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Karachi Bombing: Afghanistan and Pakistan Are a Single Front
From a Friday, October 19, 2007 entry on Informed Comment Global Affairs, a group blog run by Juan Cole, Manan Ahmed, Farideh Farhi, and Barnett R. Rubin
The bombing of Benazir Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi signals a new level of integration of the politcal arena of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If, as now seems likely, the attack is traced back to the "Pakistani" Taliban of South Waziristan and al-Qaida, it will constitute a strike at the center of the Pakistani political process by groups based on the frontier who are part of both the transnational Afghan-Pakistani Taliban movement and the transnational global al-Qaida movement.
The moment is reminiscent of events in Central Africa in 1996. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda ended with the defeat of the Hutu-power regime, whose remnants and constituents fled into Eastern Zaire. This regional crisis in a distant border region unexpectedly linked up with the national political process of Zaire when the advent of elections made the citizenship of ethnic Rwandans (Kinyarwanda speakers) an issue that the Rwandan regime used as a vehicle for launching the war that overthrew the Mobutu regime. A "humanitarian" crisis on the frontier sparked a regional civil war than ultimately involved much of the African continent. Will the crisis of leadership and political integration among Pashtuns have similar ramifying consequences?
Paddy Ashdown, former EU Special Representative in Bosnia-Herzogovina, warns of just such an outcome in an interview with Reuters:
"I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely," he told Reuters in an interview.Those who tried to kill Benazir Bhutto clearly perceive that a democratic Pakistan is the greatest threat their movement has faced in the region. Public opinion polls indicate that the Islamist parties that have sheltered them in the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan are set to be wiped off the electoral map in any fair vote. The takeover by the frontier provinces by coalitions that support the international effort in Afghanistan could lead to serious effort to integrate the tribal agencies where al-Qaida and the transnational Taliban have their bases.
Paddy Ashdown correctly warns that this situation is more dangerous than Iraq. Is anyone listening?