May 25 2009

Pakistan Moves On Terrorist Camps And Enclaves In Pakistan

Published by at 1:44 pm under Bin Laden/GWOT,Pakistan

It is good to see the Obama administration pushing Pakistan to root out the terrorists from their last major sanctuaries in northern Pakistan. This area represents a major threat to peace and security in the west. It is the birthplace of al Qaeda and not far from where the 9-11 attacks (and others – since thwarted) were hatched. Right now the area is focused on recruiting terrorists from Europe, and probably the US, as this chilling but interesting report explores:

Determined to die as martyrs, the French and Belgian militants bought hiking boots and thermal underwear and journeyed to the wilds of Waziristan.

“We were expecting at least a welcome for ‘our brothers from Europe’ and a warm atmosphere of hospitality,” Walid Othmani, a 25-year-old Frenchman from Lyon, recalled during an overnight interrogation.

Instead, the Europeans learned that life in the shadow of the Predator is unpleasant.

Then the trainees dodged months of missile strikes. They endured disease, quarrels and boredom, huddling in cramped compounds that defied heroic images of fraternal warriors.

Police in Europe tracked the group’s radicalization and travel with the help of real-time U.S. intercepts that corroborate the confessions and exploited the accused extremists’ reliance on the Internet. Fear of an imminent attack spurred their arrests here in December.

Emphasis mine. We can thank our friends at the NSA for much of this insight.

The suspects said they wanted desperately to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They were assigned to train with an Arab group numbering between 300 and 500 but spread out in small units for security. Fearful of drones and informants, trainees hunkered inside during the day in crowded, squalid houses shared with local families in mountain hamlets.

From the group, only two — a Tunisian and a strapping Belgian who both spoke fluent Arabic — went to Afghanistan. One later e-mailed a photo of himself wielding a rocket-propelled grenade to his wife. He bragged to comrades about killing American soldiers.

Late last year, four of the men finally came home to the clutches of police, who had monitored them intently. 

This is what breeds in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. For years America has been pressing and helping the Pakistanis push back the Taliban/al Qaeda tide that erupted from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA in the above map), which began to sweep into the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) a few years back. The Swat area of NWFP had been the epicenter of the Islamists’ surge, but Pak forces have been pushing them back over the last couple of  years:

Major-General Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, explained the wider campaign against internal insurgency began as far back as December 2007. 

This went through various phases of military action followed by either surrender or periods of negotiation with various armed groups.  

The peace deal reached earlier this year with Taliban groups in the Swat Valley was yet another pause in the ongoing game of high stakes cat and mouse. 

When the deal was broken and the Taliban groups advanced towards the capital, Islamabad, a new phase began.

Abbas says this phase is one that will not end in negotiation – the instructions from the political leaders are to push the campaign until the enemy is defeated. 

Essentially the gloves are off, and the military is operating with the assurance that there will be no pause for any negotiation.  

In addition, the Pakistani forces have been clearing the FATA agencies of terrorist strongholds moving basically West to East. Some reports now indicate the FATA Agencies of Bajuar, Mohmand, and Kurram. The Khyber Agency has been protected from day one since it is the pipeline of goods and materials moving north to Afghanistan. And it looks like Orakzai is the last of these agencies to be cleared as the Pakistanis head toward terrorist central – the two Waziristan agencies in the far east of FATA.

An important commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was among the 13 militants killed in air strikes by jets in lower and upper Orakzai Agency on Sunday.

Dozens of militants were believed to be killed in Feroze Khel area where a seminary occupied by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was destroyed in the attack.

Officials said it was always difficult to confirm the casualties and other losses because the jets pound thousands of square kilometers in the remotest parts of the tribal area. It takes 12 to 15 hours to reach these areas and get factual information. By that time the militants usually take away the dead bodies and bury them in scattered areas.

The jets also carried out carpet bombing in the mountains near Dabori, Mamozai and Alizai in the upper Orakzai Agency.

This looks to be a smart strategic strike at the heart of the terrorist sanctuaries (contrary to those calling for a slower approach which would allow the terrorists to regroup):

The Pakistani army appears to be extending its campaign against the Taliban beyond the Swat Valley to Waziristan, …

Residents in Jandola told The Washington Times on Friday that they had seen heavy military convoys moving toward the tribal area for the past few days. Sultan Bhittani, a resident of Jandula, told The Times by phone: “The movement of such heavy troops and military vehicles suggests that a new operation may be launched in South Waziristan.”

A simultaneous offensive in Waziristan could be intended to inflict damage on the overall command and control of the Taliban because the militants’ leaders – such as Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) head Baitullah Mehsud and operational chief Qari Hussain – are based in South Waziristan.

However, Gen. Saad said operations already undertaken in Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber agencies were making it difficult for the militants to move and to recruit reinforcements.

The armchair generals seem to be out in force trying to find any reason to not decapitate the terrorist leaders. The Pak government is going through the motions of negotiating with Mehsud and his thugs, but I don’t think anyone believes there will be a way to head off the long overdue fight to the finish. The locals are fleeing the area, which means even they know it is time to begin the end game.

In one stunning report it seems Baitullah Mehsud has been left to defend himself by Afghan leader (and Public Enemy for 9-11) Mullah Omar:

Baitullah Mehsud, leader of Pakistan’s insurgents, has been deserted by a key ally – possibly on the orders of Afghanistan’s Taliban leader Mohammed Omar – leaving him isolated before an expected attack by security forces, Taliban sources said.

The commander, Haji Nazeer of South Waziristan tribal agency, had in February formed an alliance, the Shura Ittihad-ul-Mujahideen, with Mr Mehsud and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the top commander of North Waziristan agency, on orders from Mr Omar.

The purpose of ordering the alliance was to rein in Mr Mehsud who, up to that point, had acted as head of the Pakistani Taliban factions, and force him to focus on fighting the growing US military presence across the border in Afghanistan, sources close to Mr Omar said.

“The Amir-ul-Momineen [Mr Omar’s spiritual title] had written three letters to Baitullah, warning him that his attacks inside Pakistan were undermining the jihad in Afghanistan,” said the source, identifying himself only as “Ghaznavi”, a militant tag that indicates his birthplace as Ghazni in Afghanistan.

“Baitullah has failed to listen to the repeated warnings, proving him to be America’s biggest agent against Pakistan,” he said during a recent interview in Karachi.
Mr Omar had decided against making public such views because he did not want to be seen as partisan in Pakistan’s internal affairs, he said. 

Baitullah is also directly linked to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last year. Seems his attacks on fellow Pakistani Muslims is not sitting well, just as al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zaqawa’s violence turned the populace against the terrorists in Iraq and led to the success of The Surge and victory in Iraq over al Qaeda. When the US invaded Iraq al Qaeda was considered by many to be the future of Islam. Now in Iraq, al Qaeda is the enemy of Islam. That change in al Qaeda’s future in Iraq is due in no small part to the diligence and focus of President George W Bush.

This Waziristan area of Pakistan’s FATA  represent the last vestige of the rise of extreme islamism. Let’s hope a sufficient blow can be dealt to send these animals back to the dark ages where they belong. And let’s be thankful President Obama is continuing the policies of George W Bush in what could be the last battlefields in this near-decade long war. 

God’s speed to our forces and to their success.

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