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.
By Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal gives a daily commentary on the progress of the Pakistan army in South Waziristan. Here are the headlines : Read the full stories here : http://www.longwarjournal.org
Pakistani troops advance on Uzbek stronghold in South Waziristan - October 29, 2009
Soldiers are close to surrounding the town of Kanigoram, the scene of two Predator strikes this year. The passport of an al Qaeda operative involved in the 9/11 attacks has been found by the military at a camp in Sherwangi.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
The big story of the week is obviously the WikiLeaks one about the 91,000 pages of documents, which we cover in depth elsewhere. This is a constantly moving story, with the latest twist being that despite WikiLeaks protestations, it does appear that the names of Afghan co-operators are obvious for all to see, and therefore their safety, and by extension that of the IFOR mission, is at risk.
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.
Afghan News Roundup: February 2013 compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service
Going home and what to carry, dib-dib in Dari, behind the veil and on the catwalk, electronic update for Kabul.
New stories about Afghanistan centre on the logistics - and foreign policy implications - of shipping home the matérial of a decade of warfighting, and the uncertainty and anxiety left behind. Finding good or even just ‘normal’ news away from the frontline feels more and more like mood music on the Titanic. Most news agencies are giving huge attention to the success of the low budget documentary, Buzkashi Boys. Of which, absolutely nothing below.
The full text of the Prime Minister's Statement on sending extra troops to Afghanistan can be read below:
With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on Afghanistan and Pakistan;
First on our work with the government of Pakistan to counter the terrorist threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban
Second on our priorities for Afghanistan in the next stage of the work our armed forces and civilians are undertaking there.
And third on the conditions we are setting down for the next stage, including for the best possible protection of our troops, especially against the growing threat of IEDS.
By Bill Roggio, who reports daily in The Long War Journal
Anti Taliban mayor and 12 other s killed near Peshawar
Bombing in Charsadda kills 24 , 3rd attack in north west in 3 days
Ten Pakistani paramilitary troops and 10 Taliban fighters were killed during clashes in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Mohmand. 8 missing.
Twelve Pakistanis have been reported killed and more than 40 wounded in an attack that targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency in the provincial capital. A second suicide attack killed five at a police station in Baka Khel, Bannu, NWFP.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org
By Nikos Lampas
A rather wide discussion takes place these days, due to the fact of the ongoing Nuclear Summit in D.C, regarding the possibility of a nuclear attack originating from non-state actors. The international community in general seems to come in terms with the possibility of terrorist organizations mounting an attack of non-conventional nature. The recent statement of President Obama that "the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon," clearly enhances the insecurity that states experience regarding the dimensions of the terrorist threat. Many analysts, including highly esteemed scholars such as Sam Nunn, precipitate the insecurity that states feel by adding, "President Obama is focusing high-level attention on the threat that already exists out there, and that's tremendously important." A fundamental belief that permeates the ongoing summit is that "its key objective is to get basic consensus that nuclear terrorism is a global threat -- and needs to be a core mission of the IAEA".
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.
Recent American and South Korean intelligence reports speculate that North Korea may be preparing for its first nuclear tests since 2009. Satellite images show that North Korea has dug an 800 metre tunnel at its test site at Punggye-ri. Experts believe that the tunnel will be ready for a nuclear test when it reaches 1 kilometre, which South Korea believes may occur in early April.
Adam Dempsey, Research Associate for the UK Defence Forum, has recently undertaken a study of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. His report outlines the development of Pyongyang's programme and ballistic missile capabilities.
In keeping with many aspects of North Korean life, Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme is shrouded in secrecy and subject to speculation. Official estimates of North Korea's programme are varied and remain primarily reliant on open-source intelligence. To complicate matters, Pyongyang's nuclear missile development may have benefitted from illegal exchanges involving the A.Q. Khan network.
Adam's full report is available here.
