Afghanistan, and not Iraq -- is the main front of struggle - July 23, 2008
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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.
Al-Qaeda is back with a vengeance. Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, interviewed by Pakistan’s Geo TV says “there is no difference between the American people and their government.” He goes on to attack the Pakistan government for suppressing the Islamist movement. He calls for Jihad in Afghanistan, on both sides of the Pakistan/Afghan border. As far as future US policy goes, Obama is on a learning curve while McCain seems geographically challenged.
PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Al-Qaeda's back with a vengeance. This is Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, a senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, in a very rare interview to Pakistan's GeoTV in Khost in eastern Afghanistan.MUSTAFA ABU AL-YAZEED, SENIOR AL-QAEDA COMMANDER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): At this stage, this is our understanding, that there is no difference between the American people and the American government itself. If we see this through Sharia law (Islamic law), American people and the government itself are infidels and are fighting against Islam. We have to rely on suicide attacks, which are absolutely correct according to Islamic law. We have adopted this way of war because there is a huge difference between our material resources and our enemy's, and this is the only option to attack our enemy.ESCOBAR: In this interview, al-Yazeed gets into classic al-Qaeda strategy. He is inciting a cross-border jihad, a Taliban jihad, against the US and NATO forces, and at the same time he's blasting the Pakistani government.AL-YAZEED: Sadly, it is the government of Pakistan which has most damaged our cause. President Musharraf violated the trust of Muslims and contributed to the destruction of the Islamic government of Afghanistan. Musharraf and his government have made big mistakes; there is no such example in other Islamic states.ESCOBAR: Why is al-Qaeda feeling so emboldened that they have one of their top commanders on camera, something that they never do? In the big picture, jihadis interpret what's happening in millenarian terms. They interpret the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan as opening the way to win the battle of Khorasan. Ancient Khorasan is a huge area [that] included a little bit of IranÂ—a lot of Iran, actuallyÂ—Afghanistan, and the tribal areas themselves. So if they win this battle against the infidels, then they can go to the Land of the Two Rivers, and that's Iraq, and support the armies of the coming Mahdi, the Muslim savior. So they interpret the whole thing in religious terms. And that's why jihadis feel that this new Afghan jihad against the infidels US and NATO is more important at the moment than Iraq. So in this sense Barack Obama has got it absolutely right: Afghanistan and not Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. But it's much more complicated than that. The central front is actually in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda, they want a pan-Islamic caliphate. The neo-Taliban based in Pakistan, they are not so ambitious. They already have their Islamic emirate, and it's in Waziristan. What they want now is to expand it. And at the same time, they also know they cannot take over the whole of Pakistan, and it's not their intention. The neo-Taliban are practically in control of the North-West Frontier Province, the NWFP, on the border with Afghanistan, and the capital is Peshawar, the most important city in western Pakistan. The Pakistani state has no power in these areas nowadays. The Taliban, they enforce strict Sharia law. If security people refuse to enforce Sharia law, they are killed. So the Taliban now control virtually all middle and low-ranking officials in these areas. They even issued a deadline to the new secular and relatively progressive regional government to release all Taliban prisonersÂ—or else. The government, you know, they only thing that they can do is to organize some sort of neighborhood watch to prevent a total Taliban takeover of these areas. And this also shows how the Pakistani army is absolutely powerless to fight the Taliban. And across the border in Kunar and Nurestan in Afghanistan, the Taliban now control almost all security checkpoints. It's no wonder that al-Yazeed, speaking for al-Qaeda, of course he sees a war without borders.AL-YAZEED: Yes, we can not separate the tribal area people from Afghanistan, which are part of Pakistan and the Pakistani people, and in fact it is obligatory for them to render this help, and it is a responsibility that is imposed by religion. It is not only obligatory for residents of the tribal regions, but all of Pakistan.ESCOBAR: Recently, there was an al-Qaeda high-level meeting in Miran Shah in North Waziristan. Al-Qaeda not only expects, it wants the Afghan war to spill over to the tribal areas in Pakistan. And this is what al-Qaeda will get, according to what Obama told CBS News' Lara Logan.Courtesy: CBSSEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): [What I've said is,] if we had actionable intelligence against high-value al-Qaeda targets and the Pakistani government was unwilling to go after those targets, that we should.ESCOBAR: The Pentagon has already sent Predator drones over the tribal areas many times. An air war is in the works, not to mention Pentagon covert special ops. Al-Qaeda's strategy is very simple: it's to suck in the US military once again. Al-Qaeda's reasoned that attacking the tribal areas would have Pakistani public opinion so outraged that the Pakistani army would be powerless to follow the US threat. And in these circumstances, al-Qaeda would even have a freer hand than they have right now. Obama, he still has not grasped the full, very, very complex picture. In his current world tour, he's only been to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, and only for a few hours. But he's on a learning curve. As for national security expert John McCain:Courtesy: ABCSEN. JOHN MCCAIN, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): We have a lot of work to do, and I'm afraid that it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border.DISCLAIMER:Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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