FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The "Distraction" that Takes the Heat Off Bin Laden

by Robert Fisk

How better to distract Pakistan’s army from supporting America’s “war on terror” than by promoting, yet again, a war in Kashmir?

Whether or not the mysterious “Hindu” holy men who turned into mass murderers in the slums of Jammu on Saturday night were Islamist gunmen, a suspicion is growing in Pakistan that supporters of Osama bin Laden would be happy to provoke another crisis with India if it relieved the pressure on al-Qa’ida along the Pakistan-Afghan frontier.

In the past two weeks, two major gun battles have been fought in the tribal territories along the Afghan border between Pakistani troops and al-Qa’ida men, in the last of which four Islamists, all apparently from Chechnya, were shot dead near the Jarma Bridge in Kohat.

A Pakistani policeman and a soldier were also killed. The authorities in Islamabad have been boasting that their para-military forces have penetrated some areas of the semi-autonomous tribal territories along the frontier for the first time in 100 years–a claim which probably says as much about the last days of the British Empire as it does about modern Pakistan.

But al-Qa’ida knows that these battles are being encouraged by the FBI, whose officers are urging the Pakistanis to move ever deeper into the hitherto untouchable Pashtun tribal zones whose rule has always been entrusted to local village chieftains.

In recent days, credible reports have described how some local Pakistani tribal elements have been seized by US special forces inside Pakistan, in effect, kidnapping them then taking them for interrogation in Kandahar.

Little wonder, therefore, that al-Qa’ida might want to hit back. By indulging in a new round of guerrilla warfare and killing along the old Line of Control in Kashmir, Islamists can achieve several objectives. They can force President Pervez Musharraf to withdraw his troops from the Afghan border to reinforce the Pakistan army opposite the Indian front line. They can once more force the world’s eyes away from the guerrilla battles in Afghanistan.

Most of all, they can force Washington to pay more attention to the dangers of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan than to its continuing and still far-from-successful campaign in Afghanistan.

At the same time, a resurgence of violence in Kashmir reminds 150 million Pakistanis that it is the nation’s most serious wound and the source of constant humiliation. General Musharraf’s latest tinkering with the constitution– along with his continued support for the US–is creating renewed anger in the country’s cities.

The massacre of 24 civilians by attackers dressed as holy men can only concentrate the minds of those who are losing faith in General Musharraf, not to mention those Muslim religious extremists who always opposed him.

It was surely not by coincidence that the attack came at the moment when US and Indian intelligence officers were concluding two days of talks on “counter-terrorism” in Washington, a conference–the fifth of its kind–which ended with a joint statement that “the two sides agreed to further intensify intelligence sharing and co-ordinate action in pursuit of the remains [sic] of al-Qa’ida members and associated terrorist groups”.

In reality, any militant Islamic group can regard itself as part of al-Qa’ida if it wishes–bin Laden’s “foundation” is not a formal institution with card-carrying members– although this is still not apparent to the US.

Saturday’s killings will therefore serve to recreate all the old ambiguities.

India and Pakistan will have to pretend to be more interested in crushing “terrorism” far from Afghanistan than ending the Kashmir dispute, while the Americans–anxious to encourage the continued assistance of both sides against al-Qa’ida–will have to pretend to be more interested in Kashmir than in their “war on terror”. All of which will be good news for Osama bin Laden.

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail