Tag Archive | "CIA"

America’s Secret War “Operation Cobra’s Anger” Expands in Pakistan

PKonweb Monitor

“Operation Cobra’s Anger” - America’s secret war inside Pakistan involves secret drone strikes and covert boots on ground in tribal areas and Balochistan by CIA, Blackwater and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command ).

These outfits are said to be already operating over Pakistan border.

With Obama’s new Afghan policy announced, the said ‘result-oriented’ war has been put in high gear but the adminsitration is not talking about it with much specifity.

The war is escalating fast, says Rachel Maddow on her talk show ‘RACHEL MADDOW SHOW’ on MSNBC on Dec 4.

Watch Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC on Dec 4.

uTube Link to watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KwdKjS8CRo

Posted in Afghanistan, News, Politics, USAComments (1)

Mullah Omar Now in Karachi: WT

LAHORE: Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar has fled Quetta and has found refuge from potential US attacks in Karachi, with assistance of the ISI.

Two senior US intelligence officials and a former senior CIA officer told The Washington Times that Omar traveled to Karachi last month, adding that he inaugurated a new senior leadership council in the city.

The officials were quoted as saying that the ISI helped the Taliban leaders move from Quetta, where they were exposed to attacks by unmanned US drones.

“The development reinforces suspicions that the ISI was working against US interests in Afghanistan as the Obama administration prepares to send more US troops to fight there,” the paper said. CIA veteran Bruce Riedel confirmed that Omar had been spotted in Karachi recently.

“Some sources claim the ISI decided to move him further from the battlefield to keep him safe from US drone attacks.”

The Washinton Times quoted a US counterterrorism official as saying neither Osama Bin Laden nor Al Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri had been spotted in Karachi. He said the top two Al Qaeda figures were still thought to be in the Tribal Areas.

However, a spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Washington, said the US had not provided Pakistan with any credible intelligence regarding Omar’s whereabouts. Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit also denied Omar’s presence in Karachi.

(News sourced from: Daily Times)

Posted in News, Politics, USAComments (0)

US Strike ‘Kills Eight Militants’

A suspected US missile strike has killed at least eight militants in north-western Pakistan, officials said, the second attack this week in an area believed to hold many insurgents who fled from an army offensive elsewhere in the Afghan border region.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told visiting CIA director Leon Panetta that any new US strategy for Afghanistan must take into account Pakistan’s concerns, especially fears that more troops could push militants across the border into Pakistan, according to a statement by Gilani.

The CIA is believed to be behind the more than 40 missile strikes to have hit suspected al-Qaida and Taliban targets over the last year close to the border region.

American officials do not generally acknowledge the attacks, which are unpopular among many in the region.

A US drone fired two missiles at a compound being used by suspected Taliban militants in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, according to two intelligence officials.

The compound was destroyed and eight bodies were pulled from the rubble, the officials said, adding that two other suspected militants were wounded.

The targeted compound in the village of Shakhwadi was owned by two brothers, and Taliban militants were frequently seen visiting the building, which was cordoned off after the missile strike, the officials said.

Ahmed Nawaz Dawar, a local tribesman, said Taliban militants buried those killed and took the wounded to a hospital. Another suspected US missile strike killed three militants and wounded four just after midnight on Thursday in Shana Khuwara village in North Waziristan, officials said.

Anti-American sentiment is pervasive throughout Pakistan. The Pakistani government publicly condemns the US strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.

The US Embassy declined to comment on the CIA director’s visit to the country. American security and government leaders have frequently visited Pakistan in recent weeks to discuss its role in stabilizing Afghanistan as President Barack Obama prepares to announce his decision on strategy and troop levels in the country.

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Investigators Quiz Musharraf Over Bhutto Assassination

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A United Nations commission investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said Tuesday that it met with Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who was in power at the time.
“The Commission of Inquiry had a frank, open and cordial conversation with former President Musharraf, having been able to pose to him many queries on issues central to its mandate,” the group said in a statement.
The statement did not say where the team met with Musharraf.

His spokesman, Nasim Ashraf, told Pakistan’s English-language newspaper, Dawn, that the meeting took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 27.

“While I met the team, I strongly oppose any international probe into Pakistan’s domestic affairs,” Musharraf said in a statement, carried by Dawn.

The U.N. commission arrived in Pakistan in July to look into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Bhutto.

The former prime minister returned home in 2007 from a eight-year self-imposed exile to participate in the country’s general elections.

She was killed at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27 when a bomber blew himself up near her limousine. Videotape showed a gunman firing toward her vehicle as she left the rally.

Musharraf’s government and the CIA contended the killing was orchestrated by Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of the Pakistani Taliban with ties to al Qaeda.

But nationwide polls found that a majority of Pakistanis believe Musharraf’s government was complicit in the assassination.

Following her death, Bhutto’s supporters took to the streets. The ensuing violence caused damage of more than $200 million (12 billion Pakistani rupees) and killed at least 58 people, government officials said.

Her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, went on to win the most number of seats in elections held the following year.

Musharraf resigned. And Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, became president.

Zardari asked the United Nations to look into his wife’s death to try and reconcile inconsistencies of how she died and who was behind the attack.

This, despite an inquiry by London’s Scotland Yard ruled that Bhutto died from the blast and not gunfire.

The U.N. commission said in its statement that it has met with “dozens” of people in the course of its fact-finding mandate.

It is expected to submit a report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by year’s end.

(News sourced from: CNN)

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No Plan for Pakistan - by Rafia Zakaria

By Rafia Zakaria

Since the release of Gen Stanley McChrystal’s report on the US effort in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, pundits and policymakers in Washington D.C. have been waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the war room briefings that have been taking place in the White House.

It was rumoured that the much-awaited decision regarding the provision of an additional 40,000 troops requested by Gen McChrystal, who is the top US commander in Afghanistan, would come in the footsteps of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s acquiescence to holding run-off elections in early November. Yet even as Mr Karzai announced his support for the run-off elections, there was no sign of a decision from President Barack Obama’s camp regarding an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan.

Yet while administration officials ponder the onerous decision of whether to commit thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, there is little sign that anyone in the Obama administration has even been charged with the task of coming up with a strategy for Pakistan. While there has been applause in Washington for the Pakistani military following its recent offensive in Waziristan, there seems to be scant consensus as to what sort of national security dividends the United States expects to reap from the offensive.

