S.E. Asia being targeted by global jihad: NYT

New York, Feb.9 (ANI): South East Asia is increasingly being targeted by international mujahideen forces as part of a global jihad, reports the New York Times.

According to an article in the paper, Pakistan is intervening in a number of these foreign conflicts, and that its intelligence service (Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI) has long acted as the manager of these international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, which is having a telling and damaging impact on countries located in the South East Asian region.

The NYT says in an op-ed piece that there is even speculation that Islamabad may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State (IS).

It quotes experts as saying that there is enough evidence available in the public domain to suggest that Pakistan has been facilitating and encouraging Taliban-related offensives in neighbouring Afghanistan, where it’s President, Ashraf Ghani has appealed to the global community to exert pressure on Islamabad to cease this indirect form of aggression.

President Ghani has said in recent interviews that there is an urgent need for Afghanistan to convince countries like the United States and China, besides the rest of the international community, to work for increased regional cooperation and international mediation to ensure that Pakistan comes to the negotiating table.

Afghanistan, according to the article in the NYT, has often argued that Islamabad has done nothing to rein in the Taliban, and if anything, has encouraged the latter to raise the stakes in hopes of gaining influence in any power-sharing agreement.

It says that the latest Taliban offensive began in 2014.

It says that Pakistan, after years of prevarication, decided to clear Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their sanctuary in North Waziristan, but before activating the eradication and displacement exercise, tipped off the militants early enough to allow them to flee across the border into Afghanistan, just when a vulnerable Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for its own security.

Arriving in the border province of Paktika, the Taliban fighters reportedly occupied abandoned C.I.A. bases and outposts to launch further attacks deeper into Afghanistan and even up to Kabul. Some of the most devastating suicide bomb attacks occurred in that province in the months that followed, the NYT article reveals.

Simultaneously, in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, the most potent branch of the Taliban, moved from North Waziristan into adjacent Kurram District, from where it reportedly conducts its insurgency against American, international and Afghan targets.

The article states that Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard and is determined not to let arch rival India gain a foothold in Kabul.

It adds that Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don’t. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

It is a known fact that elements espousing violent jihad, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda, are living openly and moving freely in Pakistan.

Under the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the Taliban has mounted some of its most ambitious offensives into Afghanistan in the last year, overrunning the northern town of Kunduz, and pushing to seize control of the opium-rich province of Helmand.

One recent report placed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri as living in Pakistan’s Balochistan province and working to establish training camps in southern Afghanistan.

Pakistan, however, remains in a state of denial about harbouring either the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and often points out that it, too, is a victim of terrorism.

But many analysts have detailed how the Pakistan military has nurtured Islamist militant groups as an instrument to suppress nationalist movements, in particular among the Pashtun minority, at home and abroad.

Perhaps, the most troubling report is that Pakistan has played a key role in the rise of the Islamic State since the summer of 2014. (ANI)

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