Sunday, January 22, 2006

Never mind the airstrike -- according to two stories out today, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are winning on the Afghan-Pakistan border. First, from Carlotta Gall and Mohammad Khan of The New York Times:

Two years after the Pakistani Army began operations in border tribal areas to root out members of Al Qaeda and other foreign militants, Pakistani officials who know the area say the military campaign is bogged down, the local political administration is powerless and the militants are stronger than ever.

... the Pakistani officials, and former residents who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, said the militants -- who call themselves Taliban -- now dispensed their own justice, ran their own jails, robbed banks, shelled military and civilian government compounds and attacked convoys at will. They are recruiting men from the local tribes and have gained a hold over the population through a mix of fear and religion, the officials and former residents said....

Gall and Khan say bin Laden and Zawahiri are in this region along with "possibly hundreds of foreign militants from Arab countries, Central Asia and the Caucasus."

Then there's this AP story, which suggests what's really meant by the assertion in the Times story that "the military campaign is bogged down":

...Pakistan authorities have said they are looking for militants who might have survived [the January 13 airstrike], but security forces have not visibly stepped up maneuvers in border regions where anger runs high among the 3.2 million residents.

The military still mans ubiquitous checkpoints in the area, but analysts say Pakistan is taking a low-profile approach so as not to enrage local people with large-scale offensives that may cause more civilian casualties.

The military has about 70,000 soldiers in the area, although an Associated Press reporter who has visited Damadola three times since the attack has not seen a single uniformed soldier in town....

So Pakistanis walk on eggshells in this region, while American troops can't legally go there.

I'm so happy that Bush decided to shoot the moon in Iraq while impotently shaking his fist at the real 9/11 killers.

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