Category Archive 'Pakistan'
01 Jul 2010

New York Subway Suicide Bomber Met With “Second Wave” Attack Leader

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Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah

A leak by US Intelligence Officials to Some News Agency reveals that in 2008 three of the subway bomb plotters traveled to Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribal areas where one of them, possibly all three, met with Adnan el Shukrijumah, the prominent al Qaeda figure known to have been the leader of the failed “Second Wave” attack following 9/11 involving the detonation of a dirty bomb in a major US city, whose target is generally believed to have been Los Angeles.

Shukrijumah was long suspected to have been operating from somewhere in Latin America, but this evidence places him in Waziristan in 2008.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have linked one of the nation’s most wanted terrorists to last year’s thwarted plot to bomb the New York City subway system, authorities said Wednesday.

Current and former counterterrorism officials said top al-Qaida operative Adnan Shukrijumah met with one of the would-be suicide bombers in a plot that Attorney General Eric Holder called one of the most dangerous since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have named Shukrijumah in a draft terrorism indictment but on Wednesday the Justice Department was still discussing whether to cite his role. Some officials feared that the extra attention might hinder efforts to capture him. …

Current and former counterterrorism officials discussed the case on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it.

Shukrijumah, 34, has eluded the FBI for years. The Saudi-born terrorist studied at a community college in Florida, but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Intelligence officials began unraveling the subway plot last year, when U.S. intelligence intercepted an e-mail from an account that al-Qaida had used in a recent terrorist plot, officials said. The e-mail discussed bomb-making techniques and was sent to an address in Denver, setting off alarms within the CIA and FBI from Islamabad to the U.S.

Najibullah Zazi and two friends were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial.

A fourth suspect, a midlevel al-Qaida operative known as Ahmed, traded the e-mails with Zazi, who was frantically trying to perfect his bomb making recipe, officials said. The U.S. wants to bring the Pakistani man to the U.S. for trial on charges that are not yet public.

Pakistani officials also have arrested a fifth person, known as Afridi, who worked with Ahmed, officials said.

11 May 2010

Osama, Falconry, and the Iran Refuge Theory, Part 1

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Not Osama

Falconing is a favorite sport in the Islamic world, and the most prized game of Middle Eastern falconers is the Houbara Bustard, Chlamydotis undulata, a large type of landfowl of the bustard family, which confusingly shares features with gallinacious birds (pheasants, partridges, chickens, turkeys), wading birds (plovers), and struthious birds (cassowaries and ostriches). The Houbara has a special claim to the affection of Arab hunters because its meat is believed to have aphrodisaical properties.

Houbara Hawking in connection with Islamic terrorist plots was the central theme of Charles McCarry’s sensational 2004 spy thriller (presumably wrapping up his Paul Christopher series) Old Boys.

A 2010 documentary, Feathered Cocaine, by Icelandic directors: Thorkell Hardarson and Örn Marino Arnarson recently opened at the Tribeca Film Festival and other venues in New York.

New York Times Artsbeat coverage

Feathered Cocaine website

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The documentary prompted this story by Fox News:

[Osama bin Ladin] wakes each morning in a comfortable bed inside a guarded compound north of Tehran. He is surrounded by his wife and a few children. He keeps a low profile, is allowed limited travel and, in exchange for silence, is given a comfortable life under the protection of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The idea that Bin Laden is in Iran got a strong boost recently with the premiere of a documentary called “Feathered Cocaine.” In it, Alan Parrot, the film’s subject and one of the world’s foremost falconers, makes a case that Bin Laden, an avid falcon hunter, has been living comfortably in Iran since at least 2003 and continues to pursue the sport relatively freely. He is relaxed, healthy and, according to the film, very comfortable.

To make his case, Parrot, president of the Union for the Conservation of Raptors, took two Icelandic filmmakers, Om Marino Arnarson and Thorkell S. Hardarson, into the secretive world of falconers. It’s a world in which some birds can sell for over $1 million, and in which the elite of the Middle East conduct business in luxurious desert camps where money, politics and terror intermingle.

