Spiegel has an interesting report on how the Taliban are sheltering in areas of Pakistan far removed from the tribal areas that have become the focus of discussion. Kohistan is one such area, as Spiegel notes, and the Pakistani Army isn’t viewed as a threat. In fact they are often “quite nice”:
Rafiullah, 25, is an insurgent, or as he puts it, a “holy warrior.” Hundreds, probably thousands of them have retreated to the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan to recover from their battles against NATO troops. Pakistan remains relatively safe, NATO soldiers are far away and the insurgents’ only adversary here is the Pakistani army — and “sometimes they are quite nice,” says Rafiullah. He considers Kohistan particularly safe “because here, in contrast to regions directly on the Afghan border, there are no US drones.”
More on how top terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, may be sheltering in the region:
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is also thought to be in this region, as is his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. At the beginning of the week, the US news channel CNN cited an unnamed NATO source as saying that the world’s most wanted man was hiding out in the Chitral District, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of Kohistan. Bin Laden doesn’t live in a cave, the source said, but in comfortable houses. In June, a 52-year-old Californian was arrested in Chitral with a night-vision device, pistols and a meter-long sword. His aim was to kill bin Laden and collect the reward on offer of more than $50 million (€36 million).
Kohistan is seen as another place where the terrorist leader may be hiding. The region is known as a place where extremists come to rest. Fighters from other Pakistani regions and from Afghanistan spend time here. It is a welcoming place — those arriving in search of a bed, a meal or a tea are quickly provided for.
And this article in The News documents how the district of Chitral, which borders the restive Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, has served as a Taliban staging point into Afghanistan.
The US government has pledged to donate an additional $2 billion in military aid to Pakistan, yet the Pakistani military has refused to move against the most obvious Taliban and a Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan, and even in South Waziristan. Don’t expect the Pakistani military to move against the quiet havens in places like Chitral and Kohistan.
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