Thursday, August 02, 2007

The real al-Qaida threat (maybe)

Just in case you needed more persuasion that Bush is doing little more than serving up lame justifications for staying in Iraq and hoping things turn around when he equates the Iraq war with the need to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq ("so they won't attack us here"), the nation's top intelligence expert begs to differ.

Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, testified before a joint meeting of the House armed services and intelligence committees, and according to this Boston Globe story, he "said that Al Qaeda terrorists operating in South Asia are better equipped to attack the United States than the network's followers in Iraq are." Specifically, asked which arm of Al Qaeda concerned him most, he responded, "The primary concern is in Al Qaeda in south Asia organizing its own plots against the United States."

For his own domestic reasons, Pakistan's President Musharraf has sent army troops into the Northwest provinces to try to at least harass the al-Qaida (that's still my preferred spelling) and Taliban camps there, but as I have argued before, that might or might not be genuinely effective. The one factor almost nobody mentions regarding the ability of al-Qaida to operate in those remote mountanous regions that no central government has effectively ruled is Kashmir. Pakistanis of all stripes are still upset over the division of Kashmir, especially tribal leaders in those regions.

The Pakistani government in the past has sponsored guerrilla operations in Kashmir and may be doing so still. But the al-Qaida leaders promise training and recruits that can be used more effectively in Kashmir, and some Qaida-trained people actuially go there. Until Kashmire is settled (highly improbable) it will be difficult to dislodge militants from that region.

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