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A Dim Prognosis for Pakistan’s Troubled Tribal Areas

Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul describes the migration of the first foreign militants into Pakistan's tribal areas. (2 min., 12 sec.)

Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul describes the migration of the first foreign militants into Pakistan's tribal areas. (2 min., 12 sec.)

NEW YORK, June 15, 2010 - Imtiaz Gul, author of The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier, said Pakistan is now "dealing with the second generation of the Jihadis," in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a group of small administrative units in the northwest.

Gul, a leading authority on the region, made the comments at Asia Society New York during a panel discussion with Bernard Schwartz Fellow Hassan Abbas and moderator Jeff Laurenti, Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign Policy Programs at The Century Foundation.

Gul recounted a story when he asked some locals in the area whether or not terrorists were living next door. They responded, "We don't know any terrorists, we only know the Afghan Mujahedeen who have been fighting in Afghanistan who stay here and take shelter."

In recent years, there have been questions about the extent to which the Pakistani military is working to stop terrorism in the volatile border region. Abbas, a former Pakistani policeman, noted, "The last six to seven months have seen unprecedented violence."

Abbas said despite extensive foreign aid from the United States to Pakistan, the local police have few resources. Gul agreed: "If there was an efficient, effective police force in the Northwest Frontier Region, things would have been different."

The panelists said the resistance that Pakistani forces and coalition troops now face in the region is one that they themselves created. During the Cold War, the United States aided the Mujahedeen who were fighting against the Soviets in neighboring Afghanistan. That strategy is coming back to haunt them.

"The genesis of the current crisis lies in what we did," said Gul. "I wish that those mistakes would not be repeated again, and I hope that the US treats Pakistan as a partner, and not as a project."

Reported by Alex Berman

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