By Ben West
Indian Maoist militants, known as Naxalites, have been meeting with members of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to the director-general of police for India's Chhattisgarh state. Based on information from a police source, state police chief Vishwa Ranjan said Nov. 11 that two LeT operatives attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May. While their presence at the meeting still needs to be corroborated, the chief said, it appears very likely that the Naxalites held the meeting to adopt a new policy and plans for increasing "armed resistance" in order to seize political power in India.
Indian authorities are using the alleged meeting between LeT operatives and Naxalites as evidence that Pakistan is trying to forge relationships with the Naxalites, which India has long suspected. India blamed the LeT for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2001 parliament attack. For the Indian public, LeT also has become synonymous with Pakistani intelligence operations. The group that Indian officials refer to as "LeT," however, is no longer an ally of Pakistan and has changed so much in recent years that we have started to refer to it and similar groups as "neo-LeT".
Before this latest accusation, Indian officials implicated at least six other militant groups in Naxalite activities (with varying degrees of Pakistani support). Linking the estimated 10,000-strong Naxalites to militant groups backed by Pakistan, India's main geopolitical rival and primary source of external security threats, creates a "nightmare" scenario for India. Indeed, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labeled the Naxalites "the biggest internal security challenge" to India. Taken at face value, reports of such an alliance lead to visions of well-trained, well-disciplined Naxal militants expanding their near-daily attacks on low-level rural targets in eastern India (known as the "Red Corridor") to political and high-tech targets in Calcutta, Hyderabad or even New Delhi. But such visions are alarmist and do not reflect the true nature of the very limited Pakistani-Naxalite relationship.
STRATFOR has watched Indian officials link Pakistan to the Naxalites before, but we have yet to see significant changes on the ground that would give any credence to the scenario outlined above. Many Indian officials are equally insistent that no connections exist between Naxalites and Pakistan. Although the Naxalites have provided rhetorical support for Kashmiri (and other anti-Indian groups') opposition to New Delhi over the past year, there has been little action to back up the rhetoric. The Indians have long feared that outside powers would manipulate grassroots groups in India and further destabilize an already regionalized country. When the Naxalite movement began in the 1960s, New Delhi feared Beijing was trying to get a foothold in India, and for the past 50 years India has demonized Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) for allegedly supporting militant operations in India.
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.
By Scott Stewart
In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are "moving toward the "British model." This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.
By Peter Zeihan
In recent weeks, STRATFOR has explored how the U.S. government has been seeing its interests in the Middle East and South Asia shift. When it comes down to it, the United States is interested in stability at the highest level — a sort of cold equilibrium among the region's major players that prevents any one of them, or a coalition of them — from overpowering the others and projecting power outward.
By George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama announced the broad structure of his Afghanistan strategy in a speech at West Point on Tuesday evening. The strategy had three core elements. First, he intends to maintain pressure on al Qaeda on the Afghan-Pakistani border and in other regions of the world. Second, he intends to blunt the Taliban offensive by sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, along with an unspecified number of NATO troops he hopes will join them. Third, he will use the space created by the counteroffensive against the Taliban and the resulting security in some regions of Afghanistan to train and build Afghan military forces and civilian structures to assume responsibility after the United States withdraws. Obama added that the U.S. withdrawal will begin in July 2011, but provided neither information on the magnitude of the withdrawal nor the date when the withdrawal would conclude. He made it clear that these will depend on the situation on the ground, adding that the U.S. commitment is finite.
In understanding this strategy, we must begin with an obvious but unstated point: The extra forces that will be deployed to Afghanistan are not expected to defeat the Taliban. Instead, their mission is to reverse the momentum of previous years and to create the circumstances under which an Afghan force can take over the mission. The U.S. presence is therefore a stopgap measure, not the ultimate solution.
The ultimate solution is training an Afghan force to engage the Taliban over the long haul, undermining support for the Taliban, and dealing with al Qaeda forces along the Pakistani border and in the rest of Afghanistan. If the United States withdraws all of its forces as Obama intends, the Afghan military would have to assume all of these missions. Therefore, we must consider the condition of the Afghan military to evaluate the strategy's viability.
