Pakistan has arrested 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives in the past year, and has turned 443 over to the US authorities, according to Pakistani officials, as reported today in the Pakistani press. Now, there probably weren’t more than 5000 “Arab Afghans” in Afghanistan before 9/11, and some large number was killed by AC-130s or by massive bombing. Others escaped through Iran. I saw one estimate that about a thousand went to Pakistan. If that were true, than Pakistan has captured half of all the al-Qaida operatives that escaped there from Pakistan, and has captured ten percent of all the Afghan Arabs that had been guests of the Taliban. Of course, a lot of them are probably lower-level camp attendees and so forth, but this is a pretty impressive number.
Pakistani military intelligence says that those captured came from 18 countries, including “Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Morocco, Chechnya and France.” Most were Arab nationals and the biggest group came from Yemen.
The ongoing manhunt has caused friction with the new Islamist government of the Northwest Frontier Province, which wants it stopped. Since the Pakistani military is actually still in control of the country behind the scenes, however, the manhunt will continue as long as the top officers want it to.
There has been a lot of friction between the US troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani border guards the past few days, after an angry border guard took a shot at an American. It is still not clear exactly why he did so. The US announced that it had the right of hot pursuit of al-Qaida and Taliban elements into Pakistan. Pakistan denounced this statement and denied that any such permission had been given. Apparently the practice was secretly acknowledged tacitly by both Musharraf and Colin Powell, who talked yesterday, but it was a faux pas for the US military to state it so baldly. Of course, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the fundamentalist Jama`at-i Islami, used the incident to whip up anti-American feeling in Pakistan, even though there hasn’t actually been much real hot pursuit anyway. The US military hasn’t had much look with search and destroy missions on the Afghanistan border lately.