Parrot, who was once the chief falconer for the Shah of Iran and who has worked for the royal families of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, still has extensive contacts in Iran and the falcon world. One of those contacts, described as a warlord from the north of Iran and disguised in a balaclava, reveals in the film that he has met Bin Laden six times on hunting trips inside Iran since March 2003. He says the Al Qaeda leader is relaxed and healthy and so comfortable that “he travels with only four bodyguards.”

Their last confirmed meeting was in 2008, Parrot says. “There may have been more since then, but I haven’t talked to my source since we left Iran,” he said.

Parrot told FOX news.com that the extraordinary disclosure by the warlord, who supplies the falcon camps Bin Laden visits on hunting forays, was not done out of altruism. “One of my men saved his life and this was the repayment,” he said. “He was asked to talk. He wasn’t happy about it.”

To prove his case, Parrot said he managed to get the telemetry setting for the falcons Bin Laden was flying, and he provided them to the U.S. Government. “They could locate him to a one-square-mile area using those unique signals”’ he said. He says the government never contacted him to follow up.

Maj. Sean Turner, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. Military would not comment on the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

Parrot’s story is supported in the documentary by former CIA agent Robert Baer, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and of how the CIA is managed. Baer, the onetime Middle East operative on whom the movie Syriana is based, explains that while he was in the CIA, he used satellites to watch the camps and they proved to be one of the key ways Al Qaeda was funded. He underscored how important falconry is to the vastly wealthy, and how Parrot’s position gave him a unique lens on that world.

Parrot’s disclosures add another piece to a jigsaw puzzle that for years has fed suspicion that Bin Laden is living in Iran. Among the other clues are:

Iran accepted 35 Al Qaeda leaders after the fall of the Taliban, despite the schism between Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots and the Shiite regime in Iran.

In February 2009 the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on several high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives working out of Iran and helping run the terror network.

In 2004 author Richard Miniter, in his book “Shadow War,” wrote that two former Iranian Intelligence agents told him they had seen Bin Laden in Iran in 2003.

In June 2003 the respected Italian newspaper Corre de la Sierra,quoting intelligence reports, reported that Bin Laden was in Iran and preparing new terror attacks.

Some analysts believe the reason Bin Laden switched from video to audiocassettes for his announcements was that he couldn’t find a place in Iran that matched the terrain of northern Pakistan.

In December 2009 it was widely reported that one of Bin Laden’s wives, six of his children and 11 grandchildren were living in a compound in Tehran. The living situation was made public after one of the daughters escaped the compound and sought asylum in the Saudi Embassy. It is in this compound, Parrot says, that Bin Laden has found sanctuary.

Parrot said Bin Laden was renowned as an avid falconer who captured most of the falcons around Kandahar to raise funds to support his terror efforts. Each spring wealthy Arabs from the Gulf would fill military cargo planes full of specially equipped Toyota Land Cruisers and other equipment and fly to the falcon camps in Afghanistan. “Usama would arrive and presented the falcons as gifts,” Parrot said. “In return, the wealthy princes would leave the cars and equipment with him when they left, giving Al Qaeda a considerable material advantage over others, including the Taliban.”

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism expert at the White House through two administrations, has admitted in interviews and before the 9/11 Commission that on one of the three occasions the United States was able to place Bin Laden, he was in a falcon camp set up by falcon hunters from Dubai. The CIA requested a cruise missile strike against Bin Laden. Clarke said he stopped the government from firing at the camp because “it didn’t look like an Al Qaeda camp.”

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Intriguing, isn’t it? But very knowledgeable falconers are skeptical, see my next posting.

2:08 video of Gyrfalcon on Houbara Bustard

10 May 2010

Mullah Omar in Pakistani Custody?

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Mullah Mohammed Omar

Brad Thor, at Breitbart, claims to be the recipient of a major Intel leak.

Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody. ….

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately. From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.

When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States Intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise.

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Meanwhile, Fox News quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as accusing Pakistan as recently as last weekend of knowing both Osama bin Ladin and Mullah Omar’s whereabouts and not telling.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused members of the Pakistani government over the weekend of practically harboring Usama bin Laden, raising questions about whether the U.S. is pushing hard enough on its presumed ally to give up the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Clinton leveled the charge in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” She praised Pakistan for a “sea change” in its commitment in going after terrorists, but she added that she expects more cooperation.

