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Jan 09, 2003
Islamic militants join forces for global struggle
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The United States military buildup in the Persian Gulf and all around Southeast, Southwest and South Asia is meant for more than merely a powerful strike on Iraq. The way the US is increasing its forces in the region shows that US military designs are enduring and extend beyond Iraq and the US has many more targets to hit.
But the military buildup has brought about a reaction in the form of political parties and underground militant forces. These militant forces are rapid planning a two-fold strategy: To organize a strong Muslim backlash that would force pro-US rulers of Muslim countries either to step down due to public pressure, or to take an anti-US policy stand; and to open as many fronts against US interests as possible so that the US would be forced to abandon its policies.
The recent US mobilization of troops apart, the US military bases from Turkey to Saudi Arabia and from Oman to Jordan have virtually cordoned off the Muslim states. From Turkey to Egypt there are strong voices of dissent against a probable US attack on Iraq, but no country in the region can afford to provide active support for Iraq.
Recently, the former director general (1988-89) of the Jalalabad directorate of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the famed retired Lieutenant-General Hameed Gul, opined that in the future even countries like Iran would not dare to adopt any active anti-US stance. During an address to a seminar in Karachi, Gul revealed that new sophisticated US military bases are now under construction in Afghanistan (Khost, Sish Bam, Kandahar and Dyodari), Kygyrzstan (Minhas) and Uzbekistan (Khanabad). Gul was of the opinion that once these airbases are completed, the US could take on any country in the region with very little notice, be it Iran or Pakistan.
Amid these strong strategic manipulations, there have been calls from Muslim political groups in several countries demanding that the rulers stop supporting US designs against Iraq. On January 1, Guide-General of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Ma'moun el-Hodaibi, called on the leaders of Arab and Islamic countries to rearrange their homes and pressure the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference to stand up to the United States. In his statement, el-Hodaibi described the US as the heir of Western colonialism.
Then, on January 3, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (United Action Front), an alliance of six religious parties that won almost 20 percent of the seats in the Pakistani parliament, held strong countrywide demonstrations against a US attack on Iraq.
Well-placed sources in the religious party Jamaat-i-Islami maintain that these movements aim to consolidate their efforts so that the campaigns bear the same theme in every country. The campaigns would be aimed at forcing Muslim rulers to either take an anti-US stand or step down. Furthermore, these sources reveal that prominent leaders of Islamic movements from Egypt, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey will participate in a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, scheduled for the third week of January.
To confirm the meeting, this correspondent contacted Abdul Ghaffar, the chief of Jamaat-i-Islami's foreign office, in the United Arab Emirates. Ghaffar maintained that the reaction of Islamic movements in the event of a US attack on Iraq would be natural and indigenous. He refused to comment on any meeting in Khartoum and termed the existence of pressure groups as a "conspiracy theory" against the Islamic movement. However, other sources within the Jamaat-i-Islami still maintain that a strong pressure group will be established in Khartoum.
Meanwhile, well-placed sources in Afghanistan maintain that US designs on Iraq have already caused a U-turn in the situation in Afghanistan. Guerrilla activities previously restricted to Khost, Paktia and Paktika have now been expanded to Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kunar, Logar, Kandahar and even Kabul.
Sources said that an alliance of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami (HIA), the Taliban and al-Qaeda has virtually changed the political and military landscape. HIA and the Taliban have divided the zones, with the Taliban fighting in Khost, Paktia and Paktika, and HIA in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Ghazni, Logar and Kabul. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are using religious sentiments to attract followers, while the HIA is fighting under the banner of nationalism.
HIA leaders have refused to take on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his administration and have made it clear to all provincial governors and administrators that they should sit aside or join the fight to oust foreigners from Afghanistan. Sources said that in many places - and especially in Jalalabad - local administration has turned a blind eye to visible HIA camps and operations. The same situation exists in Kabul, where even the International Security Assistance Force commander has now admitted the presence of a considerable number of "terrorists".
Sources maintain that this U-turn was only made possible after the US's attention began to shift from Afghanistan to Iraq. Moreover, the US plans in the region have even irked many among the Northern Alliance, where both former communist and Islamic elements have sympathies for Iraq for political and religious reasons. Their strategies mainly aim to engage the US as widely and as often as they can in Afghanistan.
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