Pakistan Official: We Just Missed Al Qaeda Number Two

"All the reports coming from Southern Afghanistan, from Eastern Afghanistan, is that there's been a huge step up of foreign fighters coming into Afghanistan… and the majority are Pakistanis," says Ahmed Rashid, the author of "Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia." "So it means the Pakistani Taliban are really on a roll. I mean that they have the capacity now to launch offensives in two separate countries. And are doing it quite well."

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, the top American commander in eastern Afghanistan, told The New York Times last week that the operation in Bajour has had no impact on the number of foreign fighters launching attacks against U.S. forces. "We've yet to see a lessening of the movement," he said.

Rashid says neither the government nor the military has a coherent strategy for fighting the militants, and the politicians have been deeply distracted during a season that has included an election, the resignation of former President Pervez Musharraf, and the dissolution of a coalition government.

"They've made their statements on terrorism almost an after thought, when the main issues for them have been these domestic political issues," Rashid told ABC News. "And that's been very tragic. Because obviously the Taliban have taken enormous advantage of this in the last six months. We've seen the advances on the ground that they've made. They've made it because there's been a vacuum in the government."

Another problem is with the force fighting the militants. The Frontier Corps is often outmanned, outgunned, and outmotivated by a Taliban that has never been stronger. The F.C., as it is known here, is recruited from ethnic groups who live along the border, and many of them have historically fled instead of fight militants who have often infiltrated in their villages.

Pictures in local Pakistani newspapers of the corps show young men holding old guns and dressed in sandals and salwar kameez, a traditional Pakistani dress that more resembles pajamas than uniforms.

The Pentagon has supplied the corps with American helmets and vests, according to Defense Department spokesmen. But it's not clear whether money and training has actually reached the corps.

Asked about their dress, Malik quipped, "If you see the Taliban, they're also in salwar kameez."

He insisted the frontier corps does have proper uniforms, but admitted they the entire force needs to be bolstered.

"We would like to equip them with modern arms, because what is coming across the border is mindboggling," he said, referring to Taliban weapons coming in from Afghanistan.

He insisted the government's goal was to wipe the militants out for good. "We're trying to convert it into a tourist resort," he said of the tribal areas.

Rashid says reaching that goal is nowhere in sight.

"I see the Pakistani Taliban at this stage being fairly unstoppable. They have a terror campaign going on, they have terrorized much of the Northwest Frontier Province, they have control of the tribal areas," he said. "And there does not seem to be a coherent strategy by the government or the army of how to deal with this."

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

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