"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Targeted deaths curb al-Qaida's expansion

From Paisley Dodds writing for the AP.

Recent targeted attacks that killed militants in Somalia, Indonesia and Pakistan have chipped away at al-Qaida's power base, sapping the terror network of key leaders and experienced operatives who train recruits and wage attacks.

Intelligence officials said Friday that the military strikes have reduced al-Qaida's core leadership to only a handful of men and diminished its ability to train fighters. This, they said, has forced al-Qaida to turn to its global affiliates for survival.

Not only are experienced leaders in short supply, but finances are short too.

A Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said it appeared many factions were starting to fight among themselves for leadership, and ranks are turning on each other because they are suspicious and the finances are slowing.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Afghan war reaches a tipping point

Below is a great article from Asia Times Online which not only discusses the tactical implications of the airstrike against the Taliban in Kunduz, but also the strategic implications for NATO as a whole. For strategic implications we have:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) handed down to the Taliban a big political victory as a result of the air strikes in the northern province of Kunduz on Friday, which left over 100 people dead and injured. The Taliban propaganda portrayed the incident as "an intentional massacre".

However, the political impact is felt on several planes. These include, first and foremost, the sense of shock in Germany, where well over two-thirds of people already favor a withdrawal of the 4,500-strong German contingent from Afghanistan. Given the burden of history that Germany is fated to carry, the mere suggestion of the Bundeswehr having committed a war crime abroad becomes a sensitive issue. The political class in Berlin will keenly watch how the groundswell of public opinion pans out in the federal election due on September 27.

On the tactical/operational level, we have:

On the other hand, the Taliban are spreading their wings in the northern provinces, all according to a plan. The stage has come when it is important for the Taliban to demonstrate in political terms that they can expand the war to places of their choice. In military terms, the Taliban tactic aims at overstretching NATO....

No one needs to explain to the Taliban the strategic importance of Kunduz, which used to be center of their military command in northern Afghanistan before their ouster in October 2001. The demographic structure of the region provides an ideal platform for the Taliban's political work.

Finally, Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar discusses what is really at stake during the war in Afghanistan.

Germany is well aware that wars abroad are a serious business. In Afghanistan, in particular, the war has far-reaching consequences, being vastly more than a mere fight against international terrorism; it is also about NATO's future role as a global political organization and the "unfinished business" of the Cold War, as well as about defining the new world order.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Pakistan Taliban appears in turmoil

From Yahoo.

Pakistan's Taliban appears in turmoil after reports of a deadly shootout between contenders to replace the shadowy movement's leader, believed to have been killed in a US drone attack.

This article should be read in unison with these other articles to get a complete picture of what is happening in Pakistan. The most important point comes out in this article from the Daily Times.

The people of Mingora have long been used to the sight of bullet-riddled bodies dumped on the streets. For months these used to be government officials, policemen or women killed by the Taliban, the Times has reported. Now the pattern has been reversed.

The Taliban are being hunted down by the security forces and families of their former victims.

Other important articles are here, here, and here. Needless to say, most of them point to a general dissatisfaction with extremists by the population. An insurgency first and foremost needs tacit support of the population. It appears that both the Taliban and Al Qaeda have lost their popular support.

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Pakistan wields a double-edged sword

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

The first few thousand of more than 3 million people displaced by fighting in Pakistan's Swat and Malakand regions in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) have returned to their homes. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a tour to a refugee camp, said this week he was "optimistic" about the job more than 30,000 troops are doing in tackling militants in the area.

The months-long offensive in and around Swat has, however, stirred bitter resentment against the Pakistan Army and its Operation Rah-e-Raast (Operation for the Right Path), despite the positive spin the authorities try to put on the operation and their claims of killing top Taliban commanders.

Syed Saleem Shahzad describes some interesting missteps by the Pakistani Army in this article. He describes a credibility problem which has resulted in the Pakistani Taliban uniting vice being fragmented.

The incident stunned the army and it was faced with the reality that far from eliminating Baitullah, he had emerged as the leader of all of the Pakistani Taliban; tribal feuds had been put aside. This was despite the fact that the army clarified on a number of occasions that the military operation was only against Baitullah, not even against his tribe. Clearly, no one believed the army.

One thing which is certain is that a fight against an insurgency the population must be protected, respected, and secured. If the Pakistani Army is not keeping this in mind, it will not succeed. The insurgents will, when attacked, hide among the population and use them as shields. The Pakistani Army needs to restain itself to ensure it does not appear to be fighting the population and focus its efforts on the insurgents. If that means a known insurgent goes free, so be it. But collateral damage must be minimized. In this way, the population will decide to not support the insurgent and will begin to support the government.

A counter-insurgency is a tricky, tricky road to travel on and it must be done with care. The US learned this tough lesson in Iraq. The Pakistani Army will eventually learn this lesson in Pakistan. Unfortunately, until it does, civilians may suffer, from both sides of the conflict.

The good news is Pakistan is now starting to fight the insurgents in their country. The bad news is that tacit support of an insurgency comes not from believing in the insurgent's cause, but from fear of the insurgent's brutal methods. It is difficult to fight a war without brutality, but that is what a counter-insurgent must do everyday. And that is the lesson which Pakistan is now learning.

A final note. The Pakistani Army will learn how to fight the insurgency since the government is a freely elected entity. It will change its methods because it must to survive. An insurgent does not need to, and in fact, when push comes to shove, an insurgent will always sacrifice a civilian. This note is why an insurgency is best dealt with by a democracy which is answerable to its people.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Taliban uses Afghan fear to fight surge

From The Washington Times.

