View Full Version : To root out Taliban, Pakistan to expel 2.4 million Afghans

14 Feb 07,, 17:18
To root out Taliban, Pakistan to expel 2.4 million Afghans

But simply shifting the world's largest refugee community across borders would only serve to raise tensions, analysts say.

By David Montero | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

JALOZAI, PAKISTAN - Like more than 100,000 Afghans, Maulana Mohammed Afzal has lived in the mud-baked lanes of this refugee camp ever since he fled war-ravaged Afghanistan 26 years ago. The camp is home for his family, but Pakistan's government says it's a threat to national security.

In its most recent effort to clamp down on Taliban activity within its borders, Pakistan has announced that all 2.4 million Afghan refugees, most living in camps, must return home by 2009. This and three other camps near the Afghan border, which together hold 230,000 refugees, are scheduled to be closed by the end of August.

"The problem of cross-border militancy is closely related to the presence of ... Afghan refugees in Pakistan," Munir Akram, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, wrote recently to the UN Security Council. "These camps have often given rise to complaints that they provide shelter to undesirable elements and Taliban."

Many disagree, however, saying Pakistan's Afghan refugees, most of whom are Pashtun and share the same tribal ethnicity as the Taliban movement, are only being made a scapegoat.

The debate comes as Robert Gates, in his first visit to Pakistan as US secretary of Defense, met with President Musharraf in Islamabad this week to discuss the Taliban's expected spring offensive in Afghanistan.

As pressure mounts on Pakistan, analysts say the fate of the Afghan refugee community – the world's largest – is an important piece in the puzzle of regional militancy. Simply shifting them across the border could flame tensions.

"[T]he Afghan government is not capable ... of providing for their rehabilitation. It will be a source of more conflict inside Afghanistan," says Aimal Khan, a political analyst at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad, which recently completed a study of Afghan refugees.

Violence draws new attention

Set against such a backdrop, a recent burst of violence radiating from Pakistan's tribal zone, including two attacks in the capital, Islamabad, has placed renewed attention on refugee camps as potential hotbeds, though no Afghan suspects have been identified.

The Jalozai camp, 18 miles from Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, looks like a small, bustling city, with a mile-long bazaar offering a wealth of goods. But a cloud of controversy hangs over its dirt lanes. According to Western media reports, the camp has incubated several high-profile terrorists, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents raided the camp in October 2002, arresting four Afghans they said were connected to Al-Qaeda.

Today Jalozai and other refugee camps, which are spread throughout the Northwest Frontier Province and Balochistan, help fuel the Taliban resurgence, the government says.

Repatriation could create new issues

Closing down the camps may ease the building pressure on Pakistan to combat militancy within its borders, but observers say the move could cause more problems than it solves.

An exodus of poor Afghans is likely to exacerbate existing social and economic problems inside Afghanistan. Moreover, refugees without a home or means to support themselves could fall in with the Taliban, either out of resentment or a practical need to survive.

"They're made a scapegoat," says Behroz Khan, a prominent journalist in Peshawar. "If these families are sent back by force ... these people will turn toward those forces that are against Pakistan."

Some 2.8 million Afghans have already voluntarily repatriated since 2002. Those who remain in camps feel they would be vulnerable if they return to Afghanistan, mostly because they are without land or shelter.

"I want to stay here. The government [in Afghanistan] is not in a favorable position. We have no residence in Afghanistan," says Mr. Afzal, originally from Kunduz Province in Afghanistan.

Better life in camps than back home

While conditions are poor in the Jalozai camp, many Afghans live better here than they would in Afghanistan, with well-built mud houses and well-kept schools. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, provides mobile health-care centers and water, amenities they may lack in a land many of them barely know.

Whether the largely Pashtun refugee population stays or goes, many in Washington say that assisting them is crucial in stemming the tide of Taliban militancy.

"[W]e need programs that address the grievances, the aspirations of the Pashtun population on both sides of that border," James Dobbins, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, told a recent Congressional hearing about Afghanistan's security.

Last week, a tripartite meeting of officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and UNHCR decided that refugees in the four camps scheduled to be closed this year will be given a choice: either to repatriate with assistance from UNHCR or to move to other camps that will remain open until 2009. In addition, more than 2 million Afghans recently registered with the government under a UNHCR program, granting them temporary resident status in Pakistan for three years.

Finding a solution to the problem is likely to be difficult, observers agree. Pakistan is not a signatory to the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention or its subsequent protocols, meaning there is no clear-cut policy on how to handle refugees here.

Many hope alternative solutions can be agreed upon. "We believe there should be a number of options. We have to look at ... how to address those who can't go home," says Vivian Tan, UNHCR's senior regional public information officer in Islamabad.
To root out Taliban, Pakistan to expel 2.4 million Afghans | csmonitor.com (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0214/p06s02-wosc.html)

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One has to give the devil his due.

Mushrraf has outmanoeuvred everyone and come up smelling of roses.

He will shove the Afghans across the border. In other words, the Taliban will be in Afghanistan itself.

Since there are family links across the border, he will permit cross border movement on humanitarian ground (and hence what a caring person he is will be established amongst the Pakistanis and the world). He will also mention that such things will occur on a case to case basis etc to show how careful he is to ensure things are OK as a frontline ally. In actuality, it will mean that the key Taliban chaps come and take their training under ISI guidance and they cross back to unleash greater mayhem!

