Musharraf Dumps Hundreds of al Qaeda Operatives Back in Afghanistan

The biggest refugee repatriation operation in the world is underway. It is the cover for Pakistan’s mass-export of al Qaeda operatives back to where they came from – Afghanistan.
The UN refugee agency reports that from 2002, nearly 2.4 million Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan. This week, General Pervez Musharraf gave the remaining estimated 400,000 until June 30 to leave the country or face expulsion.
Most live along Pakistan’s northwestern border. Islamabad explains its action on the grounds that the tribal belts of North and South Waziristan have been sanctuaries for hundreds of al-Qaeda linked terrorists and the Taliban. The presence of the refugees complicates the hunt for them and adds to Pakistan’s security problems.
Pakistani authorities claim terrorists are buried among these Afghan refugees and the expulsion order will deport them too.
debkafile‘s correspondent quotes diplomatic sources in the capital as referring to the belief of US intelligence agents that al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives who took shelter in Pakistan as refugees are now regrouping and moving back into Afghanistan. Their numbers are small but are expected to swell, posing fresh dangers to the Karzai government’s stability in Kabul. American military strength in Afghanistan is not nearly large enough to deal with any major influx.
The early trickle has generated deadly rocket attacks in recent months against the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. The government in Kabul has been unable to gain effective control of the Afghan countryside and large numbers of returning terrorists will aggravate the threat.
Until recently, al-Qaeda appeared to be trying to shift its base of operations from Afghanistan to Pakistan, with many of its leaders finding sanctuary either in the remote tribal regions along the Afghan border or in cities. In the tribal region of Waziristan, al-Qaeda operatives found support from sympathetic local leaders eager to defy Pakistan government’s efforts to crack down on Islamic radicals.
The Pakistan government’s decision to evict the Afghan refugees by June 30 this year will be conveyed through traditional drum-beating and radio to the thousands of Afghan refugees living in camps in North Waziristan. They will be told to repatriate to their native provinces in Afghanistan as a first choice. If they refuse, they will be accommodated in a camp set up for them in the Bannu district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). South Waziristan was earlier cleared of Afghan refugees.
Some of fled their country from Soviet invaders in the early 1980s when Pakistan under General Zia ul Haq opened its borders and actively encouraged the jihad against Red Army occupation. Many stayed on and became entrenched in the social and economic life of North Waziristan. Some Pakistanis resented the large refugee colony claiming it was the source of a crime, drugs and sectarian strife. A jihad culture took root in Afghanistan and Kashmir as a dissident weapon in which successive governments in Islamabad took n interest.
Pakistan was severely jolted in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks on America, when Washington declared Afghanistan the epicenter of international Islamic terrorism. It took time for the Musharraf government to wonder about the size and makeup of its Afghan colony. Its presence made it easy for people from different nationalities to move in and out of the Pakistan-Afghan border districts and Pakistan found itself becoming a global recruitment center for jihadists. Finally, earlier this year, Islamabad ordered the first census of Afghan refugees in the country, realizing that as long as they were uncounted, it was not possible to prevent terrorists and insurgents making free of its soil.
Still, since 9/11, Pakistan has apprehended and killed over 1,000 foreign activists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from various parts of the world. Fleeing from Afghanistan they had sought shelter in Pakistan among the largest single largest refugee population anywhere in the world.
According to Guenet Guebre-Christos, United Nations High Commission for Refugees Representative in Pakistan, the census found that 1,861,412 Afghan refugees live in the North West Frontier Province, 783,545 in Baluchistan, 136,780 in Sindh, 207,754 in Punjab, 44,637 in Islamabad and 13,097 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas.
Then in May, Pakistani ordered he closure by the end of June 2005 of over a dozen refugee camps in the belief that they also harbored hundreds of foreign terrorists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan. Many of the refugees are desperate to return home but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been urging them not to return immediately, since Afghanistan is not ready to receive them. Returnees face attacks by rival tribal warlords and hunger. Jobs and food are also both in short supply in a country where six to seven million people are reported to live on the brink of starvation.
“The UNHCR teams will visit all the refugee camps in North Waziristan in the first two weeks of June 2005 to register those families wishing to avail themselves of the refugee agency’s assistance package for voluntary repatriation”, Jack Redden, a UNHCR spokesman, told media persons in the capital, Islamabad, on June 9, 2005.
After that date, the heads of the families will have to travel to Bannu some 40 km away, to claim Voluntary Repatriation Forms (VRFs) for assistance. The UNHCR standard repatriation assistance package includes a travel grant of US $3 to $30 per person depending on the distance to the recipient`s destination in Afghanistan and another $12 per capita to re-establish themselves in their homeland. Redden agreed that the UNHCR staff cannot distinguish between a genuine Afghan refugee and a terror operative belonging to either al-Qaeda or Taliban who now want to cross over to Afghanistan to escape arrest or join the assaults on coalition forces and the Kabul government.
The humanitarian problem is multiplied by the Afghan refugee flight from Pakistani Army operations in Waziristan to hunt al Qaeda operatives. Over 25,000 crossed into Afghanistan’s troubled southeastern provinces overnight, many leaving Pakistan after decades with only the possessions they could carry, aid workers said. They landed in a hotbed of Taliban-led insurgents from which Afghanistan officials, United Nations staff and most aid organizations have pulled out fearing attacks on their workers.
These refugees were and still are caught in the crossfire.
Pakistani intelligence sources told debkafile‘s sources that, even after the Afghan refugees are gone, North Waziristan will be a tough proposition because it has provided al Qaeda and the Taliban with a stronger base than did South Waziristan. This base is supported by a large number of seminaries established there and around 70 percent of the local population.

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