The Taliban is seeking to blunt the surge of an additional 20,000 U.S. troops through stepped-up attacks on Afghans working with the U.S.-backed government, U.S. and Afghan officials say.

This is the first mistake insurgents make when confronted with death. They start attacking the population indiscriminantly.

A U.S. defense official, who also spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the nature of his work, said the Taliban has been "invoking fear" by targeting innocent people who work for the U.S.-led coalition.

They will target known collaborators with the Coalition Forces, but also innocent folks. This word will get around, just like it has in Iraq. Mark my word, this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban. An insurgency cannot survive without the tactic support of the population. Fence sitters will stop becoming fence sitters when they see innocent people murdered.

When the insurgents need to resort to murder to maintain control, they have lost.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Predators and Civilians

From the Wall Street Journal.

Several Taliban training camps in the Pakistan hinterland were hit last week by missiles fired from American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, reportedly killing some 20 terrorists. Remarkably, some people think these strikes are a bad idea.

This article provides an interesting account of predator attack vice other fixed wing attacks. Keys to the discussion are low yield explosives and loiter time which limit collateral damage.

To read the full article, click here.

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Pakistan Rejects Talks With Militants Amid Offensive

From Paul Tighe and Farhan Sharif writing for Bloomberg.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said there will be no talks with militants because the army is taking decisive action against them “in a guerrilla fight” in the tribal region and in the Swat Valley.

“Our army is fighting very efficiently against cowardly people,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan cited Gilani as saying in Lahore yesterday. It’s not the time for dialogue with terrorists, he said.

Awhile back I stated that Pakistani's voted in businessmen and that terrorism was bad for business. This is now proving to be the case.

To read the full article, click here.

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Support for Pakistan's anti-Taliban war seen solid

From Faisal Aziz writing for Reuters.

I wrote awhile back that Al Qaeda and the Taliban create enemies where ever they go. It takes awhile, but it is always the endstate. This seems to have finally happened in Pakistan.

In the 1980s, Pakistan began used Islamist guerrillas for foreign policy aims, first in Afghanistan to fight Soviet invaders and later in the disputed Kashmir region where Pakistan- backed Muslim fighters battled Indian rule.

That engendered considerable sympathy for the "jihadis".

But Pakistanis were shocked when the Taliban defied a peace deal that had given them virtual control of the Swat valley northwest of Islamabad and went on the offensive, seizing a district just 100 km (60 miles) from the capital in April.

Video footage of Taliban flogging a teenaged girl in Swat and a pro-Taliban cleric's proclamation that the constitution was un-Islamic contributed to a sea-change in opinion.

"It's an existential threat now to the state.

It is the same story everywhere, but this realization represents the death of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the region. Yes there will be fighting, probably even years of it, just like in Iraq, but the fact is, the insurgency will lose more and more support daily from this point forward.

The siginificance of Pakistan is this is the last unassailable base for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will lose here, not only militarily, but also its economic support from other Islamic countries.

For a full read of the article, click here.

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Former Qaeda No 2 mentor in bitter war of words

From Dawn.

Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri is a plagiarist who worked for Sudanese intelligence before his handlers grew tired of his jokes, his former spiritual mentor has claimed in a newspaper article. The accusations are the latest in an increasingly bitter war of words between Zawahiri and Sayed Imam, the former spiritual guide of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement to which Osama bin Laden's deputy once belonged. Imam was highly regarded for his erudition by militants. The feud began in 2007, after Imam penned a book from his Egyptian prison cell denouncing Al-Qaeda for killing innocent people and being responsible for the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The intellectual turbulence within the Muslim community continues.

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Uprising against Taliban spreads in Pakistan's tribal region

From eNews 2.0.

Pressed by military and partly disgusted by brutality exercised by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, Pakistani tribesmen are rising up against Islamic militancy in some parts of the tribal region along Afghan border and other areas.

Three ethnic Pashtun tribes in Bajaur district - the Salarzai, Tarkhani and Utmankhel - raised a "Lashkar," or private army, of around 10,000 tribesmen to drive Taliban out of their area, after weeks of fierce fighting between security forces and militants resulted in heavy civilian casualties and property losses.

"We have been told very clearly by the authorities that the only way to avoid collateral damage is that we clear our areas of Taliban and bring stability here," said tribal elder Fazal Karim, who leads the Lashkar.

Why are the tribes beginning to go against Al Qaeda/the Taliban?

Around 3.5 million tribal people practice a form of Islam that is integrated with an archaic moral code of conduct and honour, very similar to the one described in ancient Greek Homeric poems and Icelandic Kings' sagas, where warriors are hailed as heroes.

On the other hand, Taliban ideology is based on a reductionist version of Islam stripped of secular Pashtun cultural content. It undermined the traditional tribal structure when enforced, and led to resentment among the locals who had provided shelter to hundreds, if not thousands, Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives following US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Taliban executions, extreme torture, opposition to social and economic development projects and girls' education further deepened the split and banded together people in some areas for an indigenous armed resistance.

"What these gangs of thugs and criminals brought in the name of Islam is barbarism," said Karim, whose fighters have cleared around 90 per cent of Salarzai sub-district of Bajaur.

