"Al-Qaeda is now as much a Pakistani phenomenon as it is an Arab or foreign element," declares Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times. It is not just the Arabs, Uzbeks and other foreigners who fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan in the wake of the U.S. invasion of late 2001. It draws in Pakistani tribesmen, Punjabis, Urdu speakers.
What was once a group foreigners (numbers unknown) enjoying Pashtun hospitality under the Taliban in Afghanistan has struck roots in neighboring Pakistan. It’s hard to say whether or not Pakistan is now its main base, since it is also reviving in regions of Afghanistan quietly retaken by its Taliban hosts over the last couple years. But it seems the people of the frontier provinces of Pakistan, with deep ethnic and cultural ties to Afghanistan, are deeply upset about the cowboy imperialism of the U.S. that has brought so much suffering to the region. These provinces are often described as "lawless," since the Pakistani state has never really brought them under central control and has relied upon tribal leaders to maintain stability. But now they are the most unstable areas in a country increasingly destabilized in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
For all this, we have to thank George W. Bush.
Was his administration unaware of the fact that Islamist militants driven from Afghanistan would receive a welcome across the border? That both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would find this zone a prime recruiting ground? That the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and "counterinsurgency" war would insure high sympathy for the Islamist forces? That the government of Pervez Musharraf, caving into U.S. threats and cooperating with the U.S. imperial project, would find itself weakened, ever more despised by its people? That the dictator having seized power in a coup would not seek, under stress, to further augment his power by such measures as tampering with the judiciary and declaring martial law? That such measures would only deepen the Pakistani crisis?
Did Bush, or the neocons surrounding him and whispering in his ears, expect that the entire Afghan people would be grateful for the U.S. bombing, occupation, restoration of the Northern Alliance and installation of a powerless puppet in Kabul? That the neighboring Pakistanis would share their joy and appreciation for the American presence? That the Taliban would just disappear? That Pakistan’s military and Inter-Service Intelligence (having helped create the Taliban and maintaining warm ties with it, but forced to sever ties with it lest—as the Americans threatened—they be "bombed back to the Stone Age" would following their about-face eagerly make war on these former allies and coreligionists?…