One central source of confusion and division in Washington pivots on whether security objectives in the region must be directed towards the Taliban or Al Qaeda. The confusion between the two and the consequent paralysis it has instigated among those constructing Obama’s policy harks back to the fateful campaign slogans that painted Al Qaeda and not the militants among the Iraqis or the Afghans as America’s ‘real’ enemy.

As the Pakistan Army continues its offensive against the Taliban, it is thus this lingering question that once again haunts both the White House and Congress. The perplexity of their dilemma was highlighted at a congressional hearing held last week where military analyst Frederick Kagan insisted that the war against Al Qaeda also meant a war against its allies and proxies (the Taliban) while across town White House press secretary Robert Gibbs played down the threat posed by the Taliban saying: “Their capability is somewhat different (from that of Al Qaeda) on the continuum of transnational threats.”

The uncertainty of how to proceed on Pakistan is compounded by the inability of US analysts to distinguish between its nation-building efforts in Afghanistan — a relatively desolate land that has been ravaged by 30 years of war — and Pakistan, an increasingly urban nation of nearly 170 million, which has elements openly scoffing at US aid. The theme of ‘inter-connection’ of ‘AfPak’ has often misled officials with little geographical or socio-cultural understanding of the difference between the two countries into believing that they are crude extensions of each other.

Hence the assumption that throwing aid towards Pakistan would accomplish similar nation-building goals as has been pursued in Afghanistan and simultaneously buy the goodwill of the people. The vacuity of this superficial recipe was exposed by the public outcry in Pakistan following the Kerry-Lugar bill, when the intractability of buying hearts and minds with aid disbursements came into sharp focus.

Strategic complexities in arriving at a plan for Pakistan are compounded by political complications that arise from President Obama’s core constituency: the American left. Traditionally anti-war, they spent the campaign revelling in the fact that Obama — their dream candidate — had never supported the Iraq war. They thus remain ambivalent regarding the troop build-up in Afghanistan and utterly confounded as to where they should stand on Pakistan.

While some have admittedly come out against the drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed civilians, others are vexed at the possibility that their anti-war president may be dragged to a third front. Their current paralysis and the possibility that they may vehemently oppose an increased troop presence in the region suggest untold political costs for the Obama administration in the upcoming mid-term elections and could lead to further indecision on Pakistan.

In essence, the ongoing military operation launched by the Pakistan Army against the Taliban has effectively exposed a gaping chasm in US policy towards the region. In the months leading up to the recent offensive US officials such as Defence Secretary Robert Gates and even Centcom chief Gen David Petraeus presented a series of cataclysmic pronouncements urging the Pakistan military to take the Taliban threat seriously.

Yet now that the Pakistan Army has done exactly that it seems unclear what the US expects as the end-game of this battle. Its dithering on the issue of whether or not it will choose to have a stronger troop presence in Afghanistan and the confusion regarding whether its efforts will be directed against the Taliban or Al Qaeda represent deepening divisions and unclear objectives.

The conundrum is exacerbated further by the diminishing influence of Obama’s special envoys to the region on policy discussions regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. The sidelining of special envoy Richard Holbrooke from discussions with President Karzai on the issue of run-off elections is yet another example of the fact that those actually negotiating with players in the region are losing crucial ground.

Ultimately, the absence of a cohesive US strategy towards Pakistan beyond urgings

to take the threat of the Taliban seriously is reflective of an omission that is likely to impose both political and strategic costs on the United States. For Pakistan, the war against the Taliban is territorial and directed specifically at gaining back control of specific regions. For the US, the connections drawn between its national security concerns and fighting territorial wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are far more complex.

The evasive logic of these connections has become especially problematic when US policy towards Pakistan is exposed as a lurid hodgepodge of drone attacks, aid packages and diplomatic urgings to fight the Taliban. Given the already fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan, the absence of a comprehensive and clear plan towards the region does little to reassure Pakistanis that their status as American allies will continue in the years to come.

- The writer is an attorney and director at Amnesty International, USA. [email protected]

{Source: Dawn}

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Zardari Meets Musharraf Secretly

NEW YORK: Visiting President Asif Ali Zardari is said to have met former President Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf near New York. President Zardari was on a five-day official visit to the UN. In addition, he had two days stay in New York as “private”.

The most crucial meetings of his visit were held during his private stay. Such meetings have been kept secret as deals were made with the CIA, Pentagon and Musharraf. According to sources, Zardari was escorted out of his Barclay Intercontinental Hotel in New York City and taken to a neighbouring state, known for its natural beauty and rural quiet life. He was taken in a small plane.

Reliable sources told this correspondent that Musharraf also discussed with President Zardari the name of a person whom he wants as successor to Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The would-be successor is said to be a confidant and loyal of Musharraf and he could manipulate the situation to defuse the popular demand for Musharraf trial and help the former dictator in his re-entry into power politics.

According to sources, American patrons of President Zardari and Pervez Musharraf arranged their meeting.However, sources close to the president rejected the report on secret meeting between Zardari and Musharraf. They said President Zardari has no interest in meeting Musharraf. They said it was Zardari’s strategy that forced the former dictator, Musharraf, to quit power. They said Zardari is a democratically elected president and has no love lost for the former dictator. They said the detractors of the incumbent president spread such stories to defame him. President Asif Zardari also had few other meetings with CIA and Pentagon officials during the last two days of his private stay in New York.

{Source: The News}

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Blackwater: Widening the Rift

By Sana Saleem

Conspiracy theories have always had high currency in our part of the world and ritual cynicism towards America is quite usual. Recent reports claiming the presence of CIA’s contractual army – Blackwater – in Pakistan have bolstered concerns within the Pakistani public about US involvement in this country’s affairs. It’s high time, though, that the government came clean with the public about the extent of US involvement in this country’s security affairs.


Blackwater is a private mercenary company which is known to have worked with the CIA on various occasions, including the Iraq war. Rumours claiming that Pakistan is its new home have triggered quite a lot of commotion. It all begin with reports claiming that Blackwater (now known as Xe) had been operating in Pakistan as a vital tool for America’s counterterrorism program.

Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, recently wrote an elaborate piece on the possible involvement of Blackwater inside Pakistan. Scahill talks about the notorious history of the organisation and goes on to suggest that it has been playing a vital role in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2002, acting as a key player in arming drone aircrafts.

Scahill also quotes former employees who claim that Blackwater’s owner, Prince Erik, ‘views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.’ The allegations quite literally portray Blackwater as a Christian Al Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the presence of such a force in Pakistan is disturbingly provocative.

The speculations relate back to last September, when the Marriott Hotel blast occurred in Islamabad. Various reports suggested that an undercover operation by US marines was being planned when the attack happened. However, such allegations have been repeatedly denied.

According to a report in The New York Times, Blackwater has been actively involved in CIA’s counterterrorism program in Pakistan. The group primarily works from hidden bases across the country. So far, Blackwater has only been associated with arming the drones:

[Blackwater contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by C.I.A. employees. They also provide security at the covert bases]

The thought of the CIA hiring a contractual army to arm its drones is baffling. Apart from stirring panic, though, the news reports have not been able to provide any new insights. After all, the claims regarding the drones being parked and armed inside Pakistan has been in the air for quite sometime.

Irrespective of the extent of Blackwater’s work in Pakistan, the list of things being denied by the Pakistani authorities is growing ridiculously long. The possible agreement between Pakistan and the CIA over drones has been dismissed as a speculation far too many times. Not only have the Pakistani authorities gone as far as denying any mutual contract, but have also extended meek condemnations as attacks continued. This has not only incited more anti-American sentiments, but has also raised grave questions about the integrity of the authorities and the military.

The fact is, even as the government continues denying it various dealings with the United States, Pakistanis are becoming more sceptical and harder to convince. A poll conducted by a blog numerates the reaction of people towards the Blackwater conspiracy. Although only about 250 people have participated, the statistics speak for themselves. A significant 87 per cent said they were aware of Blackwater’s reputation; 78 per cent claimed to be aware of the outfit’s presence in Pakistan; 82 per cent believed Blackwater’s purpose is to destabilise Pakistan; and over 91 per cent believe that this is a serious threat to the sovereignty of the country.

The disconnect between the government’s denials and the public’s beliefs are a reminder that the power, rights and concerns of the people have always been underestimated and continue to be neglected. But how long can this go on? The clear rift between the people and the authorities, especially in matters concerning foreign policy, is no secret. Constant negligence reflects the stature of democracy in the country.

Whether Blackwater is established in Pakistan remains a mystery. In the meantime, drone attacks continue to get more aggressive. Regardless of the truth behind the conspiracy, gaining back the Pakistani public’s faith is where the real battle begins. The authorities will either take this opportunity to come clean and stop the double game, or repeat the mistakes of the past. The current situation on the ground in Pakistan demands the government to define the nature, extent, diversity, and commonality of objectives with the US once and for all.

After all, living in a state of denial and mistrust will destabilise Pakistan to a far greater extent than US intervention.

(Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices, Pro-Pakistan her personal blog Mystified Justice. She tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.)

{Source: Dawn}

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Will the US Leave Afghanistan? - by Irfan Asghar

Latterly David Kilcullen has made a prediction that the US will leave Afghanistan after a period of about two years, irrespective of results on the ground. Senator Russ Feingold has also argued that the time has come for the US to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring its troops out of Afghanistan. The senator has urged the administration to step up its efforts and think up a mechanism to have an honourable exit from Afghanistan as it is very difficult to support an open-ended commitment.

Prima facie, the US proclaims that its core goal in Afghanistan is to put Al-Qaeda to rout and dismantle its terrorist infrastructure in order to save itself in particular and other countries of the world in general from the heinous designs and obscurantist tactics of the extremists. And in order to actualise this programme, according to Western diplomats, the US is making a serious bid to build up Afghan security forces and install an effective democratic government so as to restore peace in the country and respond to the needs of the populace. Reportedly, after attaining this ideal objective, the US will leave Afghanistan. But on mature reflection, it comes out that there is more to it than meets the eye. The people across the globe fully know the moral standards of the US and cannot be coaxed into believing that America is doing something to cater to the needs of the Afghan masses at the expense of its treasury and lives of soldiers.

If we dissect the issue and have a microscopic analysis, it comes out loud and clear that in all likelihood, America has no intention to leave Afghanistan in the near future. The mantra of defeating the Al-Qaeda is just a smokescreen. The fact of the matter is that American interests in Afghanistan are of deep strategic nature. As discussed by the writer previously, one does not need to be an Einstein in order to understand that 9/11 was a fabricated drama stage-managed by the CIA to have a moral high ground to enter Afghanistan in the name of self-defence. Actually the subtext was to grab the oil/gas reserves of the Caspian seabed and have an increased access to the resources of the Central Asian states. Afghanistan is a country that is adjacent to Middle Eastern states which are rich in oil/gas. Rivalries for pipeline routes and energy resources are indicative of the competition for power and control in the region. Pipelines have assumed a lot of importance in the international politics as they connect trading partners and influence the regional balance of power. Afghanistan is a strategic piece in the geopolitical struggle for dominance in the region. A big game is underway, with geopolitics having its influence everywhere. Being mindful of the emerging scenarios, US had planned beforehand to be the front-runner for geopolitical dominance by landing its forces in Afghanistan. But, all this did not prove a walk-over for the US as some other powerful nations like Russia managed to throw a spanner in the American works and resultantly, the designs originally conceived by the US got foiled in large part.

However, in consonance with the dramatic shift in the dynamics governing the world, America also has made a change in its objectives. The writer is of the viewpoint that the 21st century belongs to Asia. The West is losing steam at a rapid pace and power is going to knock the door of some Asian powers before long. Keeping this in view, the US has decided to protract its stay in Afghanistan in order to devise various ways to destabilise the whole of the region so as to impair its efficacy to wrest power from the West.

But be that as it may, the US must not be oblivious of the fact that it will be impossibly difficult for it to prolong its stay in ‘the Graveyard of Empires’ as its costs are going through the roof in Afghanistan whereas the outcome remains uncertain. Everybody knows that war is an uncertain business. Between 2001 and 2009, military operations in Afghanistan have burned $200bn of the US treasury. Additionally, if the number of deaths rises, the American public will run out of patience. Resultantly, Obama’s job will become harder. In the wake of launching a major operation in recent months in the Helmand, the US has suffered the highest casualties of the eight-year-old war. Obama must not lose sight of the point that Afghanistan could be for him what Iraq was for Bush or even what Vietnam was for Johnson. It is high time for Obama to lift a major step, reverse the course and leave Afghanistan otherwise it will be next to impossible to save the day.

(The writer is a foreign affairs analyst. E-mail: [email protected])

{Source: The Nation}

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Flushing Blackwater - by Jeremy Scahill

By Jeremy Scahill

Blackwater, the private mercenary company owned by Erik Prince, has been thrust back into the spotlight by a series of stunning revelations about its role in covert US programs. Since at least 2002, Blackwater has worked for the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan on “black” contracts. On August 19, the New York Times revealed that the company was, in fact, a central part of a secret CIA assassination program that Dick Cheney allegedly ordered concealed from Congress. The paper then reported that Blackwater remains a key player in the widening air war in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it arms drone aircraft. These disclosures follow allegations - made under oath by former Blackwater employees - that Prince murdered or facilitated the murder of potential government informants and that he “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”

In addition, Blackwater is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible crimes ranging from weapons smuggling to manslaughter and by the IRS for possible tax evasion. It is being sued in federal courts by scores of Iraqi civilians for alleged war crimes and extrajudicial killings. Two of its men have pleaded guilty to weapons-smuggling charges; another pleaded guilty to the unprovoked manslaughter of an Iraqi civilian, and five others have been indicted on similar counts. The US military is investigating Blackwater’s killing of civilians in Afghanistan in May, and reports are emerging that the company may be implicated in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.

And yet, despite these black marks, the Obama administration continues to keep Blackwater on the government’s payroll. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Blackwater still works for the CIA, the State Department and the Defense Department to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and its continuing presence is an indicator of just how entrenched private corporations are in the US war machinery. The United States now deploys more private forces (74,000) than uniformed soldiers (57,000) in Afghanistan. While the majority of these contractors are not armed, a sizable number carry weapons, and their ranks are swelling. A recent Defense Department census reports that as of June 30, armed DoD contractors in Afghanistan had increased by 20 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

With the exception of a few legislators, notably Representatives Henry Waxman and Jan Schakowsky, Congress has left the use of private military contractors largely unmonitored. But the recent disclosures of Blackwater’s covert activities may finally force Congress to take action. At the very least, the Obama administration should be required to disclose current and past federal contracts with all of Prince’s companies and affiliates, including those registered offshore.

Congress can take Schakowsky’s lead and ask the Obama administration why it is continuing to work with Blackwater. Schakowsky has called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review all of the company’s existing contracts and not to award any new ones to its many affiliates. Congressional intelligence committees should also conduct a wide-ranging investigation into Blackwater’s involvement in the CIA assassination program. Were Blackwater operatives involved in actual killings? Who approved the company’s involvement? Was Congress notified? How high up the chain of command did the covert relationship with the company go? Was Blackwater active on US soil? What role, if any, did/does Blackwater play in secretly transporting prisoners?

This investigation must include the sworn testimony of former top CIA officials who were later hired or paid by Blackwater. Among these are Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, the former number-three man at the agency, who gave Blackwater its first CIA contract and then served on the company’s board, and J. Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism unit, which ran the assassination program. Black later became the vice chair of Blackwater and ran Total Intelligence Solutions, Prince’s private CIA. Total Intelligence has been simultaneously employed by the US government, foreign governments and private companies, an arrangement that may have created conflicts of interest that the House and Senate intelligence committees are obliged to investigate. Congress should also ask if national security is compromised when the knowledge, contacts and access possessed by former high-ranking CIA officials like Black and Krongard are placed on the open market.

John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has questioned whether Blackwater used its State Department clearance as cover to gather information for targeted killings. Kerry should hold hearings in which Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice would be compelled to testify on the matter. The oversight committees should probe allegations that Blackwater was involved in arms smuggling and extrajudicial killings in Iraq, while committees dealing with military affairs should investigate what impact Blackwater’s actions in Iraq have had on the safety of US troops. An invaluable asset for these investigations could be the Commission on Wartime Contracting, established by Senators Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill. Finally, the Justice Department should probe the murder, smuggling and other allegations against Prince and his executives.

In all of this, Blackwater has proved itself to be a whack-a-mole: it keeps popping up. Despite the Iraqi government’s ban on the company, its operatives remain in Iraq a full two years after the September 2007 Nisour Square massacre, in which seventeen Iraqi civilians were gunned down in Baghdad. This resilience means that the investigations into the company must be comprehensive and coordinated.

Lastly, it is a mistake to think that Blackwater is the only problem. In Iraq, for example, the Obama administration is replacing Blackwater with the private contractor Triple Canopy, which, in addition to hiring some of Blackwater’s men, has its own questionable history, including allegations of shooting civilians and hiring forces from countries with a history of human rights abuses. Blackwater is but one fruit on the poisonous tree of military outsourcing. It is imperative that Congress confront the intimate linking of corporate profits to US wars and lethal, covert operations.

{Source: truthout}

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Gen Hamid Gul: Dangerous to Whom?

By Jeremy R. Hammond
Foreign Policy Journal

Ex-ISI Chief Says Purpose of New Afghan Intelligence Agency RAMA is to destabilize Pakistan

In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy Journal, retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul responds to charges that he supports terrorism, discusses 9/11 and ulterior motives for the war on Afghanistan, claims that the U.S., Israel, and India are behind efforts to destabilize Pakistan, and charges the U.S. and its allies with responsibility for the lucrative Afghan drug trade.

Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1987 to 1989, during which time he worked closely with the CIA to provide support for the mujahedeen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Though once deemed a close ally of the United States, in more recent years his name has been the subject of considerable controversy. He has been outspoken with the claim that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were an “inside job”. He has been called “the most dangerous man in Pakistan”, and the U.S. government has accused him of supporting the Taliban, even recommending him to the United Nations Security Council for inclusion on the list of international terrorists.

In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy Journal, I asked the former ISI chief what his response was to these allegations. He replied, “Well, it’s laughable I would say, because I’ve worked with the CIA and I know they were never so bad as they are now.” He said this was “a pity for the American people” since the CIA is supposed to act “as the eyes and ears” of the country. As for the charge of him supporting the Taliban, “it is utterly baseless. I have no contact with the Taliban, nor with Osama bin Laden and his colleagues.” He added, “I have no means, I have no way that I could support them, that I could help them.”

Then Maj. Gen. Hamid Gul, Director General of the ISI (far left), with William Webster, Director of Central Intelligence, Clair George, Deputy Director for Operations, and Milt Bearden, CIA station chief, at a training camp for the mujahedeen in Pakistans North-West Frontier Province in 1987. (RAWA)

Then Maj. Gen. Hamid Gul, Director General of the ISI (far left), with William Webster, Director of Central Intelligence, Clair George, Deputy Director for Operations, and Milt Bearden, CIA station chief, at a training camp for the mujahedeen in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province in 1987. (RAWA)

After the Clinton administration’s failed attempt to assassinate Osama bin Laden in 1998, some U.S. officials alleged that bin Laden had been tipped off by someone in Pakistan to the fact that the U.S. was able to track his movements through his satellite phone. Counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council Richard Clarke said, “I have reason to believe that a retired head of the ISI was able to pass information along to Al Qaeda that the attack was coming.” And some have speculated that this “retired head of the ISI” was none other than Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul.