Al Qaeda/the Taliban disenfranchise people wherever they go due to their harse interpretation of Islam. The war against Al Qaeda/the Taliban is not a "US war" as is often quoted from Pakistani people. It is a war of freedom. It is a war of liberty.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan engages the tribes in effort to fight the Taliban

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

As the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency rages in northwestern Pakistan, the Pakistani government has stepped up its efforts to engage the local tribes to battle the extremists.

The effort to gain the support of the Pashtu tribes in northwestern Pakistan was highlighted when General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army visited the Bajaur tribal agency, where a two-month old offensive against the Taliban is still underway.

Kiyani "expressed his satisfaction that local tribesmen have risen against miscreants and are fully supporting the Army," Geo TV reported. Miscreant is a term often used by Pakistanis to refer to foreign or al Qaeda fighters. "He reiterated that success in this operation was directly linked with popular support" in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province.

As usual, Mr. Roggio does an excellent job at detailing the issues with bringing the tribes on board to assist the military in routing the Taliban/Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

For a full read, click here.

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In life, or death, Baitullah's fight endures

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

As reports swirl about the possible death by illness of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, 34, the fact is that as long as he is alive, no matter how sick, he will remain an inspiration for regional jihadis; should he die, he will be replaced and the battle that he fights will continue undiminished.

Baitullah died from kidney problems and high blood pressure, Pakistan's GEO Television reported this week. This is disputed in militant and Western circles.

The ethnic Pashtun guerrilla commander from the South Waziristan tribal area rose to prominence after Taliban leader Nek Mohammed was killed in a US Predator drone attack in 2004. In December 2007, a Taliban shura, a 40-member council, chose Baitullah to unify its operations in Pakistan under a united front called the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistan Taliban Movement, which is fighting Pakistani security forces in the tribal areas. The area also serves as a haven for militants active in the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.

Another interesting article by Mr. Shahzad on the tribal make up in the FATA region.

For a full read, click here.

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Taliban, al-Qaeda fight to the death in Pakistan

From M & C, South Asia.

When thousands of Pakistani troops backed by tanks and artillery moved into Bajaur tribal district to retake a strategic checkpoint from Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, many thought it would be a relatively easy walk for professional soldiers with huge fire power.

But the tenacious resistance the militants offered and the superb guerrilla warfare they used in the six-week pitched battles with government forces came as more than a surprise....

The commanding officer of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps, Major General Tariq Khan, told reporters early this week that if the insurgency was dismantled in Bajaur, 65 per cent of the militancy in the country's tribal areas would be brought under control.

The Taliban also realize this and have moved reinforcements of guerillas from across the border as well as from at least three neighbouring tribal districts. The main fighting from the rebel side is being led by an Afghan commander Qari Ziaur Rehman, who is assisted by well-trained al-Qaeda fighters of Arab, Chechen and Uzbek origin.

'There is substantial evidence that heavy weaponry is being moved into Bajaur from Afghanistan,' said Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, complaining that there was no serious effort by the International Security Assistance Force operating in Afghanistan to stop militant infiltration across the border.

Loses of 1000 militant is the reason why the Taliban are concripting males into fighting for the Taliban. While the fighting is intense, there are rays of hope.

However, back in Bajaur there are some positive signs of change, with locals in some areas defying Taliban terror and the Islamists' hard-line shariah law.

Emboldened members of three tribes - the Salarzai, Tarkhani and Utmankhel - last week announced that they would organize an army of volunteers to defend their respective areas against the Taliban.

'Many people still remain reluctant to support the government, because they are not sure whether (government) forces will fight the militants till the last or withdraw after a peace deal with them as they did in North and South Waziristan,' said a local journalist, who gave his name as Shah.

The fear for the civilians caught in the middle of this fighting is that as soon as the troops leave, the well-trained and well- organized Taliban army will settle in and create a new hell for them, he said.

Once again, fighting an insurgency is difficult.

The population must be secured so they stop sitting on the fence, tacitly supporting the insurgency, to supporting the government. As Pakistani forces continue their operations inside of Bajaur, the population is rising up against the Taliban.

Mandatory conscription, killing of innocent muslims, killing of tribal leaders, destruction of crops and electric powerlines, and other such indiscriminant violence which the Taliban and Al Qaeda use to subdue a population over time only causes the population to turn against them and to side with the government who brings law and order, peace and prosperity.

Al Qaeda did not want the democratic election in Pakistan to occur. To stop it, they killed Bhutto. However, the election happened. That fact cannot be changed. A democratic government is now in charge in Pakistan. With the democratic government, now the military has began to battle the Taliban/Al Qaeda in earnest.

As the battle wages, the population will rise up against the Taliban and Al Qaeda if the government can secure the population. This battle is now taking place in Bajaur. As MG Khan states, the outcome of Bajaur could quell 65 percent of the militancy in Pakistan. If Bajaur is successfully liberated from the Taliban/Al Qaeda and the population is secured, expect a rapid defeat of the Taliban/Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

While battles will continue to wage for a few years as the Taliban/Al Qaeda attempt to regroup, if the Pakistani Army is successful in Bajaur of routing the Taliban/Al Qaeda and securing the population while maintaining the strong tribal structure in the region, the Taliban's/Al Qaeda's defeat will be more rapid in this area than it was in Al Anbar in Iraq as the population in this region has long been relatively peaceful, orderly, and forgiving of other tribes resulting in much trade in this region. Al Qaeda/the Taliban has attempted to destroy this historic tribal structure and control all trade/commerce in the region just as Al Qaeda in Iraq attempted to do in Al Anbar.