“I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11,” she said.

But Brad Thor knew of the Clinton interview, and still seems convinced that he is better informed than Mrs. Clinton.

DEVELOPING

05 Apr 2010

Taliban Attack US Consulate in Peshawar

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Stung by numerous recent setbacks and by the Pakistani Intelligence Service’s change from an ally to an adversary, the Taliban turned for assistance to the traditional last resort of foundering guerrilla movements: the grand and gaudy symbolic attack on a US facility.

After all, when the Tet Offensive failed militarily and produced such staggering losses that the Viet Cong never recovered as a fighting force, Tet still wound up representing the key turning point of the war, when the international media led by CBS New’s Walter Cronkite pronounced it a major victory and declared the war unwinnable by the US. The symbolic victory that persuaded the pundits the VC had won was a failed attack on the US Embassy in Saigon by a 19 man sapper team.

The 1983 suicide truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut proved similarly effective. Despite public pledges to maintain a US military presence in Lebanon, the Reagan administration withdrew within a few months.

The attack in Peshawar was clearly designed as another publicity seeking suicide attack at a symbolic US target trying for a win in the newspaper headlines and the evening news broadcasts, leading to the crumbling of US resolve. When you reward a particular behavior, inevitably you get more of it.

London Times:

Militants attempted to storm the US Consulate in Peshawar today as renewed violence in north-western Pakistan left more than 40 people dead.

Gunmen wearing paramilitary uniforms opened fire outside the consulate from two vehicles before several explosions shook the high-security district, which also houses key government offices.

The men fired mortars or rocket-propelled grenades at the heavily fortified compound in an attempt to get inside, a Pakistani intelligence official said.

“They could not manage to get inside,” said Bashir Bilour, a senior provincial minister, adding that at least four attackers were killed by the security forces. He said several unexploded suicide jackets and a large quantity of explosive was also recovered from the scene.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad said the militants had attempted to enter the building and fired grenades and other weapons.

At least four US security guards were injured. The US consulate has been attacked several times in the past.

Local television footage showed soldiers taking up positions around the consulate which was covered with grey smoke. Military helicopters circled the area which was cordoned off by the security forces. At least seven people were killed and several others injured in the attack.

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New York Times:

Militants mounted an assault against the United States Consulate in this northern Pakistani city on Monday, using a powerful bomb and rocket launchers in a multipronged attack, said a senior Pakistani intelligence officer.
Related

Pakistani soldiers watched smoke billowing from the scene of three bomb blasts near the United States consulates in Peshawar on Monday.

Five people were killed outside the consulate and about 20 were wounded, according to a senior government official.

The United States Embassy in Islamabad said that at least two Pakistani security guards employed by the consulate were killed in the attack, and that a number of others were seriously wounded. The embassy confirmed that the attack was coordinated, and said it involved “a vehicle suicide bomb and terrorists who were attempting to enter building using grenades and weapons fire.”

Militants managed to damage barracks that formed part of the outer layer of security for the heavily fortified consulate area, but did not penetrate inside, the Pakistani intelligence officer said.

Pakistani television networks showed a giant cloud of dust and debris rising from the Saddar area, where the consulate is located, shortly after 1 p.m. Local media reported that there had been three blasts. Authorities cordoned off the area and gunfire was heard long after the explosions.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that “we plan more such attacks,” Reuters reported.

18 Mar 2010

FOB Chapman Bombing Avenged

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CBS
Thought to be a photo of Hussami

Last week, a predator drone strike in Waziristan sent a number of al Qaeda militants to the Prophet’s Paradise, including a top trainer who helped arrange the suicide bombing at a CIA post in Afghanistan last December.

Bill Roggio
reports.

The US killed a key al Qaeda operative involved in the network’s external operations during an airstrike last week in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, who is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni, was killed during the March 10 airstrike in the town of Miramshah, according to a statement released on a jihadist forum.

