Jan 06 2008

UK Confirms al-Qaeda Behind Bhutto Assassination, US Looks At Covert Ops In Pakistan

In what should be shocking news the UK authorities investigating Benazir Bhutto’s killing have confirmed the intercept of a phone call, in which an extremist leader in Pakistan admits his people did the deed, is authentic.

The government is sticking to its assertion that the assassination was ordered by Baitullah Mehsud, an Islamic militant with al-Qaeda links from south Waziristan. US and British officials have said that an intercepted satellite telephone conversation in which Mehsud offers congratulations to a fellow militant for the killing appears credible.

Investigators have cross-checked thousands of calls made from the area around the assassination site in the run-up to the killing against lists of numbers used by suspected jihadis, leading to at least two arrests.

This news is buried in an article which that is focused on whether there was one or two killers, whether she died from bullets or blast – like any of that matters? What is important to Pakisanis right now is where do they focus their anger: at Musharraf or at the Islamists who are responsible for over 3400 dead last year? If their anger becomes pointed towards the bloody Islamists, Pakistan’s future could be like that of Anbar Province in Iraq. They could “Awaken” from the fantasy and mind washing of al-Qaeda.

Here is a reminder of what the intercepted phone call contained:

Maulvi Sahib (MS): Congratulations, I just got back during the night.

Baitullah Mehsud (BM): Congratulations to you, were they our men?

MS: Yes they were ours.

BM: Who were they?

MS: There was Saeed, there was Bilal from Badar and Ikramullah.

BM: The three of them did it?

MS: Ikramullah and Bilal did it.

BM: Then congratulations.

The fact is al-Qaeda is retreating into the Pakistan tribal areas from their defeats in Afghanistan (the first wave of refugees) and Iraq (the latest wave). And they know their time is up because now they are making insane calls for massive killings to greet George Bush’s up coming trip to the Middle East:

An American member of Al-Qaeda urged Islamist militants to target US President George W. Bush “with bombs” during his trip to the Middle East next week, in an message posted online on Sunday.

“I send this urgent call to our brothers the Mujahedin, mainly in Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula, and in the region in general, to be ready to welcome the Crusader, the butcher Bush… not by flowers and applause, but with bombs and car bombs,” he said, according to a translation.

It is quite clear, even in ‘the region’, that al-Qaeda has the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hands – not Bush. America is working in alliance with Muslims to protect them from al-Qaeda’s jackbooted thugs. So what does these whackos think a wave of killing (because you know most if not all will not be able to get near Bush) is going to demonstrate?

Here one of Bin Laden’s butchers – the man UK officials just confirmed was bragging about his assassination of Bhutto:

How do you track down a foe without a face? That is the challenge posed by Baitullah Mehsud, the man who could well be the newest Enemy No. 1 in the War on Terror. Since he first emerged as a young jihadist leader three years ago, the black-bearded and slow-talking tribal leader has transformed his Mehsud clan’s mountainous badlands in the northwest corner of Pakistan into a safe haven for Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and outlawed Pakistani jihadists. Though uneducated, and only in his mid-30s, Baitullah snookered Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf into a fake peace deal two years ago—and even got him to hand over a few hundred thousand dollars. Just as important, Baitullah has learned the hard lessons of previous jihadists who grew too enamored of the spotlight for their own good. According to Afghan Taliban who know him, he travels in a convoy of pickups protected by two dozen heavily armed guards, he rarely sleeps in the same bed twice in a row, and his face has never been photographed.

The Afghan Taliban source claims that Baitullah and his Qaeda allies had laid out remarkably intricate plans for killing Bhutto, who was a champion of secular democracy and a declared enemy of the jihadists. He says Baitullah and Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri—along with Zawahiri’s deputy, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Al Qaeda’s new commander of military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan—had dispatched suicide-bomber squads to five cities: Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where she was killed.

The man is responsible for the most bombings and deaths in Pakistan. And apparently we know have more of an idea where Bin Laden and Zawahiri are hiding out. In fact, I was struck by this leak to the media from the usually leak-proof Bush White House:

President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

This council of US leaders is not reviewing options, as the apparently naive media would see it. These folks are probably reviewing final plans and giving authorization. At least it would make more sense than the administrative leaders doing a “what if” fest when all the experts who work for living in this are at the DoD and Langley. They have to do something before the Pakistan elections. And they have forces in country and permission to act from Musharraf. Even Bhutto gave her support to allowing us targeted actions in Pakistan.


: I want to emphasize the idea that al-Qaeda is not growing in Pakistan- it is retreating to Pakistan. Even the Newsweek article linked above notices the change in the world for al-Qaeda, though they try their best to hide the big trend:

Baitullah’s alleged emergence as the triggerman in this grand scheme illustrates the mutability of the jihadist enemy since 9/11. As recently as June 2004, Iraq was said to be Al Qaeda’s main battleground, and Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi was the terror chieftain whom U.S. authorities worried about most. Baitullah was then a largely unknown subcommander in South Waziristan.

Since then, Zarqawi has been killed by U.S. forces, Iraq has receded as a haven for Al Qaeda, and Baitullah has come into his own as a terrorist leader in newly unstable Pakistan. Last month a council of militant leaders from the tribal agencies and neighboring areas named Baitullah the head of the newly formed Taliban Movement in Pakistan, a loose alliance of jihadist organizations in the tribal agencies.

Young and inexperienced, yet the best al-Qaeda has? Smart enough (when operating under Zawahiri and his military chief) to kill Bhutto, but not smart enough to stay off the phones and get overheard. al-Qaeda is retreating and we have a bead on one of its young generals who has been promoted out of shear casualties in the officer ranks after 6 years of fighting America. Looks to me like al-Qaeda is grouping like Custer did at Little Big Horn.

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