Various news sources have claimed that Taleban and Al Qaeda elements are regrouping in the lawless zone in northern Pakistan, preparing for a spring offensive against the US and allied forces in Afghanistan.
For 200 USD, a family can cross the border, ostensibly patrolled by Pakistani security forces, but in reality, it is as porous as a sieve because the soldiers man only the checkpoints, leaving 800 kilometres of mountain passes open for those who know how to get through. These are controlled by the local warlords, who will allow anything, for the right price.
New recruits are said to be flooding in from Chechnya and Arab nations for the Spring Jihad against the Americans. Local sources claim that many Taleban and Al Qaeda commanders fled to northern Pakistan as soon as the fighting began. In the northern provinces of Pakistan, named “Tribal Area under Federal Administration”, where five million people, divided into seven tribes, are ruled not by Islamabad but by their local warlords, a state of law does not exist.
Tribal leaders have told the Americans and Pakistani security forces not to pursue Taleban and Al Qaeda members into the area and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said as much in reply to a request by General Tommy Franks, that joint operations be allowed in the area, claiming that such action would cause an armed insurrection. This is an area in which the number of houses without automatic weapons can be counted practically on one hand.
Local talk is of tens of US helicopters shot down and hundreds of American soldiers killed, numbers hotly disputed by the pentagon, which claims it is operating a policy of total openness. However, Taleban and Al Qaeda operatives in the area have gloated to media sources that the Jihad is taking the same form as it did against the Soviet Army in the 1980s.
The war in Afghanistan is far from over. One suspects it is very much in the beginning.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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