The New York Times reports that Al-Qaeda is re-constituting itself in Waziristan, the autonomous area putatively a part of Pakistan:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.
The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.
American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.
Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.
Hat tip: James Joyner
There have been concerns about Pakistan for some time. You might want to reflect on this post from Cernig of Newshog in which Cernig considers whether Pakistan is really our ally.
In my view Gen. Musharraf is mostly his own ally and I’ve argued that Iran, which is developing nuclear weapons, is a more pressing concern than Pakistan, which already has them, and it’s prudent for us to treat it that way.
Our options in dealing with a Pakistan that harbors Al-Qaeda as the price for maintaining Musharraf’s dictatorship (he’s #15 on Parade’s list of worst dictators—hat tip: The Duck of Minerva) are unpalatable and limited. If we make raids into Waziristan to strike against Al-Qaeda’s facilities there, Musharraf may do nothing which could run the risk of being replaced by Islamists within his own military. Or he may strike back in which case we’re at war with a nuclear-armed country of 160 million people. As I’ve pointed out, it’s a very poor nuclear-armed country of 160 million people (which IMO reduces its threat), but that’s a substantial risk nonetheless.
So I think it’s prudent that, rather than risking a nuclear World War III by bombing a few tents in the wilds of Waziristan, we stay our hand unless we become sufficiently unhappy with Pakistan that we’re willing to destroy the country (we should communicate that publicly and in no uncertain terms to Pakistan).
Given the events of today India may be willing to take care of that for us at some point. Once again in my view that’s our real recourse in dealing with situations like those in Pakistan: rather than constantly being the big dog we should be encouraging regional powers to take a more active role in bolstering regional security within their regions. But that’s a rather different posture for us than has been held for the last 25 years or so.
James Joyner (see above) disagrees with me on this:
In the case of Waziristan, we don’t need to clear and hold the territory, just destroy the training infrastructure and decimate the force. If that has to be done periodically, so be it. Certainly, that would be better than allowing al Qaeda to openly prepare for the follow-on to the 9/11 attacks. Fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here and all that.
A global war on terrorism that won’t cross borders and kill terrorists is neither global nor a war.
He has a point. Clearly, his assessment of the risks involved are different than mine. Under the present political conditions conducting such raids without the authorization of the UNSC would be very bad juju. Think we’d get it?