Winning war on terrorism requires winning of hearts
It was one small paragraph in a long Associated Press story out of Damadola, Pakistan, but what it revealed explains why the United States and one of its main allies in the war on global terrorism, Pakistan, have been unable to capture Osama bin Laden, the world's foremost terrorist, and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri.
"In a show of solidarity, the opposition Jamaat Islami, or Islamic Party, marshaled 60 volunteers Sunday to help the village rebuild," the wire service reported. The village is Damadola, in a remote region on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which a U.S. airstrike devastated Jan. 13 in a deadly missile attack. Thirteen civilians, including women and children, were killed.
The attack has triggered nationwide demonstrations in Pakistan against the United States and the government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Legions of bin Laden supporters and members of Jamaat Islami, an opposition party that has been accused of fomenting violence, have taken to the streets urging retaliation and the ouster of Musharraf.
"This attack has increased our hatred for Americans because they are killing innocent women and children,"said Zakir Ullah, one of 5,000 demonstrations in Insyat Oala, a market town about three miles from Damadola.
And in the midst of this anger and demands for retribution comes Jamaat Islami with what is a masterstroke in winning the hearts and minds of the people who have shown a willingness to provide a safe haven for bin Laden and key members of his Al-Qaida terrorist organization.
"A week after the attack, villagers insist no members of the terror network were anywhere near the border village when it was hit," the wire service reported. "But thousands of protesters flooded a nearby town chanting, 'Long live Osama bin Laden.'"
Al-Qaida operatives killed
The United States missed its main target in the Jan. 13 attack, al-Zawahri. He was supposed to attend a dinner on the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, but didn't show. A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the Associated Press that four top Al-Qaida operatives may have been killed in the strike, including master bomb maker, Midhat Mursi, who has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.
But the nationwide demonstrations in Pakistan make it clear that Bush administration has failed to build trust with the people who could be invaluable in the war on global terrorism.
The president met Tuesday with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, in the White House and made it clear that the relationship between the two counties remains strong despite the fact that President Musharraf and other Pakistani officials are upset that they weren't given prior warning of the attack.
Bush and Aziz both said that better lines of communications would be established, but that alone won't win appease the populace -- especially those living in the border communities that are known hideouts for members of Al-Qaida.
The United States cultivated tremendous goodwill in Pakistan with its relief effort after October's earthquake that killed over 80,000, but those feelings have dissipated as a result of the Jan. 13 attack.
President Bush is scheduled to visit Pakistan and India in March, but before he goes he should launch a rebuilding campaign in Damadola to show that the U.S. regrets the death and destruction visited upon the region and to make clear that Al-Qaida is the real enemy.