While the CIA and the Pentagon search in vain for Osama bin Laden in the mountains of northwest Pakistan, an Al Qaeda affiliate has been quietly building up terrorist bases in the jungles of Bangladesh under the protective aegis of a new military regime in Dhaka allied with Islamist forces.
The founding leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in Bangladesh, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, was one of the six signatories of Bin Laden's first declaration of holy war against the United States on Feb. 23, 1998, and a U.S. State Department study reports that Harkat "maintains contact with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan."
Bush administration officials privately endorse mounting Indian evidence that Bangladeshi Harkat agents spearheaded a series of terrorist attacks in India -- in Mumbai and Banaras in 2006, in Hyderabad in 2007 and in Jaipur in May. But the United States has conspicuously failed to press Bangladesh's military ruler, Gen. Moeen U Ahmed, for a crackdown on Harkat and for the removal of highly placed intelligence officials with Islamist ties.
Ahmed staged a bloodless coup in January 2007, forcing a figurehead president to give him emergency powers. He has pledged to hold elections in December and return power to a civilian government. The Bush administration, while formally urging him to hold the elections on schedule, has so far ignored his increasingly blatant efforts to rig them.