Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Area Harbors Bombers
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Islamic militants are organizing in a remote region of northern Pakistan, fueling attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, where 40,000 American and NATO troops are based.
Reporter Carlotta Gall of the New York Times describes these militants as creating a Taliban mini-state in Pakistan in a very comprehensive article about the situation there, and she joins us.
Carlotta, you paint a picture of an area that's eerily similar to parts of Afghanistan of the late 1990s.
Ms. CARLOTTA GALL (Reporter, New York Times): I think that's what we're looking at. This is a very small area compared to Afghanistan under the Taliban. But it's a mountainous, remote area where there's virtually no state control, and where militants are able to operate, train and recruit, and are literally running their own affairs. They've had a peace agreement with the government, which has allowed them to do, really, what they want.
MONTAGNE: And, of course, that peace agreement was touted by Pakistan as a way of limiting attacks by militants. They agreed that they would not go over to Afghanistan, and they would actually stop attacks.
Ms. GALL: Yes, and this was an agreement made in September. And what it has done is reduced immediate violence in the area, because the Pakistani military have agreed not to attack the militants. And the militants have agreed not to attack the Pakistani military.
But that means they've got more time to regroup and organize and launch attacks across the border, which is what NATO is saying is happening. They've seen an increase of cross-border infiltration and attacks since September. So the militants are clearly not keeping fully to the agreement.
MONTAGNE: And these people are coming from not just Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Ms. GALL: There are definitely foreign fighters out there. There's a large number of Uzbeks and Central Asians, (unintelligible) who've been living there since 2001, 2002 when they left Afghanistan as the Taliban regime fell.
Of course, you know, Osama bin Laden himself is thought to be hiding in the border area. So the al-Qaida threat remains there, and they do have this area where they can operate and find safe haven.
MONTAGNE: Well, just to be clear, the threat is what?
Ms. GALL: The threat is immediately felt by Afghanistan and suicide bombers have increased enormously in Afghanistan. And they are largely thought to be being indoctrinated and prepared and trained in these camps, and in these remote areas of the border.
MONTAGNE: We began this conversation by speaking of a Taliban mini-state. What would its goal be?
Ms. GALL: Their main aim is clear, and (unintelligible) is the messages they send out - is to fight jihad against the foreign forces in Afghanistan. They see it as a foreign occupation of Afghanistan, and so their main aim is to fight both forces and eventually send them packing.
But there are - depending on which group, they have others aims. The Uzbeks clearly have their own aims for their own country, Uzbekistan, which they want to relieve of its former communist government.
And then, I think, that the Afghan Taliban want to regain power in Afghanistan and remove Karzai and bring down his government.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. Carlotta Gall of the New York Times, speaking from Kandahar, Afghanistan.
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