The March 10 airstrike was carried out by unmanned US attack aircraft and targeted two terrorist compounds in the middle of a bazaar in the town. Six Haqqani Network and al Qaeda operatives were reported killed.

Three other al Qaeda operatives, identified as Abu Jameelah al Kuwaiti Hamed al Aazimi, who served with slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi; Abu Zahra al Maghrebi; and Akramah al Bunjabi al Pakistani, were killed with Hussami, according to a translation of the martyrdom statement released on March 12 by Abu Abdulrahman al Qahtani, who is said to be based in Waziristan. The statement was posted on the Al Falluja Forum and a translation is provided by Global Terror Alert. [For more information on Aazimi, see Threat Matrix report, “Al Qaeda operative killed in Pakistan linked to Zarqawi.”]

According to Qahtani, Hussami was a protégé of Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s top bomb maker and WMD chief who was killed in a US airstrike in July 2008. Hussami was in a prison in Yemen but was released at an unknown point in time.

Hussami “was involved in training Taliban and foreign al Qaeda recruits for strikes on troops in Afghanistan and targets outside the region,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He “was also on a small council that helped plan” the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The slain intelligence operatives were involved in gathering intelligence for the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

“Hussami was a skilled operative high up in al Qaeda’s external operations network,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He also has direct links to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the terror branch that operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“He was sorely wanted for his involvement in the COP Chapman suicide attack,” the intelligence official continued. Hussami is said to have been instrumental in helping the Jordanian suicide bomber Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, who is also known as Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, plan and execute the attack.

Hussami is the first al Qaeda operative killed by the US who is directly linked to the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman. The US has been hunting Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, after he appeared on a videotape with Khurasani.

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Hussami’s death was considered sufficient cause for Leon Panetta to indulge in a certain amount of public self congratulation on behalf of the Agency and the current administration.

Aggressive attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region have driven Osama bin Laden and his top deputies deeper into hiding and disrupted their ability to plan sophisticated operations, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Wednesday.

So profound is al-Qaeda’s disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded with bin Laden to come to the group’s rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta said. He credited improved coordination with Pakistan’s government and what he called “the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history,” offering a near-acknowledgment of what is officially a secret war.

“Those operations are seriously disrupting al-Qaeda,” Panetta said. “It’s pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run.” …

t he said the combined U.S.-Pakistani campaign is taking a steady toll in terms of al-Qaeda leaders killed and captured, and is undercutting the group’s ability to coordinate attacks outside its base along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

To illustrate that progress, U.S. intelligence officials revealed new details of a March 8 killing of a top al-Qaeda commander in the militant stronghold of Miram Shah in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s autonomous tribal region. The al-Qaeda official died in what local news reports described as a missile strike by an unmanned aerial vehicle. In keeping with long-standing practice, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the CIA formally declines to acknowledge U.S. participation in attacks inside Pakistani territory.

Hussein al-Yemeni, the man killed in the attack, was identified by one intelligence official as among al-Qaeda’s top 20 leaders and a participant in the planning for a Dec. 30 suicide bombing at a CIA base in the province of Khost in eastern Afghanistan. The bombing, in which a Jordanian double agent gained access to the CIA base and killed seven officers and contractors, was the deadliest single blow against the agency in a quarter-century.

This is the same Central Intelligence Agency that is winning on Wednesday that includes elements who leaked to the New York Times for publication two days earlier a story alleging that private contractor efforts which seem to have been succeeding rather well in identifying enemy targets have been conducted in contravention of unspecified Intelligence statutes and International Law, and represented a fraudulent diversion of funds.

If I were Mr. Panetta, I’d be doing something about some of my own internal adversaries, those in the habit of employing leaks and innuendo to undermine Agency efforts in the field. It is also essential to do something to terminate the enthusiastic cooperation of their establishment media allies and enablers. Putting a Hellfire missile into certain offices at the New York Times and the Washington Post may be off-limits, but there is still on the books an Intelligence Act of 1917, which makes it a crime to convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies, punishable by death or by imprisonment for not more than 30 years.

