan's cooperation in the past has been crucial to U.S. efforts to stem terrorism there.
"The situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West in general and United States in particular," he said. "Operationally, we are turning every effort to capture or kill that leadership from the top to the bottom."
On Iraq, Hayden said it could be "years" before the central government might be able to function on its own without the aid of U.S. combat forces. Hayden said he would defer to the specific assessments of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, who return to Washington next month to report to Congress.
Hayden spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Internal security threats
By Anwar Syed, Dawn, March 31, 2008
ON March 20 I went to a conference on ‘internal threats to Pakistan’s security’ organised by the Punjab University political science department, guided by its eminent chairperson Dr Ambreen Javed with the help of her learned and very energetic colleagues (seven of whom happen to be women).
The conference went well. A good number of professors from all over the country discussed domestic trouble spots. But their presentations, laced with the technical language of modern political science and sounding erudite, did not in each case bring out the connection between the problem under discussion and national security.
I propose to present below my own reading of some of the troublesome situations we encounter in this country and their bearing on national security. Discussions of security may relate to individuals or collectivities such as the state. In the former case it means protection of the individual’s life, liberty and property, and in the latter the state’s survival in good order. In both cases, weakening can be a prelude to destruction.
A breakdown of law and order, making the individual vulnerable to killers and robbers, will bring about his loss of security. The resulting chaos will testify to the state’s weakening and the consequent ineffectiveness of its writ. A more direct threat to its survival may arise from rebellions mounted by dissident groups (to which we shall return shortly).
Want of legitimacy of the ruler or ruling group weakens the state and thus poses a threat to its security. Illegitimacy means that the ruler has taken power from a source, and in a manner, other than the relevant law or tradition having the force of law. In other words, the ruler is unlawful and his continuance in office constitutes an ongoing lawlessness. If it is all right for the man at the helm to be a lawbreaker, and still remain at the helm, the lower orders may conclude that it is likewise all right for them to ignore the law. This attitude of mind may then spread and lawlessness become part of the prevailing culture. The state in that event has become dysfunctional.
There is no need to dwell on the self-evident truth that extremism and terrorism can pose a serious threat to the security of the state concerned. But I do want to say a word about their meaning and import. Extremism is a state of mind in which its holder is certain that his understanding of truth is, to the exclusion of all others, correct. His version is not open to discussion, negotiation or compromise.
In the earlier stages of his career, Maulana Maududi maintained that the vast majority of Muslims (99 per cent or even more) should stop calling themselves Muslim because they practised Islam only partially and selectively. This, to my mind, was an extremist position. He stated it in his books and pamphlets and it was open to people to ignore it. That being the case, it didn’t hurt anyone.
Now consider Gen Ziaul Haq’s assertion, made in an address to the nation after he had seized the government, that secularists in Pakistan were “snakes in the grass” who must be crushed. This was extremism of another brand. He believed that those who did not think as he did deserved to be killed. Ziaul Haq was an extremist who came to the verge of being a terrorist.
Hijacking, kidnapping, indiscriminate killings (among other things) may be seen as acts of terrorism. Contrary to what the anti-terrorism law and courts in Pakistan may say, not every act of violence is a terrorist act. There are individuals and organised groups who despise Gen Musharraf’s regime. They have been bombing military installations, hijacking vehicles, kidnapping and killing military and paramilitary personnel. These actions need not be reckoned as terrorism; they are acts of war that opponents have been waging against Gen Musharraf’s government.
This is not to say that one of these two types of violence is more or less defensible than the other. I set them apart for the sake of clarity. Language has different words to denote different situations and there is no need to mix them up. War may include acts of terrorism as, for instance, when one side resorts to indiscriminate bombing of the other’s civilian residential districts. But not every act of war is an act of terrorism. It is terrorism, plain and simple, when a suicide bomber or one who engineers a blast chooses to target and kill uninvolved non-combatants.
There are two faces of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan which too should be distinguished. One of them has the objective mainly of forcing American withdrawal from Afghanistan and other places in the Muslim world. Then there is this other extremist-cum-terrorist, the ideological hardliner, who will continue his operation even if America and the other western powers go away and leave Muslims alone.
He has only one passion, which is to enforce his version of Islam on individuals and public authorities in everything they do plus their form, mission and modus operandi. He has no interest in the survival of Pakistan as such. In his thinking Pakistan is worth preserving only if it moves to Islamise its people and institutions truly and fully. If it doesn’t, the extremist will wage war against both its government and people. He feels that if the state of Pakistan perishes as a result of his campaign, so be it.
Since soon after its inception, the state of Pakistan has been creating or intensifying threats to its own security. It was to be a federation but those who manage it have consistently ignored this constitutional requirement and acted as if it were a highly centralised unitary state. Folks in its smaller provinces have been demanding provincial autonomy to assert the state’s federal character. They regard it as a contract that formed the basis of the state’s establishment. This contract has never been implemented. Dissidents in Balochistan have periodically risen in revolt to protest its ongoing violation. The most recent of these revolts has been going on for several years.
Not a day passes without a clash between Baloch nationalist groups and the central government’s agencies and forces. This state of war is moving the local elites to thoughts of separatism and secession. That will mean the state’s disintegration and eventual extinction. Yet its managers at the centre show no signs of readiness to alleviate the Baloch grievances. Their indifference should be treated as the gravest threat to the country’s security.
There are other internal threats such as neglect of nation building and national integration, military rule and denial of democracy, oppression of political opponents, economic policies that widen the gap between the rich and the poor and generate the latter’s alienation from the state. All of them deserve to be considered. Having run out of space, I will have to defer that task to another time.
The writer is a visiting professor at the Lahore School of Economics. email@example.com