U.S. sees spike in Pakistan terror attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) âÄî Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have risen sharply as extremists have consolidated and expanded operations, according to the government and independent analysts. On Thursday, the State Department’s annual assessment of worldwide terrorism is expected to show that terrorist attacks in Pakistan alone more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2008, according to a U.S. official briefed on its findings. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress is still being notified of the findings. Last year’s “Country Reports on Terrorism” from the State Department found that attacks in Pakistan had more than doubled from 375 to 887 between 2006 and 2007, and the number of fatalities jumped by almost 300 percent from 335 to 1,335. Terror attacks also were up in Afghanistan, according to the new report. Last year’s State terrorism report found the number of attacks rose 16 percent in Afghanistan, to 1,127 incidents in 2007, killing 1,966 people, 56 percent more than the 1,257 who died in 2006. The American Security Project reported separately Wednesday that there is “no good news” from either Pakistan or Afghanistan. “Governmental weakness in both states has created opportunities for radical Islamist groups on both sides of the border,” the independent analysts concluded. The attacks complicate the Obama administration’s efforts to boost military and civilian programs in the region. “Terrorist attacks are up, but worse, territory controlled by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban has also increased,” said the American Security Project, a bipartisan Washington-based organization that analyses terrorism trends and the effectiveness of U.S. counterterrorism policies. The American Security Project attributes the rise in incidents to the spread of the Taliban, which it said has a “persistent presence” in about 75 percent of the Afghanistan. In Pakistan, it noted that the government increasingly has ceded authority to militants in tribal areas, even before turning over the Swat Valley to the Taliban earlier this month. Bernard Finel, an author of the report, offered a starkly dim view of Pakistan, saying the Taliban’s power has become institutionalized in the Swat Valley and the situation in the country “may already be irretrievable.” The report added that the number of attacks attributable to Islamist extremists is on the rise in other nations as well, notably in the Middle East, Somalia, Russia and the Philippines, and that the trend would pose great difficulties for what the Bush administration termed the global war on terrorism. It said the rise in such violence could be due to a decrease in attacks in Iraq in 2008. It counted 670 attacks by Islamists in 2008 outside of the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the fourth consecutive year the number has risen. It said the radical Islamist violence is now 10 times more common than in the late 1990s. “The explosive growth in Islamist violence in 2008 forces us to have a very pessimistic outlook on the struggle at the start of the Obama administration,” the project said.