Monday, June 16, 2008
Militant Attacks From Pakistan Must Be Stopped
Afghanistan’s leader has threatened to send soldiers into Pakistan to fight militants. He is only doing what he must to protect his country.
If Pakistan won’t deal with these insurgents, either the Afghans or the Coalition must do so:
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New York Times
June 16, 2008
Karzai Threatens To Send Soldiers Into Pakistan
By Carlotta Gall
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened on Sunday to send soldiers into Pakistan to fight militant groups operating in the border areas to attack Afghanistan. His comments, made at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, are likely to worsen tensions between the countries, just days after American forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on the border while pursuing militants.
“If these people in Pakistan give themselves the right to come and fight in Afghanistan, as was continuing for the last 30 years, so Afghanistan has the right to cross the border and destroy terrorist nests, spying, extremism and killing, in order to defend itself, its schools, its peoples and its life,” Mr. Karzai said.
“When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same,” he said.
Mr. Karzai repeated that he regarded the Pakistani government as a friendly government, but he urged it to join Afghanistan and allied nations to fight those who wanted to destabilize both countries, and to “cut the hand” that is feeding the militants.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said the border was too long to prevent people from crossing, “even if Pakistan puts its entire army along the border.”
“Neither do we interfere in anyone else’s matters, nor will we allow anyone to interfere in our territorial limits and our affairs,” The Associated Press quoted Mr. Gilani as having said.
Mr. Karzai named several militant leaders, including Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani who has sent scores of fighters and suicide bombers to Afghanistan, and Maulana Fazlullah, a firebrand militant leader from the Swat Valley. Both men have recently negotiated peace deals with the Pakistani government, but vowed to continue waging jihad in Afghanistan.
“Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house,” Mr. Karzai said.
The president also taunted the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, calling him a Pakistani, since he has been based in this country since fleeing Afghanistan in 2001.
“And the other fellow, Pakistani Mullah Omar, should know the same,” Mr. Karzai said. “This is a two-way road in this case, and Afghans are good at the two-way-road journey. We will complete the journey and we will get them and we will defeat them. We will avenge all that they have done to Afghanistan for the past so many years.”
“Today’s Afghanistan is not yesterday’s silent Afghanistan,” he warned. “We have a voice, tools and bravery as well.”
Mr. Karzai’s comments came two days after Taliban fighters assaulted the main prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, blowing up the mud walls, killing 15 guards and freeing about 1,200 inmates. It is not known if the fighters received assistance from outside Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai has adopted a tougher stance in recent months toward Pakistan and even toward foreign allies like the United States and Britain, a shift that analysts say is driven by political concerns at home, with presidential elections due next year.
He says Pakistan has been giving sanctuary to militants for several years and his frustration has grown as the threat has grown. He has often accused the premier Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of training and assisting militant groups, to undermine his government and maintain a friendly proxy force for the day that United States and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
His relations with the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, have deteriorated over the years, amid mutual recriminations that the other side was not doing enough to curb terrorism. Mr. Musharraf always denied that the Taliban was operating from Pakistani territory and accused Mr. Karzai of failing to put his own country in order.
Mr. Karzai has welcomed the electoral victories of the secular, democratic parties in Pakistan, since he had longstanding good relations with the late Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party, and in particular with another coalition partner, the Awami National Party.
In a recent interview, Mr. Karzai expressed optimism that relations between the countries would improve under the new government, in particular because of its opposition to militant Islamism.
Yet Afghanistan has watched Pakistan’s peace deals with militant groups with concern and has protested that cross-border infiltration has already increased.
In southern Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai said, British commanders reported that 70 percent of the Taliban fighters killed in recent fighting in the Garmser district were from Pakistan, and 60 percent were Pakistanis.
Mr. Karzai complained that the Pashtuns, the ethnic group that lives on both sides of the border, have been used by the Inter-Services Intelligence and have suffered the most at the hands of the militants. Mr. Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun and spoke out for his fellow tribesmen in Pakistan as well as in his own country.
The militants “have been trained against the Pashtuns of Pakistan and against the people of Afghanistan, and their jobs are to burn Pashtun schools in Pakistan, not to allow their girls to get educated, and kill the Pashtun tribal chiefs,” Mr. Karzai said.
“This is the duty of Afghanistan to rescue the Pashtuns in Pakistan from this cruelty and terror,” he said. “This is the duty of Afghanistan to defend itself and defend their brothers, sisters and sons on the other side.”
Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.
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Charles M. Grist