Even Alexander the Great knew this was not the way to quell this region. Apparently, the Taliban/Al Qaeda have never read the history of this region. It is a lessen they are going to regret not learning.

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Saudi Mufti Criticizes Al-Qaeda


In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh criticized Al-Qaeda, saying that it was sowing anarchy in the Muslim ummah and was serving the enemies of the ummah.

He also noted that the organization's discourse was based on killing, extortion, and anarchy in the Islamic world.

Intellectual turbulence continues within the salafist community over Al Qaeda's indescriminant killings, extortion, and anarchy it pursues.

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Taliban Conscripting Sons In Pakistan

From ThreatsWatch.

A Frontier Corps officer in the tribal region in Pakistan says that the Taliban has conscripted sons in the region, threatening families if they refuse to submit their male children.

On Friday, a Pakistani military commander accused insurgents of forced conscription.

“All families were asked to give their one male child to this (militant) movement, and this was done forcibly, and if somebody doesn’t do it, his house would be destroyed,” said Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

It is nearly impossible to independently confirm the details provided by Khan and others in the military.

Perhaps it may be difficult to confirm this particular instance, but this is one of the means by which al-Qaeda sought to bolster their forces in Iraq, and one which ultimately undermined their existence as the Iraqi people turned.

Long made short, this represents a few things.

1. A sharp fall in man power. Pakistan has claimed to kill 1,000+ in the area since August ops began.

2. Difficulty recruiting. Enticing the faithful followers has proven for the moment not enough.

3. A certain level of desperation. Such measures are not taken when a group senses imminent victory, but more so when holes need plugged.

This is as close to an admission that Pakistani military operations have met with some success as you are likely to ever see. An admission in actions, not words.

Interesting analysis. I remember in late 2006/early 2007 when Iraq was considered lost despite underlying signs to the opposite, namely, a population fed up with insurgents, but still sitting on the fence awaiting a strong military to secure them. Are we possibly seeing the same thing in Pakistan now?

I agree with ThreatsWatch's assessment. This act is not done by a group sensing imminent victory. This act will only make fence sitters go against the Taliban just as fence sitters in Al Anbar went against Al Qaeda in Iraq once a surge of American forces assured their security.

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5 top militants among 1,000 killed in Pakistan

From The Daily Star.

Pakistan said yesterday that troops have killed 1,000 Islamist militants in a huge offensive, a day after President Asif Ali Zardari lashed out at the US over a clash on the Afghan border.

Five top al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders were among the dead in a month-long operation in Bajaur district, currently the most troubled of Pakistan's unstable tribal areas close to the porous frontier, a top official said.

In a further sign of the instability gripping Pakistan since the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad at the weekend, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in a shootout with police in Karachi.

Reporters were flown by helicopter to Khar, the main town in restive Bajaur, for a briefing on the military operation launched in August against Islamist militants who had taken control of most of the region."

The overall toll is over 1,000 militants," said Tariq Khan, inspector general of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, adding that 27 soldiers had also been killed in the fighting."This is a centre of gravity for the militants," Khan told journalists. "If they lose here they lose everything."

Pakistan is now beginning to battle insurgents in earnest within its own territory. While their numbers on enemy loses are often inflated and friendly loses often deflated, this article shows that Pakistan is now engaging the insurgents.

For a full read, click here.

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Militants shake off Pakistan's grip

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

Behind closed doors in Washington, London and Islamabad a few months ago, the consensus was to initiate a strategic phase of "conflict escalation" in the region, even though it was acknowledged that the price for this would be a surge in militancy in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This is what happened, and, given the popularity of the Taliban among Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, peace treaties were then viewed as the best solution, provided the terms and conditions were set by the international and regional players and not by the Taliban.

This did not work, as militant activities have broken the will of Pakistan's leaders, so much so that they are using back channels to sign new peace agreements, but this time on the Taliban's terms.

For a full read of Mr. Shahzad's sobering assessment of Pakistan, click here.

I am not sure I agree with this assessment as spectacularly brutal Al Qaeda attacks in the past have only turned moderate Muslims away from Al Qaeda if a military presence provided security to the population. However, I do recognize this is a big if in Pakistan.

Escalation of attacks in the FATA and NWFP regions in Pakistan are needed to take pressure off of Afghanistan. Simultaneously, these attacks in Pakistan are intended to disrupt future planning and logistics of militants in Pakistan.

A push by Pakistani ground forces aided by precision air power from the US (whether Predator drones or Air Force fighter/bombers) may be needed to significantly disrupt militants in these regions.

While the initial reaction will be a loss of support for the Pakistani government by the people, weakening Al Qaeda/Taliban rule in the region and the presence of Pakistani troops providing security for the populous can shift this initial loss of support into strong support for a Pakistani military presence providing security and liberty for Pakstanis in this region.

While I agree with Mr. Shahzad that this escalation of conflict is not without risk, if played correctly, it could solve the militancy issue in Pakistan once and for all. However, I too am concerned whether the Pakistani leadership and military can pull off this conflict escalation and see it through to its nature end. Simultaneously, I am also concerned about how upcoming US elections may result in a dramatic shift of policy in mid-stream of this conflict escalation in Pakistan.

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Al-Qaida Top militant Held For Marriott Bombing


Pakistani security agencies Tuesday claimed to have arrested a close aide of Al-Qaida's number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, in connection with the Marriott Hotel bombing in the capital Islamabad that killed more than 50 persons and injured more than 250 others.

