U.S.-backed government has been unable to gain control of Afghan countryside

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Sep 10 04:02:03 MDT 2002


(Of course, no one actually knows if those battling the Karzai government
are Al Qaeda, Taliban --one of the so far unsucessfully) hunted men who goes
unmentioned in this article Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader -- or other
groups that object to U.S. occupation and domination.-- Fred Feldman)
 September 10, 2002  New York Times
Qaeda Fighters Said to Return to Afghanistan
By JAMES RISEN and DEXTER FILKINS


WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - United States intelligence officials say Qaeda
operatives who found refuge in Pakistan are starting to regroup and move
back into Afghanistan, less than a year after a successful American military
campaign forced them to flee their onetime sanctuary by the thousands.
The movement back into Afghanistan is still relatively small and involves
Qaeda members traveling in small groups, the officials say. Most of the
thousands who escaped Afghanistan after American-led forces defeated the
Taliban government are not seeking to return.
Instead, they remain scattered throughout South Asia and the Middle East,
creating a terrorist diaspora that is now of deep concern to American
counterterrorism officials. Some have found havens in Iran and Iraq,
although American intelligence officials are divided over whether they are
receiving active support from either country.
Still, American officials say the world's largest concentrations of Qaeda
operatives are now in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the recent influx into
Afghanistan is creating new dangers. Qaeda members are believed to have
launched a series of small attacks against American forces in Afghanistan in
recent weeks and may have been behind the attempted assassination of the
Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the deadly car bombing in Kabul last
Thursday, according to Afghan and American officials.
The return of some Qaeda operatives thus represents a serious threat to the
American-backed Karzai government, which has been unable to gain effective
control of the Afghan countryside.
Until recently, Al Qaeda seemed to be trying to shift its base of operations
to Pakistan, with many of its leaders finding sanctuary either in the
country's remote tribal regions along the 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan
or in Pakistan's cities. In the tribal regions, Qaeda operatives found
support from sympathetic local leaders willing to defy the Pakistani
government's efforts to crack down on Islamic radicals.
Indeed, Pakistanis interviewed recently in the tribal areas, where the
government has only a nominal presence, recounted how hundreds of Qaeda men
had streamed out of Afghanistan in the months after the Taliban's collapse.
Local mullahs helped many to travel on to Pakistani cities like Karachi and
Lahore or across the parched sands of Baluchistan and into Iran. Others were
said to be hiding in refugee camps or in any number of Pakistan's 10,000
private Islamic schools.
But American officials say that the recent shift back into Afghanistan has
made it difficult to continue to identify Pakistan as Al Qaeda's new central
hub.
"A few months ago, I would have said that the new center of gravity of Al
Qaeda was in Pakistan," said one senior American intelligence official.
"Today, I don't think you can say that. I think you can see concentrations
in both Pakistan and Afghanistan."
(Full article: www.newyorktimes.com)




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