Pak­istan hes­i­tates to erad­i­cate mil­i­tant camps

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The U.S. has com­piled a wide body of in­tel­li­gence on the lo­ca­tions of mil­i­tant train­ing camps in Pak­istan, but has been un­able to per­suade Islamabad to shut them down, cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials say.

A for­mer se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said the big­gest concern is a net­work of camps in North Waziris­tan from which the Tal­iban and al Qaeda-linked groups train and re­cruit fight­ers, as well as build im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices (IEDs).

Some of the camps are associated with the Haqqani Net­work, an in­sur­gent group that car­ries out at­tacks on NATO troops from its hide-outs in North Waziris­tan and which is widely be­lieved to have links to Pak­istan’s In­terSer­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) agency.

Per­suad­ing Pak­istan to crack down in North Waziris­tan is tak­ing on added im­por­tance. NATO plans in com­ing months to step up its coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan’s Re­gional Com­mand East, or RC-East, as it is called, af­ter rid­ding the south­ern re­gion around Kan­da­har of many Tal­iban safe havens.

The new war in the east could be ham­strung if the Tal­iban and al Qaeda-linked ter­ror­ist groups are al­lowed to sim­ply cross back into North Waziris­tan’s safe havens.

“We have had broad con­ver­sa­tions with Pak­istan about North Waziris­tan and the rea­sons for in­ter­ven­tion,” the for­mer of­fi­cial said. “There have been widerang­ing dis­cus­sions about ex­trem­ist groups in Pak­istan and what should be done about them. Train­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of these groups have been part of the con­ver­sa­tion.”

It has not been an easy con­ver­sa­tion, as re­flected in the re­cent U.S. de­ci­sion to with­hold $800 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid for Pak­istan, a tan­gi­ble sign of Wash­ing­ton’s frus­tra­tion over Islamabad’s lack of progress in North Waziris­tan, among other con­cerns.

A White House spokesman de­clined to com­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Times when asked whether the U.S. had pro­vided Pak­istan with its in­tel­li­gence on train­ing camps.

The dilemma is that in­for­ma­tion that U.S. forces share with their Pak­istani coun­ter­parts can find its way to the mil­i­tants, who then change their tac­tics or lo­ca­tions, the for­mer of­fi­cial said.

News re­ports last month said the U.S. pro­vided Pak­istan with in­for­ma­tion on bomb-mak­ing plants, only to see the sites evac­u­ated af­ter­ward.

Pak­istan does not al­low NATO ground troops to cross into its ter­ri­tory to at­tack in­sur­gents. The killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pak­istani gar­ri­son town on May 2 by Navy SEALs was con­ducted with­out Islamabad’s prior ap­proval.

The U.S. is lim­ited to CIA-di­rected drone strikes on in­di­vid­ual com­pounds in an ef­fort to kill mil­i­tant lead­ers.

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for- nia Repub­li­can, told The Times that the sit­u­a­tion may come to a point where the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has no choice other than to launch at­tacks into Pak­istan. He de­clined to spec­ify the types of at­tacks.

“These are es­tab­lished, vet­ted safe havens that op­er­ate in Pak­istan,” Mr. Hunter said. “They rest up, then they come back across with ma­teriel and sup­plies and new guys to at­tack our troops. We know where these guys are down to a [small area on a map].”

The like­li­hood that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion would launch at­tacks into Pak­istan is ques­tion­able, con­sid­er­ing the draw­down of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Pak­istan’s nu­clear arse­nal. Yet the ad­min­is­tra­tion has stepped up drone at­tacks in Pak­istan’s north­ern tribal ar­eas and did ap­prove the bin Laden raid with­out Islamabad’s prior knowl­edge.

Mr. Hunter, who just re­turned from a fact-find­ing tr ip to Afghanistan, added: “I think what has to be done, we have to deny the ter­ror­ists safe haven. We have to let Pak­istan know we have to go af­ter tar­gets that are so em­bar­rass­ing to them and so ob­vi­ous to the world com­mu­nity [that] when Pak­istan cries ‘foul,’ ev­ery­body just kind of laughs at it and shrugs it off and says, ‘Good job, Amer­ica.’ And those tar­gets are avail­able. The su­per down­side to that is, you widen the war.”

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, told The Times that the sit­u­a­tion may come to a point where the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has no choice other than to launch at­tacks into Pak­istan. He de­clined to spec­ify the types of at­tacks. “These are es­tab­lished, vet­ted safe havens that op­er­ate in Pak­istan,” Mr. Hunter said. “They rest up, then they come back across with ma­teriel and sup­plies and new guys to at­tack our troops. We know where these guys are down to a [small area on a map].”

In a tele­con­fer­ence from Afghanistan ear­lier this month, Army Gen. David Ro­driguez, the deputy U.S. com­man­der, told Pen­tagon re­porters that Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary “needs to do more.”

“What we re­ally need is less of the IEDs and the home­made ex­plo­sives across that bor­der, as well as some of the bomb-mak- ers and lead­er­ship that moves across that bor­der,” Gen. Ro­driguez said. “And those are the types of sup­port and help that we con­tinue to work with our ‘Pak’ mil part­ners to help us with.

“We’ve seen that in se­lected ar­eas, but again, not as much as we would like. And we all think and know that they need to do more. That’s what we work with them on ev­ery day to do. [. . . ] We need more sup­port and help from the Pak­istani mil­i­tary,” Gen. Ro­driguez said.

“We con­tinue to co­or­di­nate and build the re­la­tion­ships so that we can bet­ter syn­chro­nize our plans across that bor­der.”

The for­mer se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said Pak­istan has told U.S. diplo­mats that its mil­i­tary is stretched too thinly to open an­other the­ater of war in North Waziris­tan. The gov­ern­ment also fears a back­lash from Is­lamic mil­i­tants.

But Rep. Mike Rogers, chair­man of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said Pak­istan’s army and its pow­er­ful ISI con­tinue to play both sides in the U.S. war on terrorism.

“We’re go­ing to have to con­tinue to work with them,” the Michi­gan Repub­li­can said July 10 on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “They do help us in some ways. But this is in­cred­i­bly con­cern­ing when they con­tinue to have these prob­lems with help­ing bad guys.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

EYE­WIT­NESS: Rep. Dun­can Hunter, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can who has just re­turned from a fact-find­ing trip to Afghanistan, said, “We have to let Pak­istan know we have to go af­ter tar­gets that are so em­bar­rass­ing to them ... [that] when Pak­istan cries ‘foul,’ ever ybody just kind of laughs at it and shrugs it off and says, ‘Good job, Amer­ica.’ ”

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