10 October, 2006

Pakistan and NATO: the problems.

Why is NATO getting upset with Pakistan? The fundamental problem is that the Taliban is operating against NATO forces from bases operated with impunity from inside Pakistan. In particular, the Taliban presence in Balochistan and in Waziristan is of concern.

Crumbling Spires has already dealt in some detail with Waziristan, on Afghanistan's eastern border. The Waziristan Accord has been widely interpreted as a surrender of the area by the Pakistan government, with the effect of providing safe bases for the Taliban.

Balochistan is south of Waziristan, on Afghanistan's south eastern border, adjoining Kandahar (click here for map). Despite Pakistani denials, NATO is concerned that Mullah Mohammed Omar, Taliban supreme leader, is based in Quetta, the regional capital, where elements of ISI - Pakistani intelligence services - are being very helpful to the terrorists. ISN reports that, during Operation Medusa,

NATO captured 160 Taliban, many of them Pakistanis who described in detail the ISI’s support to the Taliban. NATO is now mapping the entire Taliban support structure in Balochistan, ranging from ISI-run training camps near Quetta to huge ammo dumps, arrival points for new weapons and meeting places for the Taliban leadership council in the province’s capital.
Two training camps for the Taliban are located just outside Quetta, according to NATO and Afghan officers. The Taliban are using hundreds of local madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, to house the fighters and rally them for the mission ahead before sending them to the front.
According to a United Nations Security Council report, the safe bases in Balochistan and Waziristan are being used by five Taliban command and control centres, to organise the insurgency in Afghanistan. According to Daily India,
These include a Taliban command active in Afghanistan's north-eastern provinces, an eastern command and a southern command, as well as separate fronts established by two Taliban allies, veteran warlords Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Although the UN does not allege that all these fronts are based in Pakistan, NATO and American intelligence says both Haqqani and Hekmetyar as well as Mullah Mohammed Omar in Pakistan.
These are the problems NATO's commander and Pakistan's president have been discussing. So far, nothing of substance has been made public; everybody is being diplomatic. The The Hindu reports,
An official from the Pakistan President's office said Richards ``praised Pakistan's role in the fight against terrorism but suggested that there should be an extended cooperation between NATO and Pakistan'' to defeat terrorism.
We shall have to wait to see precisely what that means, if anything.

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