"Veteran producer and correspondent Martin Smith travels to the wild west
of Pakistan, the tribal areas, long known for drug smuggling, gun
running, lawlessness, and as a breeding ground for jihadists. Smith
recounted to me how dangerous this particular journey felt.
"Upon leaving Peshawar, we had arranged for a Pakistani Army escort into
the Khyber District because I wanted to get some footage of the Tirah
valley, where Bin Laden is said to have gone after fleeing Tora Bora.
But the guards at the border wouldn't let me in. 'Too dangerous,' they
said, 'even with military escort. The insurgents are walking around with
rocket launchers now.'"
Much of the dramatic rise in fighting inside Afghanistan can be traced
back to the Pakistani territories where the Taliban tribal 'cousins'
live, and the question of what to do about them has put Musharraf in a
tough position. The Americans and their coalition partners want him to
crack down and seal the border. But Musharraf, an unelected military
ruler, derives some of his political support from religious parties who
are strong in these territories and who are sympathetic to the Taliban,
if not Al Qaeda.
Smith, who found another means for reporting inside the tribal areas,
demonstrates how difficult the situation is and the reason for the big
huddle in the White House. With a sanctuary in Pakistan, the Taliban and
Al Qaeda are not only returning to Afghanistan but appear to be moving
well beyond. Several recent Al Qaeda plots abroad have been linked to
the tribal areas, and authorities in London are also investigating
possible connections in the plot to down 10 transatlantic airliners. "