FRONTLINE / PBS & CBC News – 2006-10-06 09:47:30
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The War Against the War on Terror
John Perazzo / FrontPage Magazine.com (October 3, 2006 )
Return of the Taliban
FRONTLINE / PBS
(October 3, 2006) FRONTLINE reports from the lawless Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and reveals how the area has fallen under the control of a resurgent Taliban militia. Despite the presence of 80,000 Pakistani troops, the Taliban and their supporters continue to use the region as a launching pad for attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Off limits to US troops by agreement with Pakistan’s president and long suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, the area is now considered a failed state. President Pervez Musharraf tells FRONTLINE reporter Martin Smith that Pakistan’s strategy, which includes cash payments to militants who lay down their arms, has clearly foundered. In a region little understood because it is closed to most observers, FRONTLINE investigates a secret front in the war on terror.
FRONTLINE presents RETURN OF THE TALIBAN
October 3, 2006, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS
After the fall of the Taliban five years ago, some experts warned of a nightmare scenario. The Taliban and Al Qaeda would escape from Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan and set up new command centers far out of America’s reach.
That nightmare scenario has come true. The Taliban controls large parts of the lawless tribal areas along the border. In a video obtained by FRONTLINE, the Taliban demonstrate their brutal brand of justice. After executing 17 people, said to be thieves, in front of a crowd of hundreds, they hung the bodies on poles for three days. “We have killed these people and sent them to God,” a Taliban gunman says to the camera. “God will bring them to justice.”
FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith (Hunting bin Laden; Truth, War and Consequences) returns to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and presents a rare look inside this secret sanctuary in Return of the Taliban, the FRONTLINE season premiere, airing Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings). In a region long suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden and strictly off-limits to US troops, Smith explores the complex web of alliances among the Taliban, Al Qaeda fighters and the Pakistani military, and analyzes the consequences for US policy.
After 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pledged his country’s support to America’s fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but he has struggled to control his own military and intelligence services — which have long supplied money, weapons and military advisers to radical fighters in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, the benefits of cooperation with America have been clear. As President Musharraf tells FRONTLINE, “Defense cooperation has increased between the United States and Pakistan, and … the debt relief that we got will account for about $4 to $5 billion.”
US officials say that today the border region is a key front of the global war on terror. For example, when British police announced that they had foiled a plot to blow up as many as 12 flights to the United States, critical intelligence about the plan had been acquired in the tribal areas. Known terrorists have visited the region regularly, including Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested with plans to attack targets in New Jersey and London, and top Al Qaeda planner Abu Faraj al-Libbi. And despite the presence of 80,000 Pakistani troops, the Taliban and their supporters continue to use the region as a base from which to mount attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
The tribal areas are inherently difficult to control because of terrain and the fierce autonomy claimed by local leaders. “We used to call them the no-go area[s], or the inaccessible areas,” says Gov. Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, the Pakistani political chief of the tribal areas. “We had maps, but they were not very accurate. The borders are unguarded.” Culturally, there are also great sympathies for the Taliban cause. According to Steve Coll, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars, “when the Pakistan army is fighting the Taliban, they’re fighting cousins. They’re fighting brethren.”
Even under government pressure, some tribesmen continue to provide money and resources to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. After prodding from the United States, in 2004 Pakistan launched a major military offensive against a joint force of tribal militia and Al Qaeda fighters in an effort to take control of an area where Al Qaeda training camps were located. But the offensive failed, and Pakistani authorities turned to negotiation. The army demanded that tribal leaders give up all foreign fighters taking refuge with them, stop cross-border raids against US forces in Afghanistan and lay down their arms. In return, the government agreed to pay the tribesmen more than a half-million dollars.
According to sources familiar with the agreement, the money was destined for Al Qaeda. “This was part of the deal because some of these commanders had .. borrowed money for logistics, for support,” says Ismail Khan, an editor at Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily newspaper. “They wanted the money to pay their debt to Al Qaeda.”
An uneasy truce followed. The army is largely confined to its barracks, the Taliban exercises control over much of the area and foreign fighters continue to launch cross-border raids. President Musharraf concedes that his strategy of negotiating with the local militants in 2004 has failed.
“We thought if we reached an agreement, that would be the end of it,” President Musharraf tells FRONTLINE. “Well, it proved wrong.” Nonetheless, President Musharraf’s government signed a new deal on Sept. 5 with tribal leaders who control another part of the lawless border region, but observers report that the terms are even less favorable to the government and signal a further strengthening of the Taliban’s grip on the area.
Frustrated by Pakistan’s lack of control in the tribal areas, the US military began direct targeting of Al Qaeda operatives using unmanned Predator aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles.
