Counter-Terrorism: On The Road Again


February 16, 2013: The tribal territories of Pakistan have been home to Islamic terrorists for over 30 years now. Over that time the ethnic composition of these religious zealots has changed. Back in the 1980s, when the holy way (jihad) against Russian troops in Afghanistan was at its height, there were nearly 5,000 foreign Islamic radicals in Pakistan to support the Afghan and Pakistani tribesmen fighting the Russians. Since then the number of foreigners has declined by at least half. But there are still about a thousand Arab Islamic terrorists up in the hills and even more from Central Asia. Despite all the Pakistani and American efforts in the last decade, new Islamic terrorists keep coming to Pakistan. Many die (not always violently, the tribal territories are an unhealthy place) and some move on to other countries. But Pakistan remains relatively hospitable to Islamic terrorists. For those Islamic radicals without a police record, there are hundreds of Islamic schools and Mosques where they can legally find shelter and support. For those terrorists who are known, and wanted for crimes, there are places in the tribal territories where one can find some shelter and sanctuary from the Pakistani police. North Waziristan is an official terrorist sanctuary, which Pakistan refuses to assert authority over. There are plenty of other places in the tribal territories, including rural areas on the other side of the border (in Afghanistan) where Islamic radicals can find refuge (if not much else).

The U.S. UAV operations and use of missiles to kill Islamic terrorists has been deadly, mainly for known Islamic terrorists and any unknown followers unlucky enough to be in the vicinity when the missile arrives. This has had a striking impact on the number of Western recruits for Islamic terrorism. A few years ago there were several hundred of these in Pakistan. But then their home countries publicized that they knew who many of these men were. That caused some 90 percent of these Western terrorists to leave. Many Islamic terrorist leaders have fled also, but for those who remain in Pakistan the threat of American missiles is less frightening than going home or to another questionable terrorist sanctuary. Most of these places, like Somalia, Yemen, and northern Mali, have lately become more dangerous for Islamic radicals. At least in North Waziristan you don’t have to worry about the local security forces and American missiles.


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