PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington, and joining us again from London is Muhammad Junaid. And we’re talking about the Pashtun nation. So, Mohammed, talk about the recent suicide bombing that killed the CIA officers in Afghanistan. And what does it tell us about the relationship of the Taliban and al-Qaeda?
MUHAMMAD JUNAID: There is video evidence now, so we can, you know, assume that it was Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan rather than Mullah Omar’s Taliban, you know, who arranged the attack. One version of things, you know, which is emerging is that all these are together. The TTP, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, was used as a base. [Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal] al-Balawi, who was the suicide bomber who carried out the attack, who was the person who did it, who is more al-Qaeda, or who was in al-Qaeda formerly—this is what the reports say. The Haqqani network gave him logistic support, and which is the part of Taliban. This is one version of things. Another version is that there is no involvement of Mullah Omar Taliban in this. The TTP is very much in hands with al-Qaeda, who has this agenda, extremist agenda, of killing anyone who is supporting NATO and America or taking money from them. So these two versions are available, you know, right now. I think, you know, the Pakistani army and the Pakistani people will prefer to say that this was a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan plus the al-Qaeda, where al-Balawi comes from. The American version or the NATO version will be more in favor of adding the third dimension of Haqqani network to it, because it is in their favor to take out Haqqani, and they would like Pakistani forces to take out Haqqani. So this has devastated them. But, you know, the effects from the last one week has been that there has been no day without a drone attack. Today, two drone attacks happened, and I think two days ago there were two drone attacks; yesterday there was one. So almost every day now there is a drone attack.
JAY: So talk about the effects of the drone attacks on the psychology of the Pashtuns.
JUNAID: Al-Qaeda is very successful, because of drone attacks, in telling Pashtuns that "America is attacking you, and Pakistan army and ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], and the Pakistani people, even, are helping America to arrange these attacks. That actually makes many tribes, many Pashtun tribes, go against the Pakistani army. So a civil war can, you know, start from that. And, actually, there is the civil war in many places. If you look at Peshawar, there was a civil war, because every morning, when you wake up, you know, you hear bombing. So that kind of situation happened because of the drone attacks. In fact, at one time it was reported that President Musharraf told the American army to mark these drones as Pakistani drones, so that he can separate the local tribes from al-Qaeda and TTP. But America did not do that; they put this request down. And these drone attacks simply mean and simply are making al-Qaeda make this logic out of the situation.
JAY: We’ve read many accounts of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda executing, assassinating tribal leaders who are opposing them. We’ve heard stories that, certainly, after the overthrow of the Taliban, a lot of the tribal leaders throughout the Pashtun nation, throughout Afghanistan as a whole, were ready and kind of open to see if there’d be any actual reconstruction. Now, to what extent now, eight years later, is the Taliban emerging as a real voice of Pashtutn nationalism? Or is it more complicated than that?
JUNAID: These are all reactions to each other. If you look at it deeper, you know, you will see all these people reacting to each other. Taliban came up as a reaction. I mean, Pashtuns became, you know, extremist, and Taliban, you know, they became Taliban, because of the communist regime in Afghanistan when the Russians came. They came into power because of, you know, the civil war in Afghanistan after the communists ran away. America, you know, came here and, you know, dethroned Taliban. Now, why are Taliban, you know, gaining ground? Only because America is depending too much on warlordism. That is, you know, the most detrimental part, because these people are unable to implement what America wants or what American version of development is, and they will implement their own will on the people.
JAY: So if I understand it correctly, it’s the US strategy after 9/11, which was an alliance with the old warlords, brought all the old warlords back to power again, built around Karzai. In a sense, they re-created the conditions that gave birth to the Taliban in the first place.
JUNAID: No doubt. I think, you know, it is like this. If they had, you know, mixed this strategy with something else, you know, maybe, you know, giving them power in the beginning, and giving power to run them out, and giving power to real people, that would, as you know, I think, melted—that would have melted away, you know, the Taliban; Taliban would not have been there. In fact, if you look at, you know, why Taliban came into power was because of peace and, you know, because of no peace. There was a civil war, and the warlords were pushing their own agenda. And the same conditions are coming in again.
JAY: So let’s cross to the other side of the border. Let’s talk about what’s happening on the Pakistani side. The Pakistan army had a campaign in the Swat Valley, then they had in South Waziristan, and now there’s something going on in North Waziristan, but there’s not a heck of a lot of news coming out. So what is going on in North Waziristan? And what has been the effect on the Pashtuns as a result of this Pakistani campaigns?
JUNAID: Well, this has, you know, several dimensions. If you look at, you know, the Swat problem, the Swat problem has a very different aura to it. It is a long struggle by a person called Sufi Muhammad there, who wanted to have sharia law in Swat, which was there before 1970s, when Swat was an independent state and came into Pakistan after that. So that is Mullah Fazlullah, who is actually the son-in-law of Sufi Mohamed. And while he got help from Taliban in Waziristan, and then, you know, when the Pakistani army had to go after him, that’s a very different story. Swat is one of the very civilized society, one of the happiest society of Pashtuns, and it’s a very beautiful place. And if you come, you know, to the other side, to Waziristan, it’s a different place: it’s underdeveloped, it’s rocky, it’s very tough, it’s a very tough area, and the people are very tough, but they’re really underdeveloped. Now, in South Waziristan, mainly, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, of Baitullah Mehsud had taken the grounds, endeavor, you know, to having their own training camps. If you look at North Waziristan, it was more taken by the Taliban, who have sort of joined hands with the Pakistani army, I would say. There is Mullah Nazir, and there is Jalaluddin Haqqani network. So these people, you know, they do fight against America, but they do not fight with the Pakistani army. So these are another two parts. And Pakistani army has gone in South Waziristan. They won the Swat, you could say, rather easily. South Waziristan is not that easy, and they’ve taken the main routes. They have very successfully—they have lost many soldiers. And it needed, you know, a lot of the jihadi emotion, you know, in the Pakistani army to do that, because it was not easy to go against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. They were also Muslim. But, anyhow, you know, they have successfully taken South Waziristan.
JAY: And what’s going on in North Waziristan? ‘Cause that was supposed to be the critical battle.
JUNAID: Now, that is, you know, a critical battle. That’s a big chunk of Waziristan. It has many, many fighters who have a very strong link to Afghanistan, and they are much more dangerous, I think, you know, personally. You know, it seems like they will be much more difficult to tackle. Now, Pakistani army cannot actually overstretch. This is one of the biggest problem. If you look at the other border of Pakistan, the eastern border with India, that also needs a lot of Pakistani army to deploy it all the time. So Pakistani army, I think, cannot stretch in North Waziristan in the first place. This is the first problem. And, however, there may be more to it, because Pakistan feels insecure if the current regime continues in Kabul and in Afghanistan in the way it is, because they think that, you know, the Northern Alliance and those people who are with Karzai will harm Pakistan. So they need a defense line in the form of militia. But I think, you know, the first point is Pakistani army do not have the resources to keep South Waziristan, to keep the eastern border, to keep Swat as well, because many of them are deployed in Swat.
JAY: So they really are not going to be able to take the stronghold, Taliban stronghold, in North Waziristan. So in the next segment of our interview, let’s conclude with one question, which is: will or are the Pashtuns, as a nation, going to rise up in a full-scale national insurgency against the American/NATO occupation or not? Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Muhammad Junaid.