Pakistan and al Qaeda

StrategyPage: INDIA-PAKISTAN: Tribesmen Sort of Look for al Qaeda

In Pakistan, the army has allowed the April 20th deadline, for northwestern tribes to turn over Taliban and al Qaeda members, to be extended. But while the tribesmen went out to confront those families known to be still harboring the outsiders (especially non-Pakistani al Qaeda), the idea was not to capture anyone and turn them over to the army, but to force the foreigners to flee the area. The tribesmen have insisted that the foreigners were there from the 1980s, when volunteers from all over the Moslem world arrived to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. But that only accounts for some of the foreigners in the tribal areas. There are others who have been involved in recent raids into Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has convinced the tribes that if something is not done, the army will come in again and destroy homes and kill people while looking for the foreigners. The tribesmen were willing to tolerate foreigners among them, especially if the foreigners were devout Moslems. But that tolerance disappeared when the army moved in. Tribal ties, and self-preservation, are stronger that loyalty to outsiders. But some tribesmen continue to harbor foreigners, and the army is giving the tribes an opportunity to sort all this out.

So far, Pakistani troops and police have arrested some two hundred locals and foreigners in the tribal areas. Attacks across the border by Taliban and al Qaeda have all but disappeared during the last few months because of the army operations in the tribal areas. But most of the Taliban and al Qaeda appear to have hunkered down, waiting for the army to leave.

Frankly, I’d prefer that they arrest or “otherwise deal with” the terrorists rather than simply dissipating them. Still, terrorists on the run are better than terrorists holed up in a village.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.