If the private contractor operation mentioned by the Times on Monday really was, as seems most probable, a legitimate US Intelligence covert operation, Messrs. Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazetti of the New York Times and their informants could very well be guilty of producing “false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war.” False reports or statements in such a case would be punishable by a fine and 20 years in prison.

The Bush Administration chickened out on prosecuting its leakers, and the result has been a dysfunctional situation in which certain members of the Intelligence community are permitted to exercise their own liberum veto over policies and operations.

15 Mar 2010

NY Times Leaks Covert Op in Pakistan

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The New York Times is reporting, in duly scandalized tone, on the basis of information received from “military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States” that the US government was getting around the Pakistani ban on US military operations withing that country’s borders by using a private contracting company employing retired CIA officers and Special Forces military personnel to locate militants and insurgent bases of operation.

Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazetti breathlessly suggest that these contractors are being used to target Predator drone attacks, and that all this is very possibly “a rogue operation” breaking some unspecified alleged law against the use of private contractors in covert operations. On top of which, why, funding for all this was probably improperly diverted from an Internet website intended to inform the US military about “Afghanistan’s social and tribal landscape.”

We have here a classic example of the damaging leak by disgruntled insiders. Details about a covert operation are made public, the covert activity is (surprise! surprise!) disclosed to have been going on in secret, the public is advised in shocked tones that persons working for the US government have been quietly engaged in doing harm to enemies of the United States, the covert operation in question is darkly hinted to transgress some unspecified and unidentified federal intelligence statute and/or international law, and finally the secret mission is accused of diverting funding from its own cover.

Even under Obama, it appears that American Intelligence Operations policy will continue to be decided by press leaks and disinformation.

11 Mar 2010

Taliban Number 2 “Singing Like a Male Canary”

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Pakistani sources told the Washington Examiner.

The Afghan Taliban’s former second in command has been “singing like a male canary” since his capture last month, officials here told The Washington Examiner.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was arrested by Pakistani security agencies in Karachi, has become “a vital asset in gathering information on the Taliban and other extremist groups operating in the region,” one Pakistani counterintelligence official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of his work. Baradar is of interest to both U.S. and Afghan authorities. It is believed that U.S. counterintelligence officials are also questioning Baradar, who has close ties to Mullah Omar and other leaders in the region.

Baradar’s information that will aide both Pakistan and the United States in the war on terror, the Pakistani officials said.

“He obviously does not want to be released under any circumstances,” one Pakistani official said. “He would not survive after the information he has given the government.”

Baradar was born in Wetmak village in the southern Uruzgan province of Afghanistan into an ethnic Pashtun Popalzai clan in 1968. His arrest dealt a serious blow to the Afghan Taliban.

The Pakistani official said Islamabad “is expected to turn over Baradar to Afghan authorities after we have finished with him.”

What the article and its sources fail to discuss is the obvious consideration that, post capture, Baradar was not Mirandized, taken to Guantanamo, sent to Illinois, given a trial in Manhattan, or released in Bermuda. In fact, he was not put in US custody at all.

It is only too clear that US domestic differences concerning detainee status, interrogation, and ultimate fate have produced a state of affairs in which we have every interest in making sure that a captured terrorist in possession of valuable information wind up in somebody’s else hands rather than our own. We cannot cope with prisoners.

We can’t interrogate them. We don’t know how to try them. And we are incapable even of keeping them safe in captivity. Bring someone like Baradar into the United States, and Ivy-League-educated attorneys will come a-running to be sure that he gets the full protection of the kind of top flight legal counsel you certainly could not afford, the domestic Constitution, the Magna Carta, and the opinion pages of the Washington Post and New York Times.

In Pakistan, the ISI can apply any enhanced interrogation techniques it cares to try. No wonder Baradar is talking.

Best of all, no one is accusing Barack Obama of renditioning Baradar to Pakistan. Why, the scoundrel was captured there. It’s not Obama’s fault that he fell into the tender mercies of Pakistani intelligence.

02 Mar 2010

Saudis Changed Pakistan Policy Toward Taliban

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Last month’s capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s number 2 leader, came about as the result of a major policy shift on the part of the Pakistani intelligence service ISI.

