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Monday, September 22, 2008

The gloves are off in Pakistan - Syed Saleem Shehzad

Approximately 20 kilometers from Islamabad lies Tarbella, the brigade headquarters of Pakistan's Special Operation Task Force (SOTF). Recently, 300 American officials landed at this facility, with the official designation as a "training advisory group", according to documents seen by Asia Times Online. However, high-level contacts claim this is not as simple as a training program. Now, the US has bought a huge plot of land at Tarbella, several square kilometers, according to sources directly handling the project. Recently, 20 large containers arrived at the facility. They were handled by the Americans, who did not allow any Pakistani officials to inspect them. Given the size of the containers, it is believed they contain special arms and ammunition and even tanks and armored vehicles - and certainly have nothing to do with any training program.

For both the militants and the United States, the gloves have come off. Clearly, Washington is concerned at the lack of progress in clipping the wings of the militancy in Pakistan (read al-Qaeda fugitives) and that the Taliban have bases in Pakistan to fuel their insurgency in Afghanistan. In the crucial few weeks before the US presidential elections there is nothing the George W Bush administration would like more than a real smoking gun to justify the long years of its "war on terror". The soldiers now based Tarbella are on the trail. But so are the militants.


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