Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Last Jihad?

Al Qaeda is being hammered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And now in their birthplace they are under attack:

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States are getting more serious about shutting down, or at least hurting, terrorist operations in their midst. Increasingly this year, senior Saudi clerics have been preaching vigorously against "foreign interests" that seduce young Saudis into becoming terrorists. Most of the suicide bombers identified in Iraq turn out to be from Saudi Arabia.

As an aside, I once heard some so-called expert on the region claim Saudi Arabia couldn't be a major home of jihadis in Iraq because we don't have that many Saudis imprisoned in Iraq. Um, they go to Iraq to be suicide bombers ...

And an attempt to implant them in Lebanon failed:

Four months ago, Lebanese security forces found themselves battling some 500 al Qaeda terrorists in a Palestinian refugee camp (actually a walled town of over 31,000) outside the northern city of Tripoli. The three month battle left over 400 dead (220 terrorists, 168 Lebanese soldiers and police, plus 47 Palestinian civilians). Some 200 terrorists were captured, and a few dozen escaped.

Syria remains a welcoming center for jihadis determined to kill in the region. But with Iraq and Lebanon hostile and dangerous to recruits, and Saudi Arabia cracking down on recruiting, Syria may well lose its roll as Grand Jihadi Central in the war.

So bin Laden's declaration of war on Pakistan may not be anything more than a recognition that the only front they have is the front where they are under increasing pressure from a Pakistani government that is attacking them since the Red Mosque incident.

And the Taliban friends of al Qaeda put a brave face on it, but they admit they are under greater pressure:

Last July, the agreement came to an end following a standoff between the Pakistani military and militants in Islamabad's Lal (Red) Mosque.

No longer occupied with vice patrols and running their own tribal government, Majnoon and other Pakistani Taliban say they are now devoting their efforts fighting the Pakistani military and foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, though it has become harder for them to operate.

"Now that the peace agreement is broken it is very difficult for us to move in groups or convoys, because now we are against the military persons, and police officials are everywhere," says Majnoon, making sure to stay in line with his Muslim beliefs and avoid eye contact with his female interviewer.

This development is dangerous for both the foreign and local forces in Afghanistan, say the interviewees, and has already proved lethal for Pakistani security personnel.

Indeed, a new United Nations report shows an upsurge in violence in Afghanistan this year. On average the country has seen an average of 550 violent incidents per month, compared with 425 a month last year.

Some analysts are skeptical of the Pakistani militants' remarks about having more time and incentive to cross into Afghanistan. "They have their own fight here now. They cannot spare any fighters to go to Afghanistan," says Rahimullah Yousafsai, an editor for the Pakistani newspaper The News.

Samina Ahmad, project director for South Asia at the International Crisis Group in Islamabad, agrees. "They have been targeting Bannu every second day," she says.

The jihadis surely gained strength because of the ceasefire they obtained from the Pakistani government, but the jihadis don't seem to be able to turn their strength in Pakistan into power they can project. Their increased attacks in Afghanistan just result in the slaughter of the jihadis themselves and just enough civilian casualties to piss of the Afghans rather than terrorize them.

And if the international brigade from the Arabian peninsula is reduced, the jihadis in Pakistan will only be able to wage war against Pakistan itself.

If Pakistan may finally realize that they cannot make deals with jihadis, al Qaeda and their jihadi Taliban allies may be waging war on Pakistan because they have no choice.

If Pakistan will fight this war with no quarter, this could be the final jihad.