Terror camps in Pakistan undermine war in Aghanistan: WSJ

July 28th, 2008 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban

New York, July 28 (IANS) The existence of dozens of terror camps Pakistan mountains neighbouring Afghanistan is a major reason why the US-led war just across the border is foundering, the Wall Street Journal has said in a report from one of the camps. While Pakistan’s military is struggling to locate the camps and eradicate them, in part because many locals are sympathetic to the jihadis, the Journal located one camp a few kilometres from Peshawar.

Timing the report with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s visit to Washington this week, the daily has detailed the activities at the camp in a riverbed, where about two dozen young men, most in their teens, receive rigorous training for the war against the US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

“Their day starts at 4 a.m. with prayers, followed by a six-mile run along the riverbed, swimming where some water remains, and weapons training,” the Journal’s correspondent Zahid Hussain wrote. He made the 20-minute walk to the camp under armed escort from a nearby village.

“One has to go through this rigour to prepare for the tough life as a fighter,” 27-year-old Omar Abdullah, a trainer, was quoted as saying. He said he fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan before returning home to Pakistan a few weeks ago to organise training for new recruits.

The camp has no permanent structure of its own, so the recruits live in a nearby village. “The villagers look after us,” said the Kalashnikov-wielding Abdullah.

“America is the main enemy of Islam and it is our religious duty to fight against them,” he said.

The camp is under the control of Haji Namdar, a top Taliban commander based in the Khyber Agency, one of seven tribal regions known as the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, the Journal’s report said.

It cited western diplomats and Pakistani security officials to say that the hundreds of Pakistani Islamist volunteers trained in such camps are now involved in fighting in Afghanistan.

The number of such camps has increased in the past year as Pakistan’s government has taken a more conciliatory approach to the militants in the hopes of securing peace, the report added.

“It not possible to seal the entire 1,500-mile-long border running along treacherous mountainous terrain,” the Journal quoted a senior Pakistani military officer as saying.

Many of the trainees in the camp came from madrassas in the region. One young man said he was a student at a business school in Peshawar and recently completed his 40 days of fighter training. The volunteers go through intense scrutiny before they are enlisted and usually arrive with recommendations from clerics, the Journal reported.

Recruits also come from across Pakistan, some of whom had been fighting in Kashmir. “Jihad against American forces in Afghanistan is more important to us at this point,” said Abdullah.

The Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt are organised under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an organisation whose diktat runs in the area. It is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by Pakistani authorities of masterminding suicide attacks including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December last, the Journal said.

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