Half the Quetta Shura is now under arrest and sources are reporting to the (Pakistani) International News that the Saudi royal family persuaded Pakistani leadership to revise its policy toward the Afghan Taliban, causing the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) to withdraw its protection and begin actually going after the Afghan Taliban leadership. The results have been impressive.

In a major policy shift, the powerful Pakistani establishment seems to have decided to abandon the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan by agreeing to launch a massive crackdown against their command-and-control structure, which has already led to the arrest of nine of the 18 key members of the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura from different parts of Pakistan, and that too within a short span of two months.

According to well-informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the decision-makers in the powerful Pakistani establishment seem to have concluded in view of the ever-growing nexus between the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban that they are now one and the same and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) could no more be treated as two separate Jihadi entities. Therefore, the establishment is believed to have revised its previous strategic assessment of the two Taliban groups, which have a common mentor (Mullah Mohammad Omar) and decided to proceed against the Afghan Taliban as well, considering them a greater threat for Pakistan now than in the past.

Diplomatic circles pointed out that the arrest of the Afghan Taliban leaders have come at a crucial juncture when the US-led allied forces are busy in launching a massive military offensive against the Afghan Taliban forces in the Marjah town of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, after President Obama’s new-year public declaration to kill or capture the top fugitive leaders of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda, both inAfghanistan and Pakistan. Since the beginning of February 2010, the Pakistan authorities have captured seven senior members of the Taliban Shura, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Omar, and four Taliban shadow governors of Afghan provinces. These high-profile arrests, combined with the ongoing US-led military offensive in Helmand and the unending spate of drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, have adversely dented the command and control structure of the Taliban, thereby affecting its military might in Afghanistan.

However, well informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad maintain that American pressure alone could not have made Pakistan to act against the Taliban network. They claim the influence of the Saudi royal family, coupled with the US pressure, eventually compelled the Pakistani intelligence establishment to finally abandon the Afghan Taliban, who were earlier being protected as a strategic asset to be used in Pakistan’s favour after the exit of the allied forces from Afghanistan. These circles further claim that the Pakistan intelligence establishment was in fact persuaded to cooperate with the Americans by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the younger half-brother of King Abdullah. Being the chief of General Intelligence Presidency, which is the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, Muqrin reportedly conducted shuttle diplomacy between the key civil and military leadership of the two important Muslim countries, finally making Pakistan to proceed against the leadership of the Afghan Taliban.

28 Feb 2010

How Does This Administration Handle High Value Interrogations?

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There were little gasps of surprise last December, when it was learned that Barack Obama’s new politically correct High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) was not yet operational, and therefore not available to wheedle information out of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab concerning Al-Qaeda-in-the-Arabian-Peninsula (AQAP)’s nefarious plots against the lives of American civilians, using the latest and most advanced forms of Tea and Sympathy.

Apparently, the president’s crack team of sympathetic listeners is now actually in business, but anonymous sources have revealed to Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball that the immaculate inquisitors are not actually being deployed to deal with Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Last summer, the Obama administration announced that, as a replacement for the Bush administration’s secret CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program, it would create a SWAT-style team of interrogation experts to travel the world squeezing terrorist suspects for vital information. Administration officials say that the interrogation unit, known as the HIG (for High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group) is now operational. But for reasons that are unclear, the administration has not deployed HIG personnel to question Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arguably the most important terrorist suspect captured since the detention of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in spring of 2003.

Mullah Baradar was captured by Pakistani security forces in Karachi earlier this month following a tip-off from U.S. intelligence about a planned meeting involving some of his cohorts. … [S]ome sources say that U.S. intelligence personnel in Pakistan, who are believed to include both CIA and military counterterrorism experts, were not given access to Baradar until more than a week after his capture. Obama administration officials now say that Baradar is talking a little, that U.S. personnel in Pakistan do have access to him, and that any intelligence that has been squeezed out of him has been shared with American representatives.

