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Local Militant Groups Pose Threat in Pakistan

Margaret Warner reports from Pakistan on the threat posed by local radical groups, the Aamy's role in the response, and reactions from Pakistanis.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It is the new front line in Pakistan's battle against terrorism. The bucolic Swat Valley, just 90 miles from the capital Islamabad, was until eight months ago a popular tourist haven, but now it's a war zone, where President Pervez Musharraf has launched a stepped-up military campaign to confront a major threat from Islamic radicals.

    The militants have made major inroads, taking over villages that mount little or no resistance, kidnapping and beheading Pakistani soldiers, and promoting an extreme form of Islamic rule right on the Pakistani president's doorstep.

    Retired General Talat Masood, a leading analyst, says they've made inroads of a political nature, too.

    LT. GEN. TALAT MASOOD (Ret.), Pakistan Army: The Muslims there have been radicalized by certain clerics who have been allowed a free hand for several years to propagate their myopic and obscurantist propaganda through the mosques.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Masood says local extremists, augmented by Islamic fighters from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, exploit the public's dissatisfaction with the local authorities, appointed by Islamabad.

    Musharraf and the United States were already concerned about militancy on the march in Pakistan's western tribal areas, places like North and South Waziristan on the Afghan border, where U.S. intelligence says al-Qaida and Taliban have found safe haven.

    But the Swat Valley is considered a settled area, much closer to Pakistan's heavily populated heartland and the capital, Islamabad. Musharraf and his military commanders know the radicals' gains in Swat represent a serious escalation of the extremist threat to Pakistan itself.

    After months of ineffectual fighting and losses by auxiliary troops, including some taken hostage after surrendering without a fight, Musharraf last week announced the army would take charge, bolstered by 15,000 new troops. On Tuesday, the military commander of the operation said it would take them just four weeks to liberate the valley from the grip of the militants.

  • MAJ. GEN. ARSHAD WAHEED, Pakistan Armed Forces:

    The militants know that the army means business, the government means business, so I think everybody realizes and understands that the operations are going to take the situation to its logical conclusion. So there's no going back now.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Analysts like Talat Masood say that may be wishful thinking.

  • LT. GEN. TALAT MASOOD:

    Well, it is like saying that, you know, the Iraqi maneuver was very successful in 21 days. These are not normal wars. You have to go much beyond that in order to truly eliminate that. And for that, you need, again, the process to win them back and to integrate them with the rest of the society and make them normal citizens.