If truly a close aide to Zawahiri, this capture may prove to be very significant in the coming days, weeks, and months.

For a full read, click here.

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How to Defeat al Qaeda: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

From CQ.

Don’t believe him? Consider, Bergen says, al Qaeda’s strategic errors: the bombings in Indonesia in 2002 and 2005, which killed about 222 and wounded 338; the bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2003, which killed about 35 and wounded more than 160; the hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, in 2005, which killed about 60 and wounded 115; and, of course, Sept. 11, which killed nearly 3,000. Al Qaeda’s attacks have been so egregious, even Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, Salman al-Awda, took, to the airwaves in 2007 to denounce the al Qaeda leader, and his tactics, by name.

Now, al Qaeda is suspected of being involved in the Marriott Hotel bombings in Pakistan this past weekend, which so far has killed 53 and wounded more than 260.

What all these attacks have in common is the condemnation of not only the mostly Islamic governments of the countries where they occurred but also other Islamists. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate killing of innocent Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere has only intensified the jihad from within.

While I believe Al Qaeda is self-destructing from within due to its brutal tactics, I do believe its brutal tactics would more likely lead to intimidation of a populous if not confronted by a strong military seeking to secure the population and fighting against Al Qaeda.

However, I do agree with the article when it states we [thru our military forces] will not defeat Al Qaeda, only Islam will. For Islam to succeed in defeating Al Qaeda, these countries need to be supported by all our instruments of national power. Suporting governments fighting against the war of terror is the diplomatic arm of the four instruments of national power. Showing Al Qaeda's atrocities is the informational arm. Al Qaeda's source of fighters need to be given other employment, the economic arm of national power.

All four instruments of national power must be used in conjunction. In Iraq, the government needed to be overthrown, which is why the military instrument was the most heavily used. So to in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan freely elected a democratic government. In this region, we need to focus our effort on informational, diplomatic, and economic efforts; however, the military arm still needs to be used to keep the insurgents off balance.

For a full read, click here.

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Zardari vows to root out terror from Pak

From South East Asia News.

In a reaction to last night's suicide attack on a hotel in Islamabad killing around 50 persons, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said that the country will not be deterred by the 'cowardly acts of terrorism' and that the new PPP-led alliance government will purge their country of this "cancer".

Addressing his nation on TV late on Saturday, Zardari said that he was aggrieved by the losses in the massive bomb attack and that he knew how it felt to lose a loved one.

He asked his countrymen to 'turn their grief into power'.

The terrorists would bow before Pakistan one day, he said and added that those who had carried out the attack in the holy month of Ramazan were not Muslims.

The President said that the terrorists had turned the happy moment of the restoration of democracy into that of grief, and asked all political parties to unite against terrorism.

A few hours earlier, in his maiden address of the joint session of the Pakistan Parliament, Zardari said that Pakistan was passing through a critical phase and must root out all forms of terrorism and extremism from its soil."

We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads," he said and added: "Let everyone have an opportunity to make an informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility and clarity of vision."

He also said that his country won't tolerate attacks by any foreign forces on its soil, though he didn't name any country. "We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism," Zardari said.

The text above should make jihadists cringe. While it has been stated that jihadists were after high-level American personnel in their attack, Zardari was also supposed to be at the hotel during the attack but was not. The jihadists were undoubtedly trying to get a twofor by taking out high level foreigners (American and British) and the Pakistani President too.

Zardari's response is noteworthy in several respects.

First, he touches muslims directly by stating attacking during the holy month of Ramadan was "not muslim" and "cowardly".

Second, he goes after terrorists directly stating they are a "cancer", vowed to root them out wherever they show their "ugly heads", and noted Pakistan is going through a "critical phase and must root out terrorism".

Third, he appeals to Pakistanis by stating the terrorists have turned the "restoration of democracy [in Pakistan] into grief" and asked Pakistanis to turn this "grief into power".

Fouth, he inspired nationalism by stating he would not allow "violation of our [Pakistani] sovereignty".

Finally, he brought it to the very personal level stating "he knew how it felt to lose a loved one".

All of these tied together should definitely make jihadists cringe. This high profile attack did not endure Pakistanis to Al Qaeda nor did it accomplish its tactical objective of killing high profile foreigners or harming Zardari. It will undoubtedly make normal Pakistanis, religiously fasting during Ramadan, wonder why Al Qaeda chose to attacks during this holy time. More to the point, the attack was triggered right when the hotel was filled with Pakistanis who would be eating their evening meal after fasting.

This attack could only hurt the jihadist's brand. Yes, it will make individuals fearful, but if the Pakistani military begins an all out offensive, with quite assistance from the US, the military can use this turbulent time, in which Zardari tells Pakistanis to turn their grief into power, to root out terrorists on its soil while maintaining to the popular support of the people.

The coming days and actions by the Pakistani government will be critical. It will be interesting to see if this great blunder by jihadists will be used against them as it should. If it is, we will see the populous rise up against jihadists in Pakistan. If it is not, we continue to see tacit support of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the FATA/NWFP regions.

UPDATE: South East Asia News Net is reporting the blast may have been meant for the Pakistani Parliament, not foreign dignitaries as orginally suspected.

