Al-Qaida fighters add to instability in Kashmir
The presence of large numbers of terrorists with ties to Osama bin Laden anywhere in the world would be cause for concern. Their presence in a region where threatened use of nuclear weapons is more than just saber rattling should raise red flags. Why?
Because these terrorists belong to Al-Qaida, the organization created by bin Laden to spread his bloody brand of Islam. Al-Qaida was responsible for the murderous attack Sept. 11 on America's mainland, and it also sponsored the dictatorial Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Following 9/11, President Bush declared war on international terrorism and singled out bin Laden and Al-Qaida as targets of this campaign. The United States, along with allies such as Britain and Pakistan, invaded Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban government and destroyed Al-Qaida's base of operations. However, bin Laden, several of his close advisers and many terrorists slipped through the coalition's dragnet.
According to an investigation by the Christian Science Monitor, Al-Qaida fighters have amassed in Kashmir, which has long been a cause of tensions between India and Pakistan. Indeed, the two countries have fought three wars over the status of the region that separates them.
India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons and successfully tested their delivery systems, have traded heavy artillery fire since December, when a terror attack on India's parliament was blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic groups and Islamabad's spy agency.
While the attacks have largely ceased, both countries have more than 1 million troops along the border.
It is in this environment that Al-Qaida fighters and an array of militant affiliate groups are prospering in the section of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The results of the newspaper's investigation bolsters Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recent statements that he had "seen indications that there are Al-Qaida operating near the [U.N.] Line of Control," that separates Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.
It would be foolhardy for anyone to think that the terrorists from Afghanistan are on a peace-keeping mission or have simply sought refuge from American forces. They are in Kashmir to fuel the fires of religious hatred that exist between the Hindus in India and Muslims in Pakistan.
What makes this situation even more dangerous than the Cold War is the reality that neither country seems to care about the death toll that would result from a nuclear attack.
President Bush, who has urged India and Pakistan to ease tensions, cannot ignore the fact that bin Laden and Al-Qaida would have much to gain from such a religious holocaust. They must be neutralized.