Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pakistan: A Dubious Ally in the WOT - Apr 20

It seems our 'ally' Pakistan, in the horribly-named "War on Terror" (WOT), is somewhat less than credible. If I were you, I wouldn't be getting on a flight there anytime soon.

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence

The Pakistan-Jihadist Connection
Apr 20, 2006

Two recent arrests on both sides of the Atlantic appear to confirm Western law enforcement beliefs that travel by certain Muslims to Pakistan can be a key indicator of jihadist tendencies. Law enforcement is basing this conviction on a continuing pattern of low-level jihadism among recent Muslim immigrants and first-generation Muslim Westerners who have attended Pakistani religious schools.

The two cases involve a Georgia Tech student who attended a religious school, or madrassa, in Pakistan for a month in 2005, and a Muslim man in Scotland who was under investigation by MI5 and nabbed before he could board a plane to Pakistan.

Syed Haris Ahmed, a mechanical engineering student, was arrested March 23 and is being held by the FBI at a facility in Roswell City, Ga. Police and FBI agents have searched the family's home in Dawsonville, where they confiscated computer discs and copied Ahmed's computer hard drive. The case against Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan but became a U.S. citizen in 2003, is sealed, but a local television station reported that he is being held on suspicion of planning terrorist activity. His father, a computer science professor at Georgia Tech, was in Pakistan visiting relatives at the time of the arrest, and returned home shortly afterward.

In the United Kingdom, Mohammed Atif Siddique, the subject of a four-month investigation by MI5 and Special Branch, was prevented from boarding an April 12 flight to Pakistan with his uncle. The two were briefly detained and then released to return to the Siddique home in Alva, Scotland. The next day, dozens of agents raided the house and arrested the younger Siddique under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2000. Neighbors said he had become increasingly radical after the Sept. 11 attacks. The common denominator in the Siddique and Ahmed cases is Pakistan.

The country is home to hundreds of legitimate and informal madrassas, many of which were established in refugee camps near the Afghan border during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It was out of these schools that the Taliban appeared in the 1990s. Militants such as John Walker Lindh and some members of the Virginia Jihad Network also attended these madrassas, where they were recruited by jihadists to their cause.

Islamic scholarship consists of a variety of schools, which are geographically based. Saudi Arabia is the center of Wahhabism. People who want to study traditional Islamism go to Egypt, where the Al Azhar University in Cairo is considered one of the premier centers of Islamic scholarship. Other centers of Sunni Islamic scholarship are in Syria and Morocco. Most Pakistanis follow a Sufi form of Islam, though some of the less-regulated madrassas in the country's Pashtun areas teach extreme forms of anti-Shiite, pro-Taliban and even pro-al Qaeda thought. These problematic schools link jihadist recruiters with a pool of potential recruits, some of whom -- because of their Western backgrounds --are seen as assets by the handlers.

Most militant operatives, including Mohammed Atta, the leader of the cell that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, are not from madrassas, but have regular educations, often in technical fields. The schools attract a younger crop of militants who, because of their inexperience, lack of maturity and distance from the central leadership of jihadist networks such as al Qaeda, are not considered for important leadership and operational roles.

The Ahmed and the Siddique cases are pending, and neither man has been formally arraigned. Both cases, however, indicate that Western law enforcement remains suspicious of Muslim immigrants and new citizens who show an interest in Pakistan.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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