A suicide bomber targeted a Pakistani military convoy in the town of Alpuri in Shangala district northeast of Peshawar on Monday, killing 41 persons and wounding 60.
The bombing may have come as revenge by the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban Movement) for the killing of their leader, Baitullah Mahsud.
Aljazeera English has video on the Shangala attack:
The attack comes as the Pakistani military prepares to launch a major operation in Waziristan, one of 13 Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan, where Pakistani and Afghan Taliban hole up.
The military is using Pashtun tribal chieftains as go-betweens with the main militant leaders in Waziristan, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Sadiq Nur.
The Gul Bahadur group in particular infiltrates into Afghanistan to hit NATO forces. The group has also hit Pakistani forces, as late last July when it captured 10 soldiers of the Shawal Rifles, a unit of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed to be behind the the attack Sunday on the Pakistani army HQ in Rawalpindi. The Pakistani military says that the attackers had intended to take senior officers hostage. If so, they were foiled by checkpoint guards who questioned their credentials to come on base despite stolen uniforms and phony paperwork, which actually speaks well of security at the gate. The Western press commentary on how this attack demonstrates weaknesses in Pakistani security does not reckon with what a disaster the attack turned into for the Taliban, who accomplished none of their goals and just wasted several trained men.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Quraishi is in Washington for consultations over the $7.5 bn. civlian military aid package, which is welcomed by Pakistanis in principle but some provisions of which have raised hackles since they appear to limit Pakistani sovereignty (such as the demand that the civilian government excerse effective control over the military).
The aid bill is also controversial in Washington, where a US AID official has complained about the plan to funnel it through Pakistani contractors rather than through American ones. The Agency for International Development official maintained that Pakistani organizations cannot be monitored effectively by the US, raising the possibility that the money will be embezzled. He also slammed special envoy Richard Holbrooke for micromanaging the grants, effectively over-ruling and second-guessing US AID staff on the ground in Pakistan who, he said, were more knowledgeable about and attuned to local conditions.
I understand the difficulty of auditing NGOs in dangerous places like the FATA tribal areas. But it seems to me that it must be possible to audit the Pakistani pass-through organizations elsewhere regularly, and that the shell game of Congress giving foreign aid to a country in a way that actually just benefits US corporations and contractors is counter-productive.
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