India-Pakistan: February 28, 2004


In Pakistan, along the Afghan border (South Waziristan), a Pakistani army base came under fire. During the subsequent battle, eleven men in a van (five Pakistanis and six Afghans) were killed by army fire. The dead were apparently not participating in the attack. The Pakistani army has been in the border area for over a year (normally the army stays out of these tribal areas) and have been making it clear to the local chiefs that the troops aren't leaving until Osama bin Laden, and other Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, are captured. The chiefs are beginning to take this seriously and have been more cooperative in handing over "honored guests" and information about al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. It was probably no accident that word of Task Force 121 moving from Iraqi to Afghanistan got big play in the mass media. Task Force 121 was also given most of the credit for catching Saddam Hussein. This particular event caught the attention of many in the Taliban and al Qaeda. While these organizations publicly disparage American military power, they privately express trepidation about fighting U.S. soldiers. Most battlefield encounters between U.S. troops and Taliban or al Qaeda have resulted in lopsided defeats for the Islamic Warriors. Getting martyred is all well and good, but you'd like to win once and a while. With this in mind, Pakistan has been telling the chiefs that "the Americans" (Task Force 121) are liable to come across the border without permission if all the Taliban and al Qaeda people in the tribal areas are not surrendered. While all of this is psychological warfare, it is known in the tribal areas that American commandoes and CIA/FBI personnel have been spotted on the Pakistan side. The chiefs apparently don't want to risk a fatal encounter with Task Force 121, or some Pakistani tribesmen in the pay of the CIA. If most of the chiefs can agree that it's a good idea to avoid a nasty fight, the border area may become unsafe for the Taliban and al Qaeda. If Afghan leaders can be believed, this is already happening. Many Taliban leaders have been contacting Afghan government leaders to discuss terms for their return from "exile" in Pakistan. So the stories about Osama bin Laden likely to be caught appear to have some basis in fact.


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