A Surge of Their Own

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai

All night, every night, an endless caravan of old cars and pickup trucks rolls through the dusty Pakistani town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan's lawless tribal area. The vehicles, headed for Afghanistan, are filled with jihadist recruits going to join the fight against U.S. forces; the insurgents come mostly from the numerous mud-walled compounds that serve as training-and-rest camps in the surrounding countryside, which locals say is controlled largely by Afghan and Pakistani militants. "I think at least one male from every family around here is going to Afghanistan," says a villager who asked to remain anonymous for his safety. "They seem to be going in the thousands and will set Afghanistan on fire."

The influx appears to be a conscious militant "surge" that's bigger than any similar seasonal movement in the past. The new fighters are intended to bolster Afghanistan's insurgent forces in the south, which will soon face the additional 30,000 combat troops that President Obama is dispatching to the contested region. This movement through North Waziristan is only part of the Taliban's buildup for the heavy combat that's expected in the months ahead. Thousands of veteran Afghan Taliban fighters and new Afghan recruits who have spent the winter in refugee camps in northwestern Pakistan or western Baluchistan province--or who have been undergoing religious and ideological training in madrassas scattered across Pakistan--are also making their way to the conflict zone. …