Afghanistan vs. Vietnam
Obama went to great pains to distinguish Afghanistan from Vietnam, and there are indeed many differences. The core strategy adopted by Richard Nixon (not Lyndon Johnson) in Vietnam, called "Vietnamization," saw U.S. forces working to blunt and disrupt the main North Vietnamese forces while the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would be trained, motivated and deployed to replace U.S. forces to be systematically withdrawn from Vietnam. The equivalent of the Afghan surge was the U.S. attack on North Vietnamese Army (NVA) bases in Cambodia and offensives in northern South Vietnam designed to disrupt NVA command and control and logistics and forestall a major offensive by the NVA. Troops were in fact removed in parallel with the Cambodian offensives.
Nixon faced two points Obama now faces. First, the United States could not provide security for South Vietnam indefinitely. Second, the South Vietnamese would have to provide security for themselves. The role of the United States was to create the conditions under which the ARVN would become an effective fighting force; the impending U.S. withdrawal was intended to increase the pressure on the Vietnamese government to reform and on the ARVN to fight.
Many have argued that the core weakness of the strategy was that the ARVN was not motivated to fight. This was certainly true in some cases, but the idea that the South Vietnamese were generally sympathetic to the Communists is untrue. Some were, but many weren't, as shown by the minimal refugee movement into NVA-held territory or into North Vietnam itself contrasted with the substantial refugee movement into U.S./ARVN-held territory and away from NVA forces. The patterns of refugee movement are, we think, highly indicative of true sentiment.
Certainly, there were mixed sentiments, but the failure of the ARVN was not primarily due to hostility or even lack of motivation. Instead, it was due to a problem that must be addressed and overcome if the Afghanistation war is to succeed. That problem is understanding the role that Communist sympathizers and agents played in the formation of the ARVN.
By the time the ARVN expanded — and for that matter from its very foundation — the North Vietnamese intelligence services had created a systematic program for inserting operatives and recruiting sympathizers at every level of the ARVN, from senior staff and command positions down to the squad level. The exploitation of these assets was not random nor merely intended to undermine moral. Instead, it provided the NVA with strategic, operational and tactical intelligence on ARVN operations, and when ARVN and U.S. forces operated together, on U.S. efforts as well.
In any insurgency, the key for insurgent victory is avoiding battles on the enemy's terms and initiating combat only on the insurgents' terms. The NVA was a light infantry force. The ARVN — and the U.S. Army on which it was modeled — was a much heavier, combined-arms force. In any encounter between the NVA and its enemies the NVA would lose unless the encounter was at the time and place of the NVA's choosing. ARVN and U.S. forces had a tremendous advantage in firepower and sheer weight. But they had a significant weakness: The weight they bought to bear meant they were less agile. The NVA had a tremendous weakness. Caught by surprise, it would be defeated. And it had a great advantage: Its intelligence network inside the ARVN generally kept it from being surprised. It also revealed weakness in its enemies' deployment, allowing it to initiate successful offensives.
All war is about intelligence, but nowhere is this truer than in counterinsurgency and guerrilla war, where invisibility to the enemy and maintaining the initiative in all engagements is key. Only clear intelligence on the enemy's capability gives this initiative to an insurgent, and only denying intelligence to the enemy — or knowing what the enemy knows and intends — preserves the insurgent force.
The construction of an Afghan military is an obvious opportunity for Taliban operatives and sympathizers to be inserted into the force. As in Vietnam, such operatives and sympathizers are not readily distinguishable from loyal soldiers; ideology is not something easy to discern. With these operatives in place, the Taliban will know of and avoid Afghan army forces and will identify Afghan army weaknesses. Knowing that the Americans are withdrawing as the NVA did in Vietnam means the rational strategy of the Taliban is to reduce operational tempo, allow the withdrawal to proceed, and then take advantage of superior intelligence and the ability to disrupt the Afghan forces internally to launch the Taliban offensives.