When I put this charge to him, General Gul pointed out to me that he had retired from the ISI on June 1, 1989, and from the army in January, 1992. “Did you share this information with the ISI?” he asked. “And why haven’t you taken the ISI to task for parting this information to its ex-head?” The U.S. had not informed the Pakistan army chief, Jehangir Karamat, of its intentions, he said. So how could he have learned of the plan to be able to warn bin Laden? “Do I have a mole in the CIA? If that is the case, then they should look into the CIA to carry out a probe, find out the mole, rather than trying to charge me. I think these are all baseless charges, and there’s no truth in it…. And if they feel that their failures are to be rubbed off on somebody else, then I think they’re the ones who are guilty, not me.”

General Gul turned our conversation to the subject of 9/11 and the war on Afghanistan. “You know, my position is very clear,” he said. “It’s a moral position that I have taken. And I say that America has launched this aggression without sufficient reasons. They haven’t even proved the case that 9/11 was done by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.” He argued that “There are many unanswered questions about 9/11,” citing examples such as the failure to intercept any of the four planes after it had become clear that they had been hijacked. He questioned how Mohammed Atta, “who had had training on a light aircraft in Miami for six months” could have maneuvered a jumbo jet “so accurately” to hit his target (Atta was reportedly the hijacker in control of American Airlines Flight 11, which was the first plane to hit its target, striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am). And he made reference to the flight that hit the Pentagon and the maneuver its pilot had performed, dropping thousands of feet while doing a near 360 degree turn before plowing into its target. “And then, above all,” he added, “why have no heads been rolled? The FBI, the CIA, the air traffic control — why have they not been put to question, put to task?” Describing the 9/11 Commission as a “cover up”, the general added,

“I think the American people have been made fools of. I have my sympathies with them. I like Americans. I like America. I appreciate them. I’ve gone there several times.”

At this point in our discussion, General Gul explained how both the U.S. and United Kingdom stopped granting him an entry visa. He said after he was banned from the U.K.,

I wrote a letter to the British government, through the High Commissioner here in Islamabad, asking ‘Why do you think that — if I’m a security risk, then it is paradoxical that you should exclude me from your jurisdiction. You should rather nab me, interrogate me, haul me up, take me to the court, whatever you like. I mean, why are you excluding me from the U.K., it’s not understandable.’ I did not receive a reply to that.”

He says he sent a second letter inviting the U.K. to send someone to question him in Pakistan, if they had questions about him they wanted to know. If the U.S. wants to include him on the list of international terrorists, Gul reasons, “I am still prepared to let them grant me the visa. And I will go…. If they think that there is something very seriously wrong with me, why don’t you give me the visa and catch me then?”

‘They lack character’

I turned to the war in Afghanistan, observing that the ostensible purpose for the war was to bring the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, to justice. And yet there were plans to overthrow the Taliban regime that predated 9/11. The FBI does not include the 9/11 attacks among the crimes for which bin Laden is wanted. After the war began, General Tommy Franks responded to a question about capturing him by saying, “We have not said that Osama bin Laden is a target of this effort.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, similarly said afterward, “Our goal has never been to get bin Laden.” And President George W. Bush himself said, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” These are self-serving statements, obviously, considering the failure to capture bin Laden. But what, I asked General Gul, in his view, were the true reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan, and why the U.S. is still there?

“A very good question,” he responded. “I think you have reached the point precisely.” It is a “principle of war,” he said, “that you never mix objectives. Because when you mix objectives then you end up with egg on your face. You face defeat. And here was a case where the objectives were mixed up. Ostensibly, it was to disperse al Qaeda, to get Osama bin Laden. But latently, the reasons for the offensive, for the attack on Afghanistan, were quite different.”

Major General Hamid Gul, Former Director General of the ISI

Major General Hamid Gul, Former Director General of the ISI

First, he says, the U.S. wanted to “reach out to the Central Asian oilfields” and “open the door there”, which “was a requirement of corporate America, because the Taliban had not complied with their desire to allow an oil and gas pipeline to pass through Afghanistan. UNOCAL is a case in point. They wanted to keep the Chinese out. They wanted to give a wider security shield to the state of Israel, and they wanted to include this region into that shield. And that’s why they were talking at that time very hotly about ‘greater Middle East’. They were redrawing the map.”

Second, the war “was to undo the Taliban regime because they had enforced Shariah”, or Islamic law, which, “in the spirit of that system, if it is implemented anywhere, would mean an alternative socio-monetary system. And that they would never approve.”

Third, it was “to go for Pakistan’s nuclear capability”, something that used to be talked about “under their lip”, “but now they are openly talking about”. This was the reason the U.S. “signed this strategic deal with India, and this was brokered by Israel. So there is a nexus now between Washington, Tel Aviv, and New Delhi.”

While achieving some of these aims, “there are many things which are still left undone,” he continued, “because they are not winning on the battlefield. And no matter what maps you draw in your mind, no matter what plans you make, if you cannot win on the battlefield, then it comes to naught. And that is what is happening to America.”

“Besides, the American generals, I have a professional cudgel with them,” Gul added. “They lack character. They know that a job cannot be done, because they know —I cannot believe that they didn’t realize that the objectives are being mixed up here — they could not stand up to men like Rumsfeld and to Dick Cheney. They could not tell them. I think they cheated the American nation, the American people. This is where I have a problem with the American generals, because a general must show character. He must say that his job cannot be done. He must stand up to the politicians. But these generals did not stand up to them.”

As a further example of the lack of character in the U.S. military leadership, the General Gul cited the “victory” in Iraq. “George Bush said that it was a victory. That means the generals must have told him ‘We have won!’ They had never won. This was all bunkum, this was all bullshit.”

Segueing back to Afghanistan, he continued: “And if they are now saying that with 17,000 more troops they can win in Afghanistan — or even double that figure if you like — they cannot. Now this is a professional opinion I am giving. And I will give this sound opinion for the good of the American people, because I am a friend of the American people and that is why I always say that your policies are flawed. This is not the way to go.” Furthermore, the war is “widely perceived as a war against Islam. And George Bush even used the word ‘Crusade.’” This is an incorrect view, he insisted. “You talk about clash of civilizations. We say the civilizations should meet.”