The terror attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was supposedly aimed at Pakistan's parliament where the entire civil and military leadership of the country had gathered to listen to the first address by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Right now, the only foreigner officially killed in the attack was the Czech ambassador to Pakistan. While a supporter of western forces in their global war on terror, the Czech republich is hardly a country with a reputation of going after jihadists.

It appears the intitial analysis is still correct. Strategically, the bombing of the Marriott hotel is huge blunder for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. They did not apparently kill foreigners they were after, they did not get Zardari, nor did they get Pakistani parliamentarians. However, they have brought their terrorist brand home in a way not seen since the assassination of Bhutto, which resulted in the PPP sweeping elections in this country. Now that the PPP is in power, its full force can be brought to bear upon Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In addition, Pakistan will now get much needed international support to help the newly elected democratic government against Al Qaeda. The US will be able to hide its support among the various players which will now flock to Pakistan's side, especially given Zardari's recent speech above. Both President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have expressed uninamity with Pakistan over the hotel blast.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban have given the Pakistani government a choice. Either submit to terrorism or fight it. It appears the Pakistani government will now take on these forces directly.

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The Endgame in Iraq

From Jack Keane, Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan writing for The Weekly Standard.

On September 16, General Raymond Odierno will succeed General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. The surge strategy Petraeus and Odierno developed and executed in 2007 achieved its objectives: reducing violence in Iraq enough to allow political processes to restart, economic development to move forward, and reconciliation to begin. Violence has remained at historic lows even after the withdrawal of all surge forces and the handover of many areas to Iraqi control. Accordingly, President Bush has approved the withdrawal of 8,000 additional troops by February 2009.

With Barack Obama's recent declaration that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, it should now be possible to move beyond that debate and squarely address the current situation in Iraq and the future. Reductions in violence permitting political change were the goal of the surge, but they are not the sole measure of success in Iraq.

The United States seeks a free, stable, independent Iraq, with a legitimately elected representative government that can govern and defend its territory, is at peace with its neighbors, and is an ally of the United States in the war on terror. The Iraqi leadership has made important strides toward developing a new and inclusive political system that addresses the concerns of all Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups. But it has also taken steps in the wrong direction.

These authors of the surge of American forces in 2007 provide an interesting and insightful analysis of not only military, but political considerations in Iraq. They discuss how and when we should drawdown force, long-term security agreements, and the way ahead to ensure Iraq remains a stable democracy and ally to the United States.

For a full read, click here.

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Explosion at Pakistan Marriott hotel kills 40

From AP.

A massive truck bomb devastated the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100. Officials feared there were dozens more dead inside the burning building.

The Marriott has been a favorite place for foreigners as well as Pakistani politicians and business people to stay and socialize in Islamabad despite repeated militant attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Pakistan has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions.

Al Qaeda/the Taliban are ramping up violence in Pakistan. Such a high profile and civilian target will result not in the government backing down but instead in loss of popular support (over time) for these Islamists groups.

For a full read, click here.

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US strikes in Pakistan aimed at stopping the next Sept.11 attack

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

US Special Operations Forces have stepped up attacks inside Pakistan's lawless tribal agencies in part of an effort to prevent the next major attack inside the United States, senior military and intelligence sources told The Long War Journal.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said reports that the Bush administration is focused on "getting Osama bin Laden," the elusive leader of al Qaeda's global network, are overblown.

"Getting bin Laden would be nice, and it would clearly be a victory, but at the end of the day, al Qaeda's network will still exist," one source told The Long War Journal. "We need to take down that network to stop the next attack on US soil. Al Qaeda is more than bin Laden."

The cross-border raids are designed to disrupt al Qaeda's training camps and safe houses that aid in preparing for attacks against the West, sources say. The US is also targeting al Qaeda's Taliban allies in Pakistan, such as the powerful Haqqani family in North Waziristan and the Taliban forces of Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan.

Once again, Bill Roggio provides excellent analysis of ongoing Predator strikes in Pakistan and their overarching objective.

For a full read, click here.

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Right at the Edge

From The New York Times.

Late in the afternoon of June 10, during a firefight with Taliban militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border, American soldiers called in airstrikes to beat back the attack. The firefight was taking place right on the border itself, known in military jargon as the “zero line.” Afghanistan was on one side, and the remote Pakistani region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, was on the other. The stretch of border was guarded by three Pakistani military posts.

This article is an interesting read and describes the diverse loyalties among Pakistani's leadership with regards to the Taliban. While the reporter has not researched some details (like Namdar's murder for helping the CIA against the Taliban), it does show how politics make interesting partners and describes the problems of defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the FATA/NWFP regions. Finally, the article does not get into the details of how or why the new Pakistani government may go against the Taliban and Al Qaeda where previous governments tacitly supported these entities.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan public expect healing touch from Zardari

From Monsters and Critics.

Ijaz Afridi, a school teacher, is indifferent to the election of Asif Ali Zardari as Pakistan's new president. He is too busy with receiving condolences from visitors for his cousin, who was butchered by a suicide bomber together with 35 other people on Saturday, as lawmakers were voting for the new head of the state.

A single attacker in his twenties blew up his explosive-laden car after failing to cross a security checkpoint in a busy market just outside Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Saturday.

Afridi continues to state,

'It makes no difference to us whether Zardari or someone else becomes the president of Pakistan. The Taliban will rule this area and our brothers, fathers and sons will continue to become the food of conflict between them and security forces,' said Afridi....

How to stop and reverse the Taliban's infiltration into Pakistan is perhaps going to be the foremost challenge for Zardari....

'People want him to deliver political goods and in the list of these political goods security stands at the top,' said Rasool Bux Raees, a professor in political science at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences.

He warns if Zardari fails, people might become disillusioned with the democracy and look for alternatives either in military or even in the extremist forces....

'I will assess Zardari's performance on what he does for the poor people like me,' said Irshad Ahmed a construction worker as he carried a bag of cement on his back in an upmarket neighbourhood of Islamabad.

'I earn 6,000 rupees (around 45 US dollars) a month and everything is spent on buying food for my five children, wife and me. But we need more than that. My children want to buy new clothes on Eid (Muslim festival at the end of fasting month of Ramadan) and I do not have money for that,' he added.

This article truly describes the battle Pakistani leaders have in front of them. They must secure the population by lessening insurgent control, bring in economic prosperity and freedom to the region, and allow people the ability to provide for their families. Otherwise the people will look first and foremost for security, even if it comes from insurgents.

The one advantage the Pakistani government has is it is a freely elected government which can be put out of power by the very people who put it into power. As such, a democracy must govern for the people if it hopes to remain in power. This fact became lost on Musharraf when he deposed the judges and declared emergency rule. As such, the people put him and his party out of office. Simultaneously, insurgent groups also suffered at the polls which tells the people of Pakistan want security, liberty to pursue a better life, and a good life for their family.

In addition, the military has maintained an apolitical stance, a first in Pakistan, while all these power changes have taken place. People are hopeful in Pakistan. The government must now focus on securing the population which means eliminating the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency. Once secure, the Pakistani economy will start to blossum and people like Ahmed will not only be able to buy just food for his children, but also new clothes. However, the Pakistani government must do it in a way so as to maintain popular support otherwise we may see a future election of salafists in Pakistan. We can only hope the new leadership in Pakistan can build an effective coalition and govern for the betterment of the people who elected them into office.

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Pakistan reopens vital border crossing to NATO

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Pakistan has reopened the vital Torkham border crossing point to NATO supply trucks destined for Afghanistan. The crossing point was closed late on Sept. 5, the same day the Pakistani military threatened to retaliate against the US for conducting attacks against the Taliban and al Qaeda inside Paksitan.

Pakistan's defense minister said the border closure was meant to show the US that it would not tolerate airstrikes and raids inside its borders, Daily Times reported.

It is interesting to note it is also being put out through other government channels that the Khyber Pass was closed due to security reasons. Whenever there is confusion like this within one government, it usually points to a political vice a security issue. Expressed a different way, the security reason was the excuse to close the crossing but the real reason was political.

As Mr. Roggio points out, the US has conducted many raids within Pakistan recently to include assaulting in forces in helicopters. One of the many reasons Musharraf lost power in Pakistan is his close ties with the US. This mistrust from the people also made it difficult for him to fully engage the Taliban/Al Qaeda in the tribal regions.

Pakistani leaders still want the same ties with the US, but they do not want to run the risk of losing the popular support of the people. So where does that leave them? The Pakistani leadership can express their anger at the US and even close a crossing for a day to show their anger. Standing up in this way to the US endures them with their people. At the same time, they can allow US forces to continue to bomb Al Qaeda positions in the tribal regions to keep Al Qaeda on the defensive, and quite possibly get lucky enough to kill a significant leader here and there.

Since a counterinsurgency is not only a military fight, but also a fight for popularity among the people, the Pakistani government puts itself in a win-win situation. Al Qaeda leaders are taken out which increases the popularity of the government and helps in protecting the population. The Pakistani government protests and occassionally closes a vital supply route to show the US it can affect its supplies to Afghanistan. The people are happy because their leadership is showing them they are not puppets to the US and will stand up for their sovereignty.

I believe Pakistani and US leaders have finally come up with a winning strategy in dealing with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan will continue to use US high technology to strike deep targets within its borders keeping the Al Qaeda leadership on the run. In turn, Al Qaeda and the Taliban respond to such attacks with suicide bombs against the populous which results in the populous moving against these groups which makes it easier for Pakistan to use its military internally to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Since the key terrain in a counterinsurgency is the populous, winning over this terrain is key to stopping an insurgency. This fact is something Musharraf failed to accomplish but the PPP leadership in Pakistan is focusing on. Only when the population turns against the insurgent can military forces be used effectively to hunt key leaders which run the insurgency. What we are seeing now in Pakistan are shaping operations to win over the key terrain, the population. This ballet between shaping operations and decisive operations will continue until the population is fully won over, at which time we will see more direct military actions. This fact was also the reason why a temporary halt in direct military operations was called for in Pakistan during the month of Ramadan.

Make no doubt about it. Pakistani leaders want to ensure the battle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban are conducted on their terms, meaning defeating these insurgencies while maintaining power of the government. This fine balancing act is what Musharraf was unable to maintain. We will see if the PPP can maintain the balancing act better.

As winter approaches in this region, the insurgents will again go to ground and begin planning operations for next spring. Come next spring, we will see more Coalition troops in Afghanistan who will be able to move out and confront the Taliban. We will see the Pakistani military begin to take the fight more directly to the insurgents in the FATA/NWFP regions. We will see the population in Pakistan come closer and closer in line with the elected government and begin to rise up against the insurgents who will move their operations to the Afganistani side of the border just in time for Coalition forces to finish them off. A year or two from now, Pakistan will have a greatly diminished insurgent problem. As such, Afghanistan will also benefit.

