Monday, January 28, 2008

Musharraf faces new militant challenge---Daily Times of Lahore, 28-1-08

Analysts say president must choose between fighting terrorists or letting them gain ground

ISLAMABAD: With militants now massing at the gates of Peshawar, President Pervez Musharraf faces a new challenge on his return from a foreign tour, analysts and officials have said.After a week-long charm offensive in Europe aimed at convincing Western allies he can tackle Al Qaeda, Musharraf will return home this week to find rebels clashing with security forces just outside Peshawar.Long-standing dilemna: Analysts said Musharraf must resolve a long-standing dilemma — go after the militant leadership and risk even more suicide attacks in the countryy’s major cities, or hold back and see the insurgents push further into the country.“These militants have been expanding their influence in the northwest, and it has been happening for quite a few days,” Brigadier Mahmood Shah, the former secretary for the Tribal Areas during 2003 and 2004, told AFP. “The government is reacting late to the threat and the situation,” added Shah, who was in charge of the Tribal Areas at a time of massive military operations to drive out the fighters.The army is denying that the clashes are linked to the situation in South Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda-linked radical warlord and former premier Benazir Bhutto assassination suspect Baitullah Mehsud.But Rahimullah Yousafzai, an analyst on tribal affairs and leading journalist in the country, said the current battles near Peshawar and in South Waziristan were linked due to a change in militant tactics.“It is a diversion, they are trying to help militants in South Waziristan by engaging the army elsewhere,” Yousafzai said.“The ammunition trucks were being carried by the army to Waziristan — this seizure was to help Baitullah Mehsud.” Yousafzai said Taliban and Al Qaeda militants were now present in most of the NWFP and were abandoning a defensive policy of launching suicide attacks in retaliation for military operations. afp

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