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June 18, 2004
BBC: Pakistan Scores Victory Against AQ

The BBC reports this morning that the new Pakistan offensive against al-Qaeda and its supporters in its frontier regions with Afghanistan has produced another big victory, in this case the death of an opposition tribal leader who openly supported the Taliban and sheltered AQ operatives in South Waziristan:

Nek Mohammed, who is accused of sheltering al-Qaeda militants, had led several deadly attacks against Pakistani forces in South Waziristan.

"We were tracking him down and he was killed [Thursday] night by our hand," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said from Islamabad. ...

If the reports of Mohammed's death are borne out, a big obstacle in the army's path to bringing to the rebellious tribes under its control will have been removed, says the BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad.

Mohammed had been one of the most openly defiant leaders in South Waziristan, whose intransigence led to the breakdown of negotiations between the tribes and the Pakistani government. Not only was Mohammed killed in the attack, but the same attack killed his two adult sons and a senior associate, meaning that a good part of the leadership structure of Mohammed's organiztion is gone. Any efforts to coordinate with AQ leaders or former Taliban associates will either be difficult or impossible. At the same time, the other recalcitrant tribal leaders may suddenly discover that their rugged terrain does not make for an impregnable fortress, and that Pervez Musharraf is serious.

Musharraf's commitment to this policy had been open to debate, especially early on. The Pakistani mountain tribes have always acted as a first line of defense for Islamabad, a sort of semi-autonomous border guard, especially during the time of Pakistani-Taliban cooperation. The Soviet's disastrous engagement in Afghanistan confirmed, in 1980s terms, the difficulty of fighting these mujaheddin in the mountains, and the tribes (and Islamabad) figured that into their calculations. Now, however, the Pakistanis are showing success where the Soviets failed, and unlike the Soviets, they know where the tribes are.

The tribes themselves convinced themselves early on that Musharraf's demands for their cooperation were mainly for foreign consumption based on that supposed impregnability, and perhaps they were right -- at first. However, two assassination attempts by al-Qaeda have convinced Musharraf that elimination of foreign fighters from Pakistani territory will be his only security, and as the tribes are finding out firsthand, he means to get rid of them any way he can.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 18, 2004 6:31 AM

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