Alluding once more to the U.S. charges against him, he added, “And if they think that my criticism is tantamount to opposition to America, this is totally wrong, because there are lots of Americans themselves who are not in line with the American policies.” He had warned early on, he informed me, including in an interview with Rod Nordland in Newsweek immediately following the 9/11 attacks, that the U.S. would be making a mistake to go to war. “So, if you tell somebody, ‘Don’t jump into the well!’ and that somebody thinks you are his enemy, then what is it that you can say about him?”

‘This state of anger is being fueled’

I turned the conversation towards the consequences of the war in Afghanistan on Pakistan, and the increased extremist militant activities within his own country’s borders, where the Pakistani government has been at war with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistan Taliban). I observed that the TTP seemed well funded and supplied and asked Gul how the group obtains financing and arms.

He responded without hesitation. “Yeah, of course they are getting it from across the Durand line, from Afghanistan. And the Mossad is sitting there, RAW is sitting there — the Indian intelligence agency — they have the umbrella of the U.S. And now they have created another organization which is called RAMA. It may be news to you that very soon this intelligence agency — of course, they have decided to keep it covert — but it is Research and Analysis Milli Afghanistan. That’s the name. The Indians have helped create this organization, and its job is mainly to destabilize Pakistan.”

General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, former Deputy Minister of Defense of the Northern Alliance under Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army since 2002 — “whom I know very well”, General Gul told me — “had gone to India a few days back, and he has offered bases to India, five of them: three on the border, the eastern border with Pakistan, from Asadabad, Jalalabad, and Kandhar; one in Shindand, which is near Heart; and the fifth one is near Mazar-e Sharif. So these bases are being offered for a new game unfolding there.” This is why, he asserted, the Indians, despite a shrinking economy, have continued to raise their defense budget, by 20 percent last year and an additional 34 percent this year.

He also cited as evidence of these designs to destabilize Pakistan the U.S. Predator drone attacks in Waziristan, which have “angered the Pathan people of that tribal belt. And this state of anger is being fueled. It is that fire that has been lit, is being fueled, by the Indian intelligence from across the border. Of course, Mossad is right behind them. They have no reason to be sitting there, and there’s a lot of evidence. I hope the Pakistan government will soon be providing some of the evidence against the Indians.”

The killing of Baitullah Mehsud

Several days after I had first spoken with General Gul, the news hit the headlines that the leader of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, had been killed by a CIA drone strike. So I followed up with him and asked him to comment about this development. “When Baitullah Mehsud and his suicide bombers were attacking Pakistan armed forces and various institutions,” he said, “at that time, Pakistan intelligence were telling the Americans that Baitullah Mehsud was here, there. Three times, it has been written by the Western press, by the American press — three times the Pakistan intelligence tipped off America, but they did not attack him. Why have they now announced — they had money on him — and now attacked and killed him, supposedly? Because there were some secret talks going on between Baitullah Mehsud and the Pakistani military establishment. They wanted to reach a peace agreement, and if you recall there is a long history of our tribal areas, whenever a tribal militant has reached a peace agreement with the government of Pakistan, Americans have without any hesitation struck that target.” Among other examples, the former ISI chief said “an agreement in Bajaur was about to take place” when, on October 30, 2006, a drone struck a madrassa in the area, an attack “in which 82 children were killed”.

“So in my opinion,” General Gul continued, “there was some kind of a deal which was about to be arrived at — they may have already cut a deal. I don’t know. I don’t have enough information on that. But this is my hunch, that Baitullah was killed because now he was trying to reach an agreement with the Pakistan army. And that’s why there were no suicide attacks inside Pakistan for the past six or seven months.”

‘Very, very disturbing indeed’

Turning the focus of our discussion to the Afghan drug problem, I noted that the U.S. mainstream corporate media routinely suggest that the Taliban is in control of the opium trade. However, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Anti-Government Elements (or AGEs), which include but are not limited to the Taliban, account for a relatively small percentage of the profits from the drug trade. Two of the U.S.’s own intelligence agencies, the CIA and the DIA, estimate that the Taliban receives about $70 million a year from the drugs trade. That may seem at first glance like a significant amount of money, but it’s only about two percent of the total estimated profits from the drug trade, a figure placed at $3.4 billion by the UNODC last year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has just announced its new strategy for combating the drug problem: placing drug traffickers with ties to insurgents —and only drug lords with ties to insurgents — on a list to be eliminated. The vast majority of drug lords, in other words, are explicitly excluded as targets under the new strategy. Or, to put it yet another way, the U.S. will be assisting to eliminate the competition for drug lords allied with occupying forces or the Afghan government and helping them to further corner the market.

I pointed out to the former ISI chief that Afghan opium finds its way into Europe via Pakistan, via Iran and Turkey, and via the former Soviet republics. According to the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, convoys under General Rashid Dostum — who was reappointed last month to his government position as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan National Army by President Hamid Karzai — would truck the drugs over the border. And President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been accused of being a major drug lord. So I asked General Gul who was really responsible for the Afghan drug trade.

“Now, let me give you the history of the drug trade in Afghanistan,” his answer began …

“Before the Taliban stepped into it, in 1994 — in fact, before they captured Kabul in September 1996 — the drugs, the opium production volume was 4,500 tons a year. Then gradually the Taliban came down hard upon the poppy growing. It was reduced to around 50 tons in the last year of the Taliban. That was the year 2001. Nearly 50 tons of opium produced. 50. Five-zero tons. Now last year the volume was at 6,200 tons. That means it has really gone one and a half times more than it used to be before the Taliban era.” He pointed out, correctly, that the U.S. had actually awarded the Taliban for its effective reduction of the drug trade. On top of $125 million the U.S. gave to the Taliban ostensibly as humanitarian aid, the State Department awarded the Taliban $43 million for its anti-drug efforts. “Of course, they made their mistakes,” General Gul continued. “But on the whole, they were doing fairly good. If they had been engaged in meaningful, fruitful, constructive talks, I think it would have been very good for Afghanistan.”

Referring to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, General Gul told me in a later conversation that Taliban leader,

“Mullah Omar was all the time telling that, look, I am prepared to hand over Osama bin Laden to a third country for a trial under Shariah. Now that is where — he said [it] twice — and they rejected this. Because the Taliban ambassador here in Islamabad, he came to me, and I asked him,

‘Why don’t you study this issue, because America is threatening to attack you. So you should do something’.