The Western solution is not to prevent Taliban sympathizers from penetrating the Afghan army. Rather, the solution is penetrating the Taliban. In Vietnam, the United States used signals intelligence extensively. The NVA came to understand this and minimized radio communications, accepting inefficient central command and control in return for operational security. The solution to this problem lay in placing South Vietnamese into the NVA. There were many cases in which this worked, but on balance, the NVA had a huge advantage in the length of time it had spent penetrating the ARVN versus U.S. and ARVN counteractions. The intelligence war on the whole went to the North Vietnamese. The United States won almost all engagements, but the NVA made certain that it avoided most engagements until it was ready.
In the case of Afghanistan, the United States has far more sophisticated intelligence-gathering tools than it did in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the basic principle remains: An intelligence tool can be understood, taken into account and evaded. By contrast, deep penetration on multiple levels by human intelligence cannot be avoided.
Obama mentioned Pakistan's critical role. Clearly, he understands the lessons of Vietnam regarding sanctuary, and so he made it clear that he expects Pakistan to engage and destroy Taliban forces on its territory and to deny Afghan Taliban supplies, replacements and refuge. He cited the Swat and South Waziristan offensives as examples of the Pakistanis' growing effectiveness. While this is a significant piece of his strategy, the Pakistanis must play another role with regard to intelligence.
The heart of Obama's strategy lies not in the surge, but rather in turning the war over to the Afghans. As in Vietnam, any simplistic model of loyalties doesn't work. There are Afghans sufficiently motivated to form the core of an effective army. As in Vietnam, the problem is that this army will contain large numbers of Taliban sympathizers; there is no way to prevent this. The Taliban is not stupid: It has and will continue to move its people into as many key positions as possible.
The challenge lies in leveling the playing field by inserting operatives into the Taliban. Since the Afghan intelligence services are inherently insecure, they can't carry out such missions. American personnel bring technical intelligence to bear, but that does not compensate for human intelligence. The only entity that could conceivably penetrate the Taliban and remain secure is the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This would give the Americans and Afghans knowledge of Taliban plans and deployments. This would diminish the ability of the Taliban to evade attacks, and although penetrated as well, the Afghan army would enjoy a chance ARVN never had.
But only the ISI could do this, and thinking of the ISI as secure is hard to do from a historical point of view. The ISI worked closely with the Taliban during the Afghan civil war that brought it to power and afterwards, and the ISI had many Taliban sympathizers. The ISI underwent significant purging and restructuring to eliminate these elements over recent years, but no one knows how successful these efforts were.
The ISI remains the center of gravity of the entire problem. If the war is about creating an Afghan army, and if we accept that the Taliban will penetrate this army heavily no matter what, then the only counter is to penetrate the Taliban equally. Without that, Obama's entire strategy fails as Nixon's did.
In his talk, Obama quite properly avoided discussing the intelligence aspect of the war. He clearly cannot ignore the problem we have laid out, but neither can he simply count on the ISI. He does not need the entire ISI for this mission, however. He needs a carved out portion — compartmentalized and invisible to the greatest possible extent — to recruit and insert operatives into the Taliban and to create and manage communication networks so as to render the Taliban transparent. Given Taliban successes of late, it isn't clear whether he has this intelligence capability. Either way, we would have to assume that some Pakistani solution to the Taliban intelligence issue has been discussed (and such a solution must be Pakistani for ethnic and linguistic reasons).
Every war has its center of gravity, and Obama has made clear that the center of gravity of this war will be the Afghan military's ability to replace the Americans in a very few years. If that is the center of gravity, and if maintaining security against Taliban penetration is impossible, then the single most important enabler to Obama's strategy would seem to be the ability to make the Taliban transparent.
Therefore, Pakistan is important not only as the Cambodia of this war, the place where insurgents go to regroup and resupply, but also as a key element of the solution to the intelligence war. It is all about Pakistan. And that makes Obama's plan difficult to execute. It is far easier to write these words than to execute a plan based on them. But to the extent Obama is serious about the Afghan army taking over, he and his team have had to think about how to do this.
(c) Stratfor www.stratfor.com Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved