Connect the Dots

by Joshua Foust on 4/21/2008 · 2 comments


Pakistani paramilitary troops fought guerrillas and freed two World Food Program employees abducted on the main road linking Pakistan and Afghanistan, United Nations officials said today.

The violence was the latest to shut down the highway and challenge government control around the strategic Khyber Pass, the main supply route for the Afghan capital, Kabul, and for North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Pakistani soldier was killed and several wounded, and a government official trying to rescue the UN workers was kidnapped in the fight, Dawn News television reported. It was not immediately known what group kidnapped the UN workers.

A local, ethnic Pashtun militia called Lashkar-i-Islami recently expanded its control around the Pakistani end of the pass, and Taliban guerrillas from other border areas have mounted attacks there on tanker trucks carrying gasoline and aviation fuel to U.S. forces, said Pir Zubair Shah, an independent Pakistani reporter from the border area who last week traveled through the district. Local gangs involved in smuggling and the drug trade also are prevalent in the Khyber district.


Pakistan’s new government on Monday released the founder of an outlawed pro-Taliban militant group which has been involved in insurgency in both Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, an official said.

Sufi Mohammad, a cleric and leader of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (Movement for Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law), sent thousands of followers to fight U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, who ousted the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

“The government has released Sufi Mohammad. He has renounced violence and assured the government he will continue his movement through peaceful means,” said Sardar Hussain Babak, minister of information in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Many of Mohammad’s activists, most of whom are ethnic Pashtuns from northwest Pakistan, were killed in Afghanistan and Mohammad was arrested in 2002 when he was returning to Pakistan.

After his arrest and detention, his firebrand son-in-law, Fazlullah, took over as leader of the group and over the past year he has led an insurgency in the Swat Valley in NWFP.

Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting between the security forces and militants in Swat where Fazlullah tried to enforce Taliban-style Islamist rule. Fazlullah is still at large.

Barnett Rubin:

Some U.S. commanders are now pressing for more attacks by the U.S. inside FATA. For now, the administration has decided not to jeopardize relations with Pakistan’s new democratic government by undermining its policy before it can even formulate it. There is indeed a serious question of how to balance the time required for a political solution that will isolate al-Qaida and eliminate its safe area permanently, and the potentially urgent threat posed by militants who are undermining the international effort in Afghanistan (not just a US effort) and may strike in Europe or even the U.S. again.

Colonel Thomas Lynch:

“The mission in Afghanistan is not in jeopardy mainly because NATO members refuse to provide sufficient troops,” he says. “The real issue is the transitory and uncertain U.S. military posture in Afghanistan.”

Lynch says the key to success lies in the politics of Pakistan, which has long viewed Afghanistan as a source of strategic depth against India: fear of India in the east, and fear of losing control of Afghanistan on its western frontier, have been a driving force in Pakistan since independence. That is why Pakistan helped create the Taliban as a puppet government in Kabul – and why elements of the Pakistan government still support them.

Lynch says only by convincing Pakistan – and the majority of Afghans – of its will to guarantee the security and stability of Afghanistan for decades to come, can the U.S. and its allies put an end to Taliban support, both from inside Pakistan, and from ordinary Afghans.

Consider that the U.S. has abandoned each country to their fates once before, withdrawing from the region soon after the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan.

Today, “our uncertain commitment to Afghanistan has the effect of bolstering Taliban propaganda (while providing) incentives for Pakistan to hedge its bets.”

Posted without comment.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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James April 24, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Ummmm…regarding COL. Lynch…as I remember, Giustozzi (of “Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop” fame), documented pretty thoroughly that opposition to foreign occupation was one of the driving forces in support for the Neo-Taliban at the village level, particularly among leaders/power-brokers…

kungpao April 25, 2008 at 3:26 am

Afghanistan has four “ports.” Khyber is the second-most important one, and the only one that Islamabad can control.

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