ISLAMABAD (AP) — Analysts and a senior militant in Pakistan say they are expecting an ethnic civil war to erupt in neighboring Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 16 months.
They say militants in Pakistan's Punjab province are already training for it and thousands have been deploying to regions bordering Afghanistan.
Analyst Mansur Mehsud (mah-SOOD'), himself from South Waziristan where militants also hide out, says more than 150 militant groups operate in the tribal regions, mostly in mountainous, heavily forested North Waziristan (vah-ZEER'-ih-stahn). Dotted with hideouts, it is there that U.S. intelligence believes al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri (AY'-muhn ahl-ZWAH'-ree) is hiding. North Waziristan also is where Afghanistan says many of its enemies have found sanctuary.
While militants from Punjab province have long sought refuge and training in the tribal regions, they were fewer in number and confined their hostility to Pakistan's neighbor and foe, India. But analysts say that's now changing as U.S. and coalition troops prepare to leave.
A senior member of a militant Sunni Muslim group says his fighters will go to Afghanistan to join forces with the Afghan Taliban, noting they have done it in the past.