“He said,

‘We have done everything possible …. I was summoned by the American ambassador in Islamabad’ — I think Milam was the ambassador at that time — and I said, ‘Look, produce the evidence’. But he did not show me anything other than cuttings from the newspapers. I said, ‘Look, we can’t accept this as evidence, because it has to stand in a court of law. You are prepared to put him on trial. You can try him in the United Nations compound in Kabul, but it has to be a Shariah court because he’s a citizen under Shariah law. Therefore, we will not accept that he should be immediately handed over to America, because George Bush has already said that he wants him ‘dead or alive’, so he’s passed the punishment, literally, against him’.”

(*Note: The quotes above have been edited by Axis of Logic for clarity. Compare wih the original below this article.)

Referring to the U.S. rejection of the Taliban offer to try bin Laden in Afghanistan or hand him over to a third country, General Gul added, “I think this is a great opportunity that they missed.”

Returning to the drug trade, General Gul named the brother of President Karzai, Abdul Wali Karzai. “Abdul Wali Karzai is the biggest drug baron of Afghanistan,” he stated bluntly. He added that the drug lords are also involved in arms trafficking, which is “a flourishing trade” in Afghanistan. “But what is most disturbing from my point of view is that the military aircraft, American military aircraft are also being used. You said very rightly that the drug routes are northward through the Central Asia republics and through some of the Russian territory, and then into Europe and beyond. But some of it is going directly. That is by the military aircraft. I have so many times in my interviews said, ‘Please listen to this information, because I am an aware person.’ We have Afghans still in Pakistan, and they sometimes contact and pass on the stories to me. And some of them are very authentic. I can judge that. So they are saying that the American military aircraft are being used for this purpose. So, if that is true, it is very, very disturbing indeed.”

Foreign Policy Journal

*Edited paragraph: Referring to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, General Gul told me in a later conversation that Taliban leader “Mullah Omar was all the time telling that, look, I am prepared to hand over Osama bin Laden to a third country for a trial under Shariah. Now that is where — he said [it] twice — and they rejected this. Because the Taliban ambassador here in Islamabad, he came to me, and I asked him, ‘Why don’t you study this issue, because America is threatening to attack you. So you should do something.’ He said, ‘We have done everything possible.’ He said, ‘I was summoned by the American ambassador in Islamabad’ — I think Milam was the ambassador at that time — and he told me that ‘I said, “Look, produce the evidence.” But he did not show me anything other than cuttings from the newspapers.’ He said, ‘Look, we can’t accept this as evidence, because it has to stand in a court of law. You are prepared to put him on trial. You can try him in the United Nations compound in Kabul, but it has to be a Shariah court because he’s a citizen under Shariah law. Therefore, we will not accept that he should be immediately handed over to America, because George Bush has already said that he wants him “dead or alive”, so he’s passed the punishment, literally, against him.” Referring to the U.S. rejection of the Taliban offer to try bin Laden in Afghanistan or hand him over to a third country, General Gul added, “I think this is a great opportunity that they missed.”

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Blackwater Arming US Drones for CIA: NYT

According to a New York Times report, the Blackwater private security firm (now known as Xe) has taken up a role in America’s most important and contentious counterterrorism program: the use of unmanned drones to kill al-Qaeda leaders.

These operations are being executed from hidden basis inside Pakistan and Afghanistan where Blackwater’s contractors gather and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely operated Predator aircraft, the NYT quotes company and government officials as saying.

Previously this was done by CIA employees. Now, Blackwater employees also provide security at these bases, the officials said.

Blackwater’s role in the program shows the extent to which the CIA now depends on independent, private contractors to carry out some of the agency’s most crucial assignments.

A CIA spokesman declined comment.

On Thursday, the NYT reported that the CIA has hired Blackwater in 2004 as part of a secret program to local and assassinate top al-Qaeda leaders.

Later on Thursday, current and former government officials provided new information regarding Blackwater’s links with the assassination program which began in 2004. Soon after, Porter Goss took over the CIA.

The officials however said the CIA did not dispatch Blackwater operatives with a ‘license to kill’. Instead, the CIA ordered the contractors to start collecting information on the leaders’ whereabouts, carry out surveillance and train for missions that may be likely.

‘The actual pulling of a trigger in some ways is the easiest part, and the part that requires the least expertise,’ said one government official familiar with the cancelled CIA program. ‘It’s everything that leads up to it that’s the meat of the issue.’

Any such measure of capturing or killing militants was to be approved by the CIA director and presented to the White House before being carried out, officials told the New York Times.

The program was however cancelled by the agency’s current director Leon Panetta who had also informed the Congress of the program’s existence in a meeting in June.

The details of the business between CIA and Blackwater have largely been hidden, but its contract with the State Department to provide security to US officials in Iraq has been intensely scrutinised.

Blackwater lost its job in Iraq this year after five of its employees were involved in shootings in 2007 that left more than a dozen Iraqis dead. However, Blackwater still has other, less prominent State Department work.

Five former Blackwater guards have already been indicted on charges regarding the 2007 Iraq shootings.

A Blackwater (Xe) spokeswoman declined to comment over the role of the company with regard to these cases.

The company’s intelligence work is carried out by Blackwater Select, a special division of Blackwater.

Blackwater’s first principal contract with the CIA was signed in 2002. It entailed providing security for the agency’s Kabul station.

Blackwater operatives assigned to the Predator bases are trained at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. They are taught how to load Hellfire missiles and laser-guided smart bombs on the drones, current and former employees say.

The agency has for many years operated Predator drones out of a remote base in Shamsi, Pakistan. However, a second site at an air base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan has been secretly added, company and US government officials said.

The existence of the Predator base in Jalalabad has not previously been reported, the New York Times said.

Meanwhile, now the CIA conducts most of its Predator drone strikes on targets in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region from the Jalalabad base, with drones landing or taking off almost hourly. The base in Pakistan is still in use.

Officials say the US decided to open the Afghanistan operation partly because of the possibility that the Pakistani government, facing growing anti-US sentiment at home, might force the CIA to close the one in Pakistan.

Blackwater is not involved in selecting targets or actual strikes, the NYT says. Targets are selected by the CIA. However, only a handful of the agency’s operatives actually work at the Predator bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Blackwater’s current and former employees say the company’s direct role in these operations has occasionally led to disputes with the agency. When a drone misses a target, CIA operatives accuse Blackwater of poor bomb assembly, they say. In one instance in 2008 a 500-pound bomb dropped off a drone before hitting the target. That lead to a frantic search for the unexploded bomb in the Pak-Afghan border region. The bomb was eventually found about 100 yards from the actual target.

