The latest casualty on Al-Qaeda’s central battlefield
This is even more likely after the murder of Benazir Bhutto. But the military is still talking about educational and employment initiatives, as if they will make the jihad go away. This despite the fact that study after study has shown that jihadists are generally better educated and wealthier than their peers. “US military beefs up Pakistan force,” by Bruce Loudon for The Australian (thanks to JE):
US Special Forces are to increase their presence in Pakistan amid assessments that the country is to become the central battlefield for al-Qaida as it is driven from Iraq.
“Pakistan should be carefully watched because it could prove to be a significant flashpoint in the coming year,” US think tank Strategic Forecasting said in an evaluation of al-Qaida’s tactics as the Islamist group comes under mounting pressure in Iraq.
With the “rapid spread of Talibanisation” in Pakistan’s insurgent northwest, the country would become “especially important if the trend in Iraq continues to go against the jihadis and they are driven from Iraq”, the assessment said.
“As the global headquarters for the al-Qaida leadership, Pakistan has long been a significant stronghold on the ideological battlefield. If the trend towards radicalisation continues, the country could become the new centre of gravity for the jihadi movement on the physical battlefield.”
The Stratfor assessment coincided with reports from Washington suggesting US Special Forces would expand their presence in Pakistan in the new year.
According to reports in Pakistan, areas in the North West Frontier Province, the federally administered tribal areas, Baluchistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir were earmarked for investment that would boost education and employment in an effort to wean local tribesmen away from their support for the jihadi movement.
The area, seen as crucial in the battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban, was the subject of a summit meeting in Islamabad involving President Pervez Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai.
The two leaders held what sources described as “unusually cordial and friendly” meetings on how to boost co-operation in the war against the jihadis. They agreed to intensify their exchanges of intelligence, something Mr Musharraf described as “the key to fighting and enhancing our capability against terrorists and extremists”.
Mr Karzai said: “Afghanistan and Pakistan are twins. More than that, they are joined at the body.”