The program was exposed in December 2005 when a local Pakistani journalist and FRONTLINE contributor, Hayat Ullah Khan (In Search of Al Qaeda), took photographs showing that a US missile had been used to kill an Al Qaeda operative, directly contradicting the Pakistani military’s account of his death.
Within days, Hayat Ullah was seized by unknown assailants, and his body was later found dumped by the side of the road; he was wearing government-issue handcuffs. His family tells FRONTLINE that the Pakistani military is responsible for his death, but President Musharraf and the military deny any involvement. Hayat Ullah Khan was the seventh journalist killed in the tribal areas since 2002.
“The United States is beginning to recognize that its project in Afghanistan will fail unless it addresses the sanctuary and support that the Taliban enjoys in Pakistan,” says Steve Coll. “But the United States has not yet reached the point where it knows what kind of … policy it is prepared to carry out.”
Return of the Taliban is a FRONTLINE co-production with RAINMedia, Inc. The writer, producer and reporter is Martin Smith. The co-producers are Scott Anger and Chris Durrance. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS.
Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by The Park Foundation. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
WEB SITE FEATURES
• Extended interviews with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf; Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state; Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghan intelligence; journalist Steve Coll, and others;
• Analysis of the geopolitics of Pakistan — why it has had longtime ties to Islamic extremists; the post 9/11 tensions with the US; and the domestic pressures facing President Pervez Musharraf;
• Maps, video and history of Pakistan’s tribal areas;
• Profiles of prominent Taliban militants, including Jalaluddin Haqqani, a warlord with ties to Osama bin Laden and the CIA; Abdullah Mehsud, a tribal leader captured by the US and released from Guantanamo; and Nek Mohammed, killed by a CIA missile attack;
• And, watch the complete program online in Quick Time and Windows Media, available within hours of the broadcast in high-quality video
Canadians Think Afghanistan a Lost Cause
Alexander Panetta / The Province
Ottawa (October 02, 2006) — Almost 60 percent of Canadians consider the mission in Afghanistan a lost cause, according to a survey that also hints at deep public skepticism about the war on terror.
Decima Research polled more than 2,000 people last month just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper stepped up his efforts to promote the mission.
Fifty-nine per cent of respondents agreed soldiers “are dying for a cause we cannot win,” while 34 percent disagreed.
The doubts of respondents paled in comparison to their downright dismissal of the overall US-led war on terror.
Almost three-quarters said the administration of President George W. Bush had made the world a more dangerous place, 76 percent said American policy had contributed to a rise in terrorism, and 68 per cent predicted the US will eventually abandon Iraq without success.
“I think the reason the Afghan mission is coming under such scrutiny has less to do with Canada’s position,” said Decima pollster Bruce Anderson. “It has more to do with doubts about the leadership of the Bush administration in the war on terror.”
Decima’s survey also found that:
• 67 percent said they couldn’t trust Bush’s warnings about North Korea because he was “wrong about Iraq.”
• 65 per cent called the terrorist prisons at Guantanamo Bay an “embarrassment.”
2 Canadians Killed in Afghan Attack
(October 3, 2006) — Two Canadians were killed and five other soldiers injured in southern Afghanistan, military officials said Tuesday.
The soldiers were involved in a road construction project 20 kilometres west of Kandahar around 4:50 p.m. when they came under attack from a handful of insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
Canadian military officials identified the dead as Sgt. Craig Paul Gillam and Cpl. Robert Thomas James Mitchell, both members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons based in Petawawa, Ont.
“They were members of the surveillance troop … a reconnaissance squadron,” said Col. Fred Lewis, deputy commander of the Canadian contingent in Kandahar. “They were conducting vehicle checkpoints and observation posts at the time.”
Two of the injured are in serious but stable condition. All were evacuated to Kandahar airfield, the main coalition base.
“Almost immediately other forces responded to it, treated and medevaced the casualties, and carried on with the operation,” said Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, the ground-level commander of Canada’s fighting force.
The attack occurred in the Panjwaii district, which had largely been cleared of Taliban insurgents in recent weeks as part of Operation Medusa.
“The last thing that the Taliban want is success in the final phase of Op Medusa,” said Lewis, referring to the reconstruction effort.
“That is the phase that will sway the inhabitants one way or the other in terms of whether they want to support their own government or the Taliban,” he added.
Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, most operating in Kandahar province.
With the latest deaths, 39 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed since the mission started four years ago.
In an incident earlier Tuesday, Canadian troops escaped injury after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked near Kandahar city.
With files from the Canadian Press
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