Pakistan and Iraq
As the Pakistani government has negotiated another cease-fire with the Taliban in the settled district of Swat in the Northwest Frontier Province, the terrorists conducted another suicide strike in the heart of President Pervez Musharraf's seat of power. A suicide bomber detonated his vest outside of the Pakistani army headquarters in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi. Seven were killed, including two police officers, and another 14 were reported wounded in the strike. ...
Iraqi police kill al Qaeda commander of western Iraq
Iraqi police in Anbar province scored a victory against al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership in Anbar province on Monday. Iraqi police killed Abu Tiba al Karbuli and two aides and captured another during an engagement north of Ramadi.
Are the relative roles of Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan starting to shift?
Maybe (and this pure speculation on my part) the psychological choice of destination for radical Islamists is no longer Iraq -- but Afghanistan/Pakistan. This story is told in the New York Times.
Afghan police officers working a highway checkpoint near here noticed something odd recently about a passenger in a red pickup truck. Though covered head to toe in a burqa, the traditional veil worn by Afghan women, she was unusually tall. When the police asked her questions, she refused to answer.
When the veil was eventually removed, the police found not a woman at all, but Andre Vladimirovich Bataloff, a 27-year-old man from Siberia with a flowing red beard, pasty skin and piercing blue eyes. Inside the truck was 1,000 pounds of explosives.
Afghan and American officials say the Siberian intended to be a suicide bomber, one of several hundred foreign militants who have gravitated to the region to fight alongside the Taliban this year, the largest influx since 2001.
Just as in Iraq, the "foreign fighters" are "are more violent, uncontrollable and extreme than even their locally bred allies", says the NYT. The British Empire was once characterized as "a vast system of outdoor relief for the [British] upper classes" (the words "outdoor relief" in this case meant welfare without the necessity of entering a workhouse). Similarly the Jihad may now fulfill the same function: an outlet where dissatisfied young men can seek meaning in their lives and find adventure into the bargain. With "foreign fighters" being hunted down by the locals in Iraq, they need someplace else to go. The NYT article continues:
Mr. Bataloff, the Russian arrested in a burqa, insists he is a religious student who traveled to Pakistan last year to learn more about his new faith. In an hourlong interview in an Afghan jail in Kabul, he said his interest in Islam blossomed three years ago when he was living in Siberia.
“First, I heard from TV, radio and newspapers about Islam,” he said in Russian. “I found Islam had a lot of good things, especially that Islam respects all prophets, including Jesus.”
From Siberia to Afghanistan and from Jesus to a truck with a thousand pounds of explosive is a long way to go.