Sunday, January 11

Pakistan's Taliban - thinking about you..

Once the terrorist genie is out of the bottle, it is well near impossible to stuff it back inside. Blow Back is a bitch, as they say. Now this is a pretty good overview of what the Pakistani Counter Terrorism unit is doing to combat the issue, but the existential problem is there. When both the Army and Terrorists claim to be fighting for Islam, who is right?

Read and wonder. Some interesting snippets that I did not know. This particular step is quite interesting specially because of the links between the UK and Pakistan. We already know a significant proportion of the British Muslim terrorist sympathisers/radicals have links to Pakistan. So it does make sense to keep close tabs on them. This should help:

Zardari was intent on pushing through an ambitious counter-terrorism strategy. It centred on the elite Special Investigation Group (Sig) - a squad that Musharraf had originally set up to investigate assassination attempts against himself and his officers. The new president intended the Sig to model itself on MI5's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, Britain's response to 9/11, and to acquire the forensic skills of an Islamic CSI. For that he needed cash and outside help. Since his first days in office, Zardari had been lobbying foreign secretary David Miliband to fund a joint terrorism initiative. The sweetener was an offer by the Pakistan High Commission in London to open up an intelligence cell to monitor British Pakistanis travelling back and forth, to which the British security services would have access. Downing Street was intrigued, especially as MI5 had briefed Gordon Brown in the summer that three-quarters of 30 major terror conspiracies in the UK had links back to Pakistan. However, it was only after Zardari's energetic responses to the Marriott and Mumbai attacks that Brown put his faith in the new Pakistani president.

On December 14, the British PM flew to Islamabad to announce a £6m "pact against terror", saying he wanted to "remove the chain" that led from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of Britain. A significant part of the funding was intended for the Sig currently a tight-knit cell of 37 full-time specialists that was to be expanded into a 300-strong force with an investigation division, an armed wing, an intelligence department and a research section. In return, Britain asked for access to the Sig's raw data and captured extremists who might illuminate British plots.

And just like the locus of terrorism is Pakistan, the source for suicide bombers is the Mehsud tribe of Central Waziristan. I quote:

From the 26 suicide attacks where we recovered a head in 2007, we made a startling discovery," says the Sig analyst. "The vast majority [of suicide bombers] came from just one tribe, the Mehsuds of central Waziristan, all boys aged 16 to 20." Until the Sig team analysed the 2007 bombings, no one realised how successful the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been in recruiting his extended clan to the martyrdom business.

In an attempt to glean an insight into why so many young Mehsud men were willing to die, Pervez co-opted police officers from the tribal areas on to his team. One of them, now a senior investigator, pokes his head around the door. "The Mehsuds have a predisposition to fight," he says. "Young Mehsud lads used to fight for the Afghan Taliban against the US. Before that, they fought the Soviets. And before then, they fought the British Empire."

The officer found out more when a few Mehsud boys, who escaped a suicide training camp, recently contacted him. "They told me, 'We have nothing. Simple things would make a difference. We are fond of football. Give us a ball and we won't bomb.' " The officer is working to recruit informers, but tentatively. Those who resist Baitullah Mehsud have been brutally dealt with - like the 600 elders who spoke out against him in 2005 and were, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, each sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own shrouds; all of them were then killed.

Pretty clear, eh? not much use of giving a football then?

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