But five U.S. officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, tell Declassified that the HIG—which the Obama administration has billed as a less-controversial alternative to the Bush administration’s use of secret CIA prisons and “enhanced” interrogation techniques that human rights advocates had described as torture—is not being deployed to participate in the questioning of Mullah Baradar. Some of the officials say they find this puzzling, since Baradar, who before his capture served as the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, is widely believed to possess information that might be very useful to U.S. and allied forces fighting his Taliban comrades in Afghanistan. …

Officials from several government agencies involved in counterterrorism say that the HIG now is operational and that some of its personnel, who are formed into mobile interrogation teams, have already been sent out on highly classified interrogation assignments. But Mullah Baradar’s interrogation is not one of them, the officials affirm. Two of the officials say their understanding was that the reason that HIG personnel had not been sent to question Baradar was because Pakistan’s government was reluctant to allow them to do so. However, two other officials say that the Obama administration did not ask Pakistan for permission to send a HIG team to question Baradar, though these officials would offer no explanation for why the administration would not want to use HIG in this case. A White House official declined to comment on the matter

This leak obviously represents a rejoinder to Obama Administration pious poses regarding enhanced interrogation, drawing Newsweek’s attention to the fact that, since the Obama Administration has forbidden US Intelligence to question captured insurgents rigorously, what do they do when they get a high value prisoner who obviously possesses important information? They don’t rely on their publicly proclaimed policy, or use their shiny new white glove team of nice interrogators. Instead, they turn the prisoner over to the Pakistanis who can get right to work using forms of coercion far beyond anything ever imagined in the Bush Administration playbook.

08 Feb 2010

UAE Rejects Pakistan’s Ambassador For His Name

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The Jerusalem Post is having too much fun with this story which could have come directly from this 4:04 video excerpt from Monty Python’s Life of Bryan (1979).

Hat tip to Norman Zamchek.

03 Feb 2010

CIA Hunting Osama bin Ladin in Baluchistan

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According to a report published late last year in the subscriber-only version (I’m afraid NYM does not have the funding for subscription services) of a certain Israel-based Intelligence rumor mill (generally believed to be connected to Mossad), during the second half of 2009, intelligence reports reached Washington that Osama bin Ladin, along with his staff and security entourage, had crossed the border from Afghanistan into the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

The BBC had reported that Osama Bin Ladin had allegedly been sighted most recently previously by a captured Taliban in the eastern Afghan province of Ghazni in January or February of last year.

Baluchistan is large and sparsely populated, and borders both Afghanistan and Iran. The Bolan Pass offers a direct route from Kandahar.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar is thought to be hiding in Baluchistan along with his staff and shura, despite Pakistani denials. It is generally known, however, that elements of Pakistani intelligence loyal to jihadism have been systematically hiding Taliban leaders and Pashtun insurgents in Baluchistan.

Moving to Baluchistan could have brought bin Ladin into direct contact with the Taliban’s chief leadership.

Baluchistan is really the home of anti-American Islamic terrorism. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef are relatives and are Baluch raised in Kuwait.

It also would have placed bin Ladin for the first time since 2001 with reach of the open sea. If he chose to take ship, bin Ladin could move his base of operations to the Horn of Africa or, even more interestingly, return triumphantly to the Arabian Peninsula to his native Hadhramaut in Yemen to take direct command of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Consequently, the CIA and the pro-Western portion of the Pakistani Intelligence Service are currently intensifying joint operations in Baluchistan attempting finally to kill or capture bin Ladin, Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership, or at the very least to prevent their escape by sea.

17 Dec 2009

Insurgents Have $26 Advantage

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The Wall Street Journal reports on an interesting feat of technical ingenuity by the enemy.

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

15 Oct 2009

Taliban Attacks Targeting Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Bases

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Pakistani Air Force bases. Note nuclear weapons sites Sarghoda and Kamra.

DEBKAfile has rumors of the Taliban targeting the bases containing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: Five days Taliban gunmen and bombers hit Pakistan’s army headquarters in Islamabad and at the same time advanced on the northwestern Kohat road to Peshawar and a cluster of air bases holding its nuclear arsenal around Kamra in the North West Frontier Province.