The role of contractors in intelligence operations expanded after September 11 as intelligence agencies had to fill gaps created by reduced work forces during the 1990s.

At this point, more than a quarter of the intelligence community’s work force constitutes of contractors who carry out tasks of intelligence gathering and analysis, and until recently, terrorist suspects’ interrogation.

‘There are skills we don’t have in government that we may have an immediate requirement for,’ Michael Hayden, who ran the CIA from 2006 until early this year, said.

Hayden, who succeeded Goss at the agency, recognised that the CIA program continued under his watch. He said the program was never ‘prominent’, which was one reason he did not notify Congress. He said it did not engage private contractors by the time he came in.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who presides over the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the agency should have notified Congress in any event.

‘Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress,’ she said. ‘If they are not, that is a violation of the law.’

{Source: Dawn}

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Beyond Baitullah - by Shaukat Qadir

The support that Al Qaeda provided to Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP is likely to dry up. Which implies that when and if high value targets are subjected to attacks, they are likely to be less damaging and may even be less frequently successful

On August 5, an American drone targeted the house of Maulana Ikramuddin, Baitullah Mehsud’s father-in-law, killing Baitullah, his second wife and three others. It took two days after the attack for his death to be announced. If he was a CIA agent, as many among the Mehsuds believe, he had finally outlived his utility.

Let us first examine how Baitullah was different from the other Taliban. I have, in the past, attempted to explain that the tribes bordering Afghanistan — Mehsuds, Wazirs, and Mohmands — revolted against their traditional tribal leadership and the Pakistan government after the US invaded Afghanistan, since both the tribal leadership and the Pakistan government did not want these tribes to get involved in the Afghan struggle against US occupation. Thus this revolt at two levels threw up a new leadership in these tribes. Baitullah was a product of this revolt.

In 2007, Baitullah formed the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan and attempted to unite all Taliban groups under his leadership. However, neither the Wazirs nor the Mohmands nor even Fazlullah in Swat accepted him as their leader. He did, however, at that stage, enjoy considerable support within his tribe.

This was the period when Pervez Musharraf was still domestically selling the line that ‘we have been forced into fighting America’s war’; while taking the occasional step against terrorism to pacify the gullible Bush administration. This was also the period when the Lal Masjid episode, the judicial crisis, and the declaration of emergency had diminished Musharraf’s authority, spreading uncertainty in the rank and file of the army, causing large number of forces to surrender to a handful of Taliban; thus strengthening Baitullah et al.

This year also witnessed Al Qaeda’s announcement that Pakistan had replaced the US as its enemy number one. Meanwhile, the Wazirs, under Maulvi Nazir, were fighting pitched battles to oust foreigners from their area; mostly Tajiks and Uzbeks, with a smattering of others. At this stage, Baitullah decided to take up Al Qaeda’s call and, instead of fighting against the US occupation of Afghanistan, took on the Pakistani state.

He began by welcoming all foreigners to his area. He also received assistance from Al Qaeda to set up training schools, run by his aides Hakeemullah and Qari Hussain, for potential suicide bombers. Al Qaeda also provided ‘advisers’ who helped plan attacks in meticulous detail.

While the influx of foreigners and his decision to target Pakistan steadily diminished the support from his own tribe, Baitullah seemed to be rolling in dollars, was reputedly in possession of the best communication and communications monitoring equipment available, as well as the most sophisticated weaponry. In addition, while he took foreigners under his wing, they undertook his protection. What is more, he replenished his stock of suicide bombers with volunteers from Southern Punjab. At the last estimate, there were over two thousand of these; trained or under training.

A less publicised fact is that on the day of his death, a delegation from the Mehsud tribe came to Islamabad to meet with government officials, seeking internally displaced persons status for thousands of families from the Mehsud tribe, people who opposed Baitullah’s attacks on Pakistan and who wanted to escape before military operations began in their area, just as residents of Swat did. I gather that these included a number of erstwhile supporters of Baitullah who were willing to provide information in return for amnesty.

Official reports say that during a dispute that erupted at a meeting to decide Baitullah’s succession, one of his aides, Hakeemullah, was killed. This was but natural, and is probably true. On August 16, a group of Wazirs was attacked and seventeen of them killed; ironically, they were returning from a raid on pro-US forces in Afghanistan. Turkistan Bittani, one of Baitullah’s rivals still surviving, has accused Baitullah’s group and reported Maulvi Nazir, leader of the Wazir TTP. While the Wazirs are not certain who attacked them, most of them are convinced that they were ambushed by Uzbeks and Tajiks, who had been under Baitullah’s protection and were returning to Afghanistan after his death. They believe this was their parting revenge for the Uzbeks killed by the Wazirs since 2007.

Although it is rumoured that Maulvi Nazir is among the dead, I tend to believe the (other) rumour that he is seriously injured and might not survive.

In any case, Baitullah is no more. His tribe no longer finds foreigners acceptable, nor are they willing to accept the supremacy of any of his aides; Hakeemullah, Waliullah, or Qari Hussain. None of them can bring in Baitullah’s wealth, weapons, or support from Al Qaeda.

So, what implications does this have for our future?

Like I stated in an earlier article, if there are only five thousand trained and committed suicide bombers left and they carry out only one attack daily, it will take almost fifteen years for them to end. Consequently, suicide attacks are something we are destined to live with, for quite some time to come.

However, the support that Al Qaeda provided to Baitullah’s TTP is likely to dry up. Which implies that when and if high value targets are subjected to attacks, they are likely to be less damaging and may even be less frequently successful. It also implies that the mechanism that was churning out these killing machines is likely to slow down in the immediate future and dry up soon thereafter.

It also means that while the freedom struggle against US occupation is unlikely to diminish in intensity, military operations in Waziristan may not even be necessary. If it is still necessary, it is likely to be a far easier operation than it would have been were Baitullah alive and supported by his foreign troops.

Has the tide turned? The anti-Taliban feeling in mainland Pakistan seems to have become more unanimous than the anti-American feeling. Rebel tribesmen are feeling the heat and, it is very possible that soon, bodies of ex-Taliban might start turning up in Waziristan like they are doing in Swat.

I am no supporter of vigilantes, but it seems that they might well replace the Taliban, unless the government acts, and acts very soon, to fill the administrative vacuum of law enforcement. Otherwise, we may next have to battle the vigilantes if we defeat the Taliban.

This article is a modified version of one originally written for the daily ‘National’. The writer is a former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Insititute (IPRI)

{Source: Daily Times}

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