- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The United States yesterday called on Pakistan to use military force against Islamic fighters in the tribal areas along its border with Afghanistan and offered to fund Pakistani military training and equipment to get the job done.

Islamabad has estimated it will need up to $350 million for the military upgrade, and Washington will come up with as much of that amount as possible, said Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.

“Some military action is necessary and will probably have to be taken,” he told reporters. “We need to help them upgrade their military, particularly the frontier corps … the 85,000 or so military forces that they have in the tribal and border regions of Pakistan.”

Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration has not identified the source of the money. It would add to $750 million already budgeted over five years for economic development in the tribal areas, which he said “have never really been part of the national order.”

“We can help them make these spaces part of the national economy,” he said. “These have been sort of ungoverned or indirectly governed spaces, where the government relied on the tribal elders to be the agents, the powers that be in those areas.”

After three years of conflict in the border area of North Waziristan, the government of President Pervez Musharraf in September negotiated a cease-fire in which the military agreed to back off if tribal elders would prevent militants from staging attacks across the border into Afghanistan.

But U.S. commanders in Afghanistan quickly reported that cross-border attacks increased under the deal while residents of the territory complained that harsh Islamic law was being imposed.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which were released yesterday, said there had been a resurgence of both al Qaeda and the Taliban in the areas in the past several months, and Mr. Boucher described the deal yesterday as “an attempt to deal with the problem, but not successfully.”

“Al Qaeda has been able to exploit an opportunity last year after the Waziristan agreement,” Mr. Boucher said. “By violating the terms of that agreement, they were able to operate, meet, plan, recruit, obtain financing in more comfort in the tribal areas than previously.”

Violence raged through Pakistan’s border areas over the weekend after the government violently ended a weeklong siege at the Red Mosque in Islamabad. More than 70 people — most of them soldiers and police — were killed and the militants renounced the Waziristan agreement.

The government immediately dispatched tribal elders to try to salvage the deal, even though Gen. Musharraf had pledged a day earlier that he would crack down on extremism in “every corner” of Pakistan.

“If they decide that an agreement like that can work and can be effective, they might want to try it again. But in the end, it’s the behavior of people in that area that really matters,” Mr. Boucher said.

“There are elements in these areas that are extremely violent and are out to kill government people, out to kill government leaders, and will not settle for a peaceful way forward,” he said.

The Pakistani government, he added, is dealing “decisively with the problems that have been brewing for some time,” and “now having dealt with the mosque, it’s pretty much crossing a line and there’s no going back.”

At the White House, President Bush’s homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, said Washington continues to fully back Gen. Musharraf, even though his strategy “hasn’t worked” for Pakistan and for the United States.

“President Musharraf is committed to the fact that he will not permit [the tribal areas] to be a safe haven and we will work with him to ensure that that safe haven is denied” to the extremists, she said.

In Islamabad yesterday, a suicide bomber killed 15 persons outside a court where Pakistan’s suspended chief justice was due to speak, police and officials said.

Gen. Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9 after accusing him of impropriety. The suspension sparked protests by lawyers defending the independence of the judiciary and opposition parties seeking an end to Gen. Musharraf’s eight-year rule.

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