Recent news reports suggest an ominous trend. Islamic insurgents have effectively taken over Somalia; in Afghanistan, a Taliban insurgency is growing; and parts of Pakistan appear under the control of Taliban-associated Islamic extremists:
"Things are starting to spin out of control," one Western diplomat in Islamabad said of the tribal areas, which have historically been deeply conservative. "In some areas, it's beginning to look like they are setting up a government within a government."I think we are witnessing the failure of the anti-terrorism policy pursued by the United States over the last few years. That policy has been focused on making sure that no Afghanistan-type havens for Al Qaeda exist around the world. But in the end, this is simply impossible - the United States cannot commit troops every time an Islamist insrugency prevails in a place like Somalia ( I hardly need to remind anyone of the US involvement in Somalia in 1992).
The tribal areas are off-limits to foreign visitors, including journalists, except for periodic, brief helicopter visits with military authorities. But in recent interviews here, tribal lawyers, educators and politicians with knowledge of events in the areas described growing fundamentalist influence and intimidation that is spilling beyond the sparsely inhabited tribal zones and edging closer to settled, government-run localities.
In the past six months, they said, dozens of tribal elders and officials have been killed, including an uncle of the current provincial chief minister. Fundamentalist clerics have freely used FM radio stations to preach holy war and set up public recruiting offices in towns such as Dir and Bannu just outside the tribal areas. Music stores have been shut down and thieves executed before crowds.
"North and South Waziristan are in the grip of Talibanization" and all of the seven federally administered tribal agencies "can come under its grip, too," said Lateef Afridi, a tribal lawyer and politician. "The army has put up an honest fight, but it has failed, and the government has failed. The traditional system has been made ineffective, and the Taliban have moved into the vacuum."
One university instructor, who comes from South Waziristan, said that when he visited a year ago the area was blanketed with army troops, but that when he went back several months ago for a funeral, not a uniformed soldier was in sight while armed men in Taliban-style turbans patrolled in trucks. He asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
Instead, the means to stop terrorism on US soil has been at out disposal all along: we ought to pay closer attention to the link between terrorism and immigration. All of the 9/11 hijackers were born outside the United States; and all arrived here by obtaining visas from our state deparment.
Moreover, all of the 9/11 hijackers shared roughly the same demographic profile: Muslim men of young age from the Middle East. I'm all in favor of immigration in the ideal, but is immigration from the Middle East really that crucial to the developement of our nation? If we had cut off immigration from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries with strong Muslim extremist movements - i.e. Indonesia, Somalia, Nigeria, etc - we could have prevented 9/11. Given that we have decided to admit a certain number of immigrants each year, why not let immigrants to the US come from countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and some portions of Southeast Asia? This would not expose us to the same risk.