- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

America has the opportunity to become known as the defender of Islamic countries' national identity and integrity. The White House can publicly define its mission in Afghanistan as targeting the foreign elements that have parasitically taken residence there. This isn't just spin. In the region, foreigners have not only perpetrated acts of terror, they also have radicalized native populations.
On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that, according to Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal, Iran has deported 16 Saudis with suspected al Qaeda links to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis reportedly fled from Afghanistan and were seeking refuge in Iran.
On Aug 7, gunmen attacked an Afghan army outpost near Kabul, instigating the deadliest clash in Kabul since the Taliban was ousted. Twelve men believed to be Pakistani and one man from Kyrgyzstan were killed, along with two soldiers. The Afghan government said the gunmen had escaped from intelligence-service detention in Kabul just hours earlier and were al Qaeda members.
On Aug 6, along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, a man in a car with five occupants pointed a rifle at U.S. troops patrolling the area. The man pulled the trigger but the rifle jammed, Col. Roger King, a military spokesman, said. The U.S. troops then opened fire on the car, killing four and wounding one. Although the men were apparently Afghan, a large amount of foreign currency from a country in the region was found in the car, said Col. King, declining to identify the country.
And, although Pakistanis living in Afghanistan are responsible for some of the violence in that country, many foreigners in Pakistan have also caused problems. In late June, police in Pakistan working with the FBI arrested 10 Arabs and two Sudanese, along with three Pakistanis, in connection with the June 14 bombing of the U.S. Consulate.
It is little wonder that there are so many foreigners in these countries wreaking mischief. After all, Afghanistan was the jihadists' destination of choice during the 1980s, as Islamic warriors coalesced in the country to battle Soviet occupation. Many of these jihadists returned to their respective countries in South and Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East with international contacts. And Pakistan's madrassas have been a major lure for militant Islamists. Those that arrived at the Islamic schools with a simple desire for education and more moderate beliefs probably didn't leave with them, since they often indoctrinate students with a more radical dogma. Foreign al Qaeda operatives have also been effective at co-opting existing Islamic movements and making them more militant.
But this problem with foreign militants provides the U.S., Afghan and Pakistani governments with an opportunity. The Taliban's former stronghold is Pashtun territory, and these tribes have been fiercely independent of foreign influence for centuries. Since many foreigners came to their land for the anti-Soviet struggle, they were welcomed then, but regional leaders should make clear that militant foreigners have overstayed their welcome. U.S. civil operations troops in Afghanistan, meanwhile, should also communicate this message, while taking pains to make clear that America won't be occupying Afghanistan.
Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf should also tell his people he is trying to restore the country's national integrity. If Gen. Musharraf can carefully focus the attention of his military on this dangerous foreign element, he will give the armed forces a raison d'etre beyond the struggle in Kashmir. And this could give Gen. Musharraf more leeway to negotiate a modus vivendi with India over the Kashmir dispute.
Many foreigners who have set up shop in Afghanistan and Pakistan have become a liability for those countries. Americans and leaders in the region should strive to restore native identities. As the Bush administration is well aware, foreigners in these countries buttressed their clout by giving various types of aid. America should employ a similar strategy, to a kinder end.

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