Now, the US or NATO cannot blame him.

In the bargain, Musharraf will turn Afghanistan into another Iraq!

14 Feb 07,, 17:43
Hear ye! hear ye!

This is what a US General has to say:

General Warns of Perils in Afghanistan

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; Page A15

A senior U.S. military commander urged Pakistan yesterday to crack down on an entrenched network of senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, training camps and recruiting grounds -- a sanctuary from which fighters have tripled cross-border attacks since September and are preparing an anticipated major spring offensive in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, the outgoing top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, also warned that an even greater threat than the resurgent Taliban is the possibility that the government of President Hamid Karzai will suffer an irreversible loss of legitimacy among the Afghan population.

In response to the rising security threats, the Pentagon is expected to announce soon that it will keep U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan at a minimum of 27,000 into 2008, extending a temporary increase of 3,200 combat troops ordered last month.

"Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership presence inside of Pakistan remains a very significant problem," Eikenberry testified before the House Armed Services Committee, warning of the "growing threat of Talibanization" inside Pakistan.

"A steady, direct attack against the command and control in Pakistan in sanctuary areas is essential for us to achieve success," Eikenberry said, joining other U.S. officials in publicly pressuring the Islamabad government to crack down on the safe havens in its frontier regions.

Taliban forces in Pakistan's North Waziristan have staged mass attacks on U.S. border camps, including a strike in recent days that saw the U.S. military respond with artillery fire into Pakistan.

Eikenberry, who has spent two of the past four years in Afghanistan, offered a forthright assessment not only of the progress in the Central Asian nation but also of the stark challenges ahead.

"The long-term threat to campaign success . . . is the potential irretrievable loss of legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan," he said.

"The accumulated effects of violent terrorist insurgent attacks, corruption, insufficient social resources and growing income disparities, all overlaid by a major international presence, are taking their toll on Afghan government legitimacy," he said. "A point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever."

A critical question, Eikenberry said, is whether the Afghan government is "winning." "In several critical areas -- corruption, justice, law enforcement and counter-narcotics -- it is not," he said. He called Afghan government institutions "extraordinarily weak."

Greater U.S. and international efforts are urgently needed to build a court and corrections system in Afghanistan, and to strengthen efforts to train an Afghanistan police force, which he said is "several years behind" compared with the development of the Afghan army. The Pentagon is seeking $5.9 billion this year and $2.7 billion in 2008 to build up Afghan security forces, including the police.

Eikenberry stressed that Taliban forces -- though making gains in relatively lawless regions of southern Afghanistan, which had few coalition troops until last summer -- have not been able to retake areas where the Afghan government and security forces have established a presence.

The decision to dispatch more U.S. forces is intended to bolster NATO's total contingent of 36,000 troops and to allow NATO to go on the offensive against a resurgent Taliban, Eikenberry said. NATO, which now has military oversight over all of Afghanistan, has provided only about 85 to 90 percent of the promised troops and other resources, and it faces shortages of infantry, military intelligence, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, Eikenberry said. "NATO must do more," Mary Beth Long, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security, testified in the same House hearing.

The Taliban resurgence has been supported by a strengthened command-and-control structure that moved across the border into Pakistan after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001. Today, Eikenberry said, senior Taliban leaders from the ousted regime are collaborating with al-Qaeda leaders, as well as with other groups led by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani clan of an ethnically Pashtun tribe.

The United States is "terribly concerned" about the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership in Quetta, Pakistan, and other regions that direct attacks, conduct training in camps with the help of foreign fighters, and recruit from Islamic schools known as madrassas. "Action against those will be needed," Long said.

Pakistan's government in September struck a peace agreement that halted military raids in North Waziristan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but since then the number of cross-border attacks has as much as tripled, Eikenberry said. "There've been problems with" the agreement, he said.

washingtonpost.com (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/13/AR2007021301259.html)

If that is what the General says, what have you to say?

Keep in mind what General Musharraf has up his sleeve to make things exciting and challenging to the US General.

Which General will come up the winner?

14 Feb 07,, 18:28
We have 10 times that many "refugees" in the U.S. If the U.S. administration is really serous about "winning the hearts and minds" This will be a perfect opportunity to do so. This could even be our "finest hour" as long as Bush and co does not fumble the ball again.
Give these people a decent place to live, some infrastructure and economic viability, ie increase their standard of living, and the talliban would have nothing to counter with.

Furthermore, Musharraf just pissed away an excuse for the border problems he has on his side of the fence. Now he had better not have any taliban, or taliban supporters in that part of Pakistan or it will not bode well for Musharraf as his scape goats are all in Afganistan..

14 Feb 07,, 20:57
scape goats are all in Afganistan..

and the goats in Pakistan? ;) :)

it will be a great Id then!

20 Feb 07,, 09:28
Bloomberg.com: India (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=a1byB156T4QI&refer=india)

Keeps the option to allow cross border movement without hassle and yet none can claim that Pakistan is not doing her bit to curb the Taliban!

20 Feb 07,, 18:16
My first question always has been, how is Pakistan planning on moving 2.4 million Afghans? Is this even realistic? Of course the 2 faced Pakistan Military will certainly try to project a "Stalwart war on terror" facade.