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Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) — In a recent trip to Pakistan to report on the recent spike in the region’s violence and bloodshed, I heard over and over the same sentiment from people on the ground; America’s war on terror is falling flat on its face.
The military conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, repeatedly cited by locals, sends a constant flood of guns, refugees, militants and heroin into Pakistan.
Heroin is now actually cheaper than hashish in cities such as Lahore. The Kalashnikov culture, the foundation of which was laid 30 years ago when the CIA financed the mujahedeen, is all-consuming. According to the Pakistanis I spoke to, it’s all taken a devastating toll on the country and created the next generation of militants at the same time.
In Peshawar, I met with Rahimullah Yusufzai, who was one of the last people to interview Osama bin Laden and one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists.
He emphasized that much of the resulting anti-Western sentiment in the country is because of anger directed at American foreign policy.
“People have suffered, and they are willing to take revenge,” he said. “All villages have been attacked, women and children have been killed. So the Taliban can very easily motivate these families to supply suicide bombers.”
Today’s anti-West tide in Pakistan boils down to reactivity, retaliation and revenge.
“In Pashtun society, taking revenge is very important,” Yusufzai said. “You know, there is a saying in Pashto: ‘Even if you take revenge after 100 years, it’s not too late.’ And most of these I believe are retaliation attacks. Suicide bombings and the use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are the two most effective means of weaponry that the militants can use in this part of the world.”
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It’s important to note that the more people I interviewed, the clearer it became that the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan have abandoned the holier pursuit of imposing strict Islamic law on the region. For now, they are simply young, angry and vengeful beyond belief.
More precisely, I was told they are reacting to decades of interventionist and not-so-covert flip-flopping American policy dating back to the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations.
In Peshawar, I also tracked down Shabir Ahmed Khan, the provincial secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami, a multimillion-member Islamic movement widely considered in Pakistan to be al Qaeda friendly. As soon as we sat down, I could tell he was pissed.
“The problems surrounding us here are not caused by Taliban or al Qaeda,” he said. “It’s the Western policies. If Westerners are going to kill and murder us, then we will have to fight back.”
He continued, uninterrupted: “There’s a saying: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ America is playing the role of an enemy, and al Qaeda is the reaction to it. People need to realize this. No one has the right to dictate over a free country. They force their political and social policies on us, which they have no right to.”