Saturday, August 07, 2004

Pakistan 'still training Islamic militants'

william's note: This should give you a warm feeling when you consider the nuclear arsenal that is guarded by Islamist fanatics with a grudge against you and me.

By Peter Foster, South Asia Correspondent
London Telegraph

Pakistan was claiming victory in the fight against al-Qa'eda yesterday just as fresh evidence emerged that elements of the military establishment were still assisting in the training of Islamic militants.

General Musharraf: confident that he is winning the fight against terrorist networks
President Pervaiz Musharraf said he was confident that his intelligence services were on top in the fight against the terrorist network. "We are certainly winning, that's my assessment," Gen Musharraf told the Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn.

But his remarks were undermined by an interview with a young Pakistani man, published in the New York Times, who was captured while fighting for the Taliban against American forces three months ago.

The 17-year-old prisoner said he had been trained in Pakistan's tribal areas, where several thousand militants are assisting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Sidestepping the issue, the US state department instead heaped praise on Gen Musharraf, who has became an indispensable ally in America's war on terrorism.

However, there are several reasons to question whether Pakistan's commitment to the war on terror can always be taken at face value, despite the high-profile arrests of several key al-Qa'eda figures in the last month. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency created the Taliban regime that gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden and other key al-Qa'eda operatives in the 1990s.

When Gen Musharraf accepted a US ultimatum to be "with us or against us" in the aftermath of September 11, large segments of Pakistan's military establishment did not support that decision.

Cynics in Pakistan are also quick to point out that for Gen Musharraf the war on terrorism has become the "goose that laid a golden egg". Last month Congress voted to give Pakistan $3 billion (£1.6 billion) in direct aid and debt relief over the next five years, including $300 million in this financial year for "military assistance".

Gen Musharraf's supporters in Washington cite recent military action against Islamic militants in Waziristan as evidence of Pakistan's determination to confront the threat from Islamic extremism.

But a report this year by the independent International Crisis Group said Gen Musharraf, far from tackling extremism, had completely failed to fulfil his promise of 2002 to rein in Pakistan's 10,000 madrassas, or Islamic schools, that serve as militant recruitment centres.

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