Thursday, Taliban struck further northeast toward the Kamra nuclear center, aiming to cut it off from Islamabad, 150 kilometers east of Kohat. They have begun encircling the Sargodha air base, the location of nuclear warheads stores. En route, suicide attackers flattened a police station in the Saddar suburb of Kohat town, killing 10 people and wounding 20.

Taliban has stepped up the tempo of its large-scale assaults in an effort to unbalance central government and the military command as they prepare a major offensive against terrorist bastions in South Waziristan.

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This news agency story discusses varying opinions of the security of Pakistan’s estimated 70 to 90 nuclear warheads.

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Bill Roggio has analysis of what is going on.

The spate of attacks at military bases has largely targeted officers, new recruits, and the families of those serving. The Taliban and al Qaeda’s objective may be two-fold: intimidate officers either on the fence or who do not support the Islamists, and erode the military’s capacity to defend nuclear installations if the Taliban and al Qaeda can mount a raid to seize nuclear weapons. While the Pakistani nuclear weapons are under tight security according to the government, US intelligence officials have repeatedly expressed concerned over the safety of Pakistan’s arsenal.

The Taliban’s campaign to take control of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and its strong presence in Quetta and wider Baluchistan Province also plays into the West’s fears over Pakistan’s nuclear program. The Northwest Frontier Province not only serves as a base for the Taliban and al Qaeda Central Command, the territory directly abuts sensitive nuclear sites in the province of Punjab.

10 Oct 2009

Taliban Attack Pakistani Army Headquarters

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Reuters photo


LA Times
:

In a brazen attack on Pakistan’s military nerve center, gunmen disguised in army uniforms broke into the grounds of the country’s army headquarters today, sparking a furious firefight that left four attackers and six military personnel dead.

By late Saturday, the tense scene at the compound had evolved into a hostage crisis. As many as five gunmen remained holed up in a security building and were holding 10 to 15 security officers and civilian workers as hostages, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

The initial attack, which lasted about 90 minutes, illustrated the breadth of the militants’ ability to launch attacks virtually anywhere in the violence-wracked Muslim nation — even the epicenter of its vaunted security establishment.

At about 11:30 a.m., Abbas said, the gunmen drove up in a white Suzuki van to a perimeter checkpoint outside the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjacent to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Armed with automatic rifles, the gunmen opened fire at guards at the checkpoint, jumped out of the van and then took positions outside a second checkpoint about 330 yards down the road. Four of the military personnel killed in the siege died in that initial exchange of gunfire, Abbas said.

Officials said they believed the use of camouflage military uniforms, along with military plates on the van, probably helped the gunmen approach the first checkpoint without an initial reaction from guards. The strategy mirrored the tactics used in a suicide bomb blast at the U.N.’s World Food Program office Monday. In that attack, in which five World Food Program employees were slain, the suicide bomber wore a Pakistani paramilitary police uniform and got by the heavily guarded main entrance by asking for permission to use the restroom.

Once at the second checkpoint Saturday, the militants opened fire again and lobbed grenades at guards. Witnesses said bursts of gunfire continued to ring out for several minutes, punctuated by the sound of grenade blasts. Overhead, Pakistani military helicopters and Cobra gunships hovered.

While the gun battle raged on, some of the Army’s top generals and commanders were trapped inside the compound’s buildings. There were unconfirmed reports that explosives were found in the attackers’ van.

Police and soldiers established a cordon around the gunmen to keep them from fleeing. By early afternoon, security officials reported that four gunmen had been killed. Among the military personnel killed were a brigadier general and a lieutenant colonel responsible for security at the compound, Abbas said.

Early Saturday evening, military officials said they had traced the location of the gunmen at large to a security building within the compound, where they were holding hostage several security officers and civilian employees assigned to the army headquarters. Pakistani commandos surrounded the building, military officials said.

1:16 ITN News video

These kind of contemptible suicide attacks are really the tactic of an impotent and irrational enemy lashing out in a useless and unproductive manner. Except that in the contemporary era, the dominant voice is that of the militarily unsophisticated Western public, in whose eyes a news headline is equivalent to winning a major battle.

Terrorism’s real battlefield is in the reports of the media.

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