Military.com: The U.S. Marine Corps is sticking with its Vietnam-era, M40 sniper rifle series, despite complaints from scout snipers who say they need the modern, longer-range weapons used by special-ops snipers. Marine scout snipers are considered to be among the best snipers in the world, but many are frustrated at the limitations of the current M40A5 sniper rifle. The A5 is based on the Remington M700 short-action design that's chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO, like the original M40 Marines [read more]
Baitullah Mehsud, the most powerful man in the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the one who has created a literal terror state in the North West Frontier Province, and whose organization was outlawed approximately three months ago, was declared a patriot by the Pakistan Army.
All main militant groups fighting in Fata, from South Waziristan to Bajaur and from Mohmand to the Khyber Agency, have contacted the government through different sources after the Mumbai bombings and have offered a ceasefire if the Pakistan Army also stops its operations.
And as a positive sign that this ceasefire offer may be accepted, the Pakistan Army has, as a first step, declared before the media some notorious militant commanders, including Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Fazlullah, as “patriotic” Pakistanis.
These two militant commanders are fighting the Army for the last four years and have invariably been accused of terrorism against Pakistan but the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage has suddenly turned terrorists into patriots.
A top security official told a group of senior journalists on Saturday: “We have no big issues with the militants in Fata. We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue.”
The Indian allegations against Pakistan have suddenly forced the military establishment in Pakistan to finally accept that they are not fighting an American war inside the Pakistani territory.
On another level, the parliamentary leader of the 12 Fata members in the National Assembly, Munir Orakzai, has expressed optimism in this regard, saying: “I see a bright ray of peace in the tribal areas and if we come out of the American pressure, I can guarantee that there will be peace in the tribal areas in a few days and we will be ready to fight against India on the eastern border along with the Pakistan Army.”
The change in the attitude of the Pakistani military establishment is remarkable. Thanks to India, the security officials, who used to criticise the Pakistani media, are now praising its role in the recent days, saying: “You have proven that you are patriotic Pakistanis.”
Last year, the same officials were part of a decision to impose a ban on many Pakistani TV channels because of their alleged anti-state behaviour. Meanwhile, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has made it clear to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that if India escalates tensions, then Pakistan has to move its troops from the tribal areas to the eastern borders and it would not be possible to continue the war against terrorism.
While the new Pakistan administration sees the need for the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Pakistan Army mostly doesn’t and wishes not to be fighting their own people. The Army also has an almost pathological preoccupation with India, and the rumblings in India over the Mumbai attacks have given both the Pakistan Army and the Tehrik-i-Taliban the perfect cover to end their cooperation with the U.S. and NATO over the Taliban safe haven in the Pakistan FATA and NWFP.
This is a troubling development for Operation Enduring Freedom, but it doesn’t end the danger for Pakistan. The Taliban still see the current administration in Pakistan as an infidel regime which governs a nation that is entirely too Western and secular. Sharia law is the goal for Pakistan, and the Taliban will stop at nothing to effect this end.
In 2003 Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda second in command and head of field operations, began arguing that the primary goal of jihad should be the toppling of impious regimes. To the North in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai has demanded a time table for NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, a move which can only be interpreted as a sign of the continual diminution of his senses. Without NATO forces the Taliban would be inside Kabul within one week and Karzai would be fleeing the country to save his own life. And regarding Zawahiri’s view of the negotiations with the Taliban demanded by Karzai, he sees this as a sign of weakness, a view similar to our own.
There are seasons in any campaign, and Hamid Karzai is showing signs of increased desperation over the security situation in Afghanistan just as the Pakistan Army is showing signs of weakness by labeling the head of a terror state – Baitullah Mehsud – a patriot. Time is short for strengthening the force presence in Operation Enduring Freedom.