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Al Qaeda

Since the 29th June the United States has carried out four unmanned airstrikes:

July 10th: The United States' first unmanned airstrike in two weeks was against a compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Pakistani officials reported that between 10 and 14 'militants' were killed in the strike. However at this time none were believed to be senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures.

July 24th: Several missiles were fired during an unmanned strike against a hideout used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Angora Adda area of South Waziristan. The strike killed 16 Taliban 'militants,' however none were deemed senior operatives.

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Often unreported by the Western media, strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan from unmanned aerial vehicles are a regular occurrence. But this is not a cost-free option, as the suicide bombing that killed 7 CIA operatives showed - and that incident can be linked directly back to networks hit repeatedly in Pakistan.

Many of the strikes are chronicled by our friends at The Long War Journal. Their analysis shows that casualty levels have risen drastically over the last 3 years: 73 Taliban/ Al Qaeda in 2007; 286 Taliban/Al Qaeda and 31 civilians in 2008; 404 Taliban/ Al Qaeda and 43 civilians up to the end of September. Almost all of these took place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.

The purpose of these strikes (many of which are unacknowledged or revealed in Pakistan when "civilians" are killed) is to disrupt Al Qaeda networks and Taliban operations in Afghanistan, plus Pakistani Taliban leaders who threaten that state. It should also be noted that more than 70% of US and NATO supplies pass through Pakistan's north-west provinces.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, U K Defence Forum

On the 13th January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information request asking the US government to disclose the legal basis for the use of predator drones to conduct 'targeted killings.' From the very outset of the war on terror US administrations have used unmanned drones to target and kill terrorists. More recently, use of unmanned drones has expanded within Pakistan. As a result of the expansion of drone activities the ACLU argues that the American public has a right to know whether the programme is compliant with international law. The ACLU is also keen to establish whether the programme seeks to minimise the number of civilian casualties.

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Reviewed by Roger Green

Yemen is an obscure and impoverished country that has for a long time been an enigma to Western countries. Victoria Clark was born in Aden, the daughter of the BBC's South Arabia correspondent, and this accident of birth gave her the motivation to write this eponymous book.  Over the years she has made several visits to the country and has met most of the influential leaders as well as many ordinary people.  She paints a graphic pen picture of the cultural and social heritage of the country.

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Since the 1st February the United States have carried out three airstrikes. The targets were:

2nd February – Five unmanned US strike aircraft are reported to have fired 18 missiles at a camp and vehicles in the village of Datta Khel, North Waziristan. According to the Long War Journal this is the largest recorded US airstrike in Pakistan. This also indicates that top al Qaida, Taliban or Haqqani leaders may have been targeted. Seventeen terrorists were reported killed in the attack. However none of the reported casualties have been al Qaida or Taliban leaders.

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The US airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan may have killed a senior al Qaeda operative. But the reports may be confusing one of al Qaeda's senior-most leaders with a senior explosives trainer and expert.

The attack, launched earlier today at a compound in Spalaga near Mir Ali, killed three al Qaeda operatives, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

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By Scott Stewart

On July 11, 2010, al-Malahim Media, the media arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), published the first edition of its new English-language online magazine "Inspire." The group had tried to release the magazine in late June, but for some reason — whether a technical glitch, virus (as rumored on some of the jihadist message boards) or cyberattack — most of the initial file released was unreadable.

The magazine was produced by someone who has a moderate amount of technological savvy, who speaks English well and who uses a lot of American idioms and phraseology. We did not note any hint of British or South Asian influence in the writing. A government source has suggested to us (and we have seen the claim repeated in the media) that Inspire was produced by a U.S citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia named Samir Khan. Khan is a well-known cyber-jihadist — indeed, The New York Times did an excellent story on Khan in October 2007. Given Khan's background, history of publishing English-language jihadist material and the fact that he reportedly left the United States for Yemen in 2009 and has not returned, it does seem plausible that he is the driving force behind Inspire.

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Since the 17th February the United States have carried out eight airstrikes. The targets were:

February 17th - A Predator attack that targeting a Taliban compound in the village of Tapi near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. The strike killed Sheikh Mansoor, a key al Qaida military leader based in North Waziristan. Pakistani news sources reported that the airstrike left a number of other important militants dead

February 18th – An unmanned US Predator fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, North Waziristan. Four Haqqani Network fighters were initially reported killed, including Mohammed Haqqani, one of twelve sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

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Since the 19th March the United States have carried out five unmanned airstrikes. The targets were:

March 21st: Unmanned Predators and Reapers struck a compound in the village of Inzar, North Waziristan. The targeted compound belonged to a relative of a militant commander. Initial reports indicated that four terrorists were killed. However none of these were reported to be senior al Qaida or Taliban leaders. The Taliban responded to the attacks by killing four "U.S. spies." A note found attached to the bodies stated that:

"Spies are spies, and they will come to the same fate as these men. Do not spy for America."

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Since the 12th April the United States has carried out seven unmanned airstrikes. The targets were:

April 14th: Unmanned predators or reapers fired two Hellfire missiles at a car in the village of Ambor Shagha, Miramshah, North Waziristan. According to Pakistani intelligence sources four militants were killed in the strike and an additional three were wounded. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures have been reported killed in the strike.

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International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan have recently released the following statement:

Three months after the launch of Operation Moshtarak, clear signs of progress are evident throughout central Helmand.

"There are many positive indicators, especially in the areas of development and economic growth," said Major General Nick Carter, commander of ISAF Regional Command (South). "We have roads being built, district centres being reconstructed, and a lot of minor infrastructure projects underway."

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Since the 11th May the United States has carried out three unmanned airstrikes:

15th May: US Predators fired missiles at a Taliban compound and "two truckloads of militants" in the first recorded airstrike with Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency. Between 5 and 15 Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, but none were reported to be senior figures. The location of the attack also remains unclear.

21st May: Unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a Taliban compound in the village of Mohammed Khel, North Waziristan. Reports suggest that between 6 and 10 'terrorists' were killed in the attack. Initially it remained unclear if the casualties were al Qaida, Taliban or other Jihadists operating in the area. No senior figures were reported killed at the time. However on the 31st May As Sahab, al Qaida's propaganda arm, released statement confirming that its chief finance official Mustafa Abu Yazid was killed in the strike. Yazid is considered one of al Qaida's most senior figures. He served as al Qaida's leader in Afghanistan and was identified by the 9/11 Commission as its "chief financial manager." This would have made him responsible for the distribution of funds from al Qaida's treasury.

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Earlier Wednesday, a NATO helicopter providing support to British troops in southern Afghanistan was shot down by Taliban gunners, and military officials said all four American crewmen aboard were killed.

The deaths brought the number of American service members killed in Afghanistan to at least 19 this month, according to icasualties.org, a nongovernmental Web site that tracks war fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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The International Security Assistance Force's strategy for defeating the improvised explosive device threat in Afghanistan can be characterised by three main elements - attacking the system, defeating the device and preparing the force.

Major General Gordon Messenger, the Chief of the Defence Staff's Strategic Communications Officer, and Colonel Peter Smith, Assistant Director of Counter-IED at Land Forces Headquarters, reiterated that the IED menace is being countered through intelligence, training and equipment at a briefing to the media in MOD's Main Building on Thursday 1 July 2010.

Reminding the audience that while improvised explosive devices are far from a new phenomenon and that around 300 are found every month outside Iraq and Afghanistan, Major General Messenger said that it was in Afghanistan that their use had become 'unprecedented'.

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Since the 28th May the United States has carried out seven unmanned airstrikes:

June 10th: U.S. unmanned aircraft targeted a 'sprawling compound' in the village of Norak, North Waziristan, killing three suspected terrorists. Whilst the compound was known to be used by the Taliban no senior figures were reported killed. However on June 17th the Long War Journal reported that two al Qaeda commanders and a Turkish fighter were killed in this attack. The al Qaida casualties were confirmed as Sheikh Inshanullah, an 'Arab al Qaeda commander' and Ibrahim, commander of the Fursan-i-Mohammed Group. All three deaths were confirmed in a statement from Taifatul Mansura Group, a Turkish jihadist organisation operating along the Af-Pak border.

June 11th: Unmanned aircraft attacked two villages in North Waziristan. The airstrike targeted targeted Taliban safe houses in the villages of Bahader Khel and Khaddi, killing eleven and four terrorists respectively. Three 'foreigners' were reported killed in Bahader Khel, and two in Khaddi. The term 'foreigner' is used by Pakistani security forces to describe Arab or Central Asian al Qaida operatives.  No senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures were reported killed at this time.

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As the US administration prepares to put 10 alleged terrorists on trial, 30 more have been released by federal judges because of lack of evidence and 15 federal judges are expecting to hear dozens more challenges to detention in Guantanamo Bay.

There are around 215 detainees still at the US base on Cub. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 4 others will be tried in a federal court. 5 others will go before a military commission – one of whom is alleged to have been behind the attack on the USS Cole.

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During the Peter Nailor Memorial Lecture on defence, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) gave a terse but incisive assessment of the Pakistan/ Al Qaeda situation.

Pakistan is a key ally in the wrongly named "global war on terror" but is manifestly inadequate in fulfilling the role the West would like it to have. Its importance can be shown by the reality that almost every conspiracy heads back to Pakistan and in particular the Federal administered Tribal areas. The Americans are right to focus on AfPak.

Pakistani security is one of the strongest reasons for not leaving Afghanistan quickly. There are problems however resulting from the view of senior Pakistani military officers that India is a bigger threat to their nation than Islamic terrorists.

In this context, a controversial contention is that Al Qaeda is passed its peak and has made a strategic error by focusing on Pakistan this might be evidenced by the lack of unexpected attacks being successful for so long.

It should be noted that US counter-terrorism strategy remains hard line under President Obama. E.g. the approval of targeted killings in Pakistan. Presidential powers seem to be continuing to be used without limitations for interceptions.

Al Qaeda is qualitatively different from "conventional" and historical terrorists. It might be described as non-Clausewitzian. Terrorists are pursuing political goals by means of violence (c.f. Irish Terrorism stretching back into the nineteenth century). Al Qaeda has no realistic political aim; has a disregard for the consequences of its actions; an unlimited interest in violence, an absolute destructiveness amounting to nihilism; but operates in non-negotiable space.

The integrity of the Pakistan nuclear arsenal however, remains a key concern. Security requires that those who develop weapons of mass effect (including nuclear) must not use them and must not pass on the technology. The weapons themselves must not fall into the hands of those the international community would find difficult to restrain or deter. Graham Allison has written that the ultimate terrorist catastrophe is preventable, but requires a tight hold on the bottleneck.

 

By George Friedman

The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase.
The Afghan War's First Three Phases

The first phase of the Afghan War began with the Soviet invasion in December 1979, when the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, organized and sustained Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This resistance was built around mujahideen, fighters motivated by Islam. Washington's purpose had little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with U.S.-Soviet competition. The United States wanted to block the Soviets from using Afghanistan as a base for further expansion and wanted to bog the Soviets down in a debilitating guerrilla war. The United States did not so much fight the war as facilitate it. The strategy worked. The Soviets were blocked and bogged down. This phase lasted until 1989, when Soviet troops were withdrawn.

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By Scott Stewart

STRATFOR is currently putting the finishing touches on a detailed assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the al Qaeda-inspired jihadist franchise in that country. As we got deeper into that project, one of the things we noticed was the group's increasing reliance on criminal activity to fund its operations. In recent months, in addition to kidnappings for ransom and extortion of businessmen — which have been endemic in Iraq for many years — the ISI appears to have become increasingly involved in armed robbery directed against banks, currency exchanges, gold markets and jewelry shops.

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By Alex Shone

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain the primary, physical threat to Coalition soldiers and personnel in Afghanistan. An inexpensive and immensely varied device; they pose a strategic threat to the Coalition mission in Afghanistan perpetuating instability and obstructing international objectives. Counter-IED (CIED) strategy, in theory, targets IEDs are their source to enable interdiction to the 'left of the bang'; meaning literally before they can be emplaced and detonated. However, in reality CIED efforts have played into the insurgents' hands by concentrating on dealing with IEDs once they have been emplaced. This immediate requirement has consumed the lion's share of the finite resources available. CIED strategy needs to return its focus towards interdicting the IEDs before they are emplaced, to the left of the bang.

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