Afghanistan and the US are showing signs of a new approach to insurgents in Afghanistan. The approach may ultimately allow Pakistan more influence in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave next year.
President Obama offered $2 billion in military aid to Pakistan this week. It's an incentive for it to more aggressively fight Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. But bigger factors -- such as India -- make Pakistan hesitate.
Pakistan said it will keep the Khyber Pass - a crucial supply line for the US war effort in Afghanistan - closed because of security concerns, as a US drone strike pounded alleged militants inside Pakistan.
The NATO helicopter strike on Pakistan on Thursday is worse than the controversy over drone attacks. One hopes that Washington and Islamabad can move past this by talking specifics as well as common interests.
Pakistani military operations in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan have steered clear of North Waziristan, allowing the area to become a haven for militants. Tribal and local intelligence sources say some 15,000 militants shelter in this semiautonomous tribal belt. “It’s a cobweb,” says former Pakistani diplomat Ayaz Wazir. New alliances between militant commanders in Waziristan have turned this area into a dangerous labyrinth, from which fighters can launch suicide attacks in Pakistan or missions against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “It's an international war which has engulfed us,” says Malik Khan Marjan Wazir, an influential tribal elder in North Waziristan. “The volcano is in Afghanistan but it erupts in our tribal areas.” For Marjan Wazir, peace won't be found through military operations or drone attacks, but in negotiations at what he calls “real” jirgas (tribal assemblies). “My elders would always tell me a story that if a woolen blanket gets leeches, you don’t put to fire the whole blanket. You pluck them out with care.” Based on interviews with local tribesmen and intelligence sources, here’s a list of the five biggest players in the region:
US drones have stepped up bombing raids to combat new alliances cropping up between disparate militants coming to Pakistan's North Waziristan region.
Listing the Pakistani Taliban as a terrorist group lets the US expand its campaign against the organization, which said it trained the attempted Times Square bomber and has vowed more attacks in the US.
The Lahore blasts – though sectarian in nature – may raise the level of threat felt by the hundreds of international aid workers who have come to help Pakistan after its worst flooding in 80 years.
Pakistan flood foreign aid groups appear to be unfazed by Taliban threats that their presence is 'unacceptable.' Foreign aid workers note that they are always working in a 'high security context.'