The birthplace of the Salafist insurgency will be no more or will move to another location to begin to rebuild its base of support. Iraq will be a relatively free democratic government supportive of US interests in the region as will Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran will probably be closer and closer to acquiring a nuclear warhead or will have finally acquired one. But it will be surrounded by a NATO member, Turkey, to the north and US friendly regimes to its west, Iraq, and east, Afghanistan which will have large armies to prevent it from using it fanaticism to "wipe" Israel off the map. Pakistan and India will become partners freeing up their forces to focus on the common enemy in the region, Iran. Who knows, Israel and Syria may have established diplomatic ties by then, further isolating Iran.

With all these US friendly regimes on its borders, intelligence coming out of Iran will be easier as their borders are infiltrated by tribal boundaries which overlap territorial boundaries. Good intelligence is the key factor which prevent wars and if wars become inevitable, its what makes wars winnable.

As I described above what is undoubtedly the long term strategic goal of the US above, it is not by any means as rosy as it appears. Three countries are also vying for control of this region, namely Iran, Russia, and China. Russia and China are two superpowers we know how to deal with. They have established countries and are players in the world economy. They too suffer from insurgencies. They will be easy to bring along as gains in this region will undoubtedly make these countries economically more secure. Iran is the country not willing to be a member of the greater world economy and is the promoter of a global insurgency. It is, in reality, the last unassailable base for radical islamic forces.

It must, in time, be taken to task for support to radical islamists. That is why Iran let us move into and dethrone Saddam. That is why Iran is now supporting an insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. It knows its time will come. It; however, can only delay the inevitable.

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Jirga announces sanctions against Taliban supporters

From the Daily Times.

A grand tribal jirga of the Salarzai tribes in Bajaur Agency on Friday announced tougher sanctions against supporters of the Taliban.

The new sanctions include the torching of houses and a fine of Rs 1 million for Salarzai tribesmen providing refuge to the militants, tribal elders told Daily Times.

Elders of all the Salarzai tribes participated in the jirga, which also decided that the Taliban would not be allowed to disrupt peace in the Salarzai tehsil.

Addressing the jirga, Malak Manasab Khan, Malak Bakhtawar Khan, Malak Abdul Nasir and Malak Muhammad Younas said, “Pakistan is our country and we don’t want militancy here. Those involved in creating law and order problems in the tehsil have no right to live here.” [emphasis added]

I have stated several times before, the Taliban/Al Qaeda make enemies wherever they go as most Muslims, like most Christians, just want to live in peace, have the liberty to pursue happiness, and support their families. They made enemies in Al Anbar, Iraq and were booted out of this region with the help of a surge of Marines. Jirga councils have often sprung up in Pakistan only to have their members murdered shortly thereafter, thus intimidating the rest of the population from taking further action against them.

It is hoped the recent meeking between Pakistani and US military leaders aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln have accounted for the stabilizing military presence needed in the FATA/NWFP regions to allow jirgas like the one listed above survive to put their actions into deeds.

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Afghanistan's war has a new battlefield

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

In anticipation of a new era in Pakistani politics under president-in-waiting Asif Ali Zardari, the first volleys have been fired in a renewed joint Pakistan-North Atlantic Treaty Organization venture to fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda beyond Afghanistan's borders.

Barely a week after a meeting on the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean between the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, to discuss infiltration points for militants going from Pakistan to Afghanistan and to pin-point al-Qaeda training camps, American special forces carried out two attacks inside Pakistan.

However, according to the Daily Times, the Khyber Pass is closed. This strategic route brings about 70% of all supplies needed by Coalition forces in Afganistan.

Pakistan stopped supplies to the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan through its western Torkham border on Friday, citing security concerns.

A senior official said the measure followed increasing Taliban threats to trucks carrying the supplies.

“All Afghanistan-bound supplies for the International Security Assistance Force have been stopped as the [Torkham] highway is vulnerable,” Khyber Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat told Daily Times, dismissing the impression that the decision is a reaction to continued United States attacks in Waziristan.

It will be interesting to watch this situation develop. Has Pakistan committed to the war on terror as discussed by Syed Saleem Shahzad or is Pakistan forcing the US to stop cross border attacks by closing the Khyber Pass? I believe we will have to wait and see how this situation unfolds.

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Pakistan: Banks directed to freeze Taliban accounts

From AKI.

Pakistan's central bank has directed the country's commercial banks to freeze the bank accounts of one of the country's most violent militant groups, the Tehrik-e-Taliban.

The State Bank of Pakistan spokesman, Syed Wasimuddin said that directives had been issued for the closure of all the accounts of the Tehrik-e-Taliban from Monday.

Under the move, no amount can be deposited or withdrawn from their accounts.

Pakistan is beginning to fight earnestly against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, not only with its military instrument of national power as noted by its recent battles, but also its economic instrument as noted by the article above. The people used the diplomatic instrument by electing the PPP into office and not voting for Islamist parties. Pakistani papers have began to report on atrocities committed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda employing the informational instrument of national power. One can call all these instruments now as shaping operations for the eventual defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Pakistan is the last unassailable base for both of these groups.

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Ex-prime minister Sharif quits Pakistan coalition [And Pakistan bans Taliban]

From Yahoo via AP.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he is withdrawing his party from Pakistan's ruling coalition.

The move will likely concentrate power in the hands of the main ruling Pakistan People's Party, which wants to maintain the country's close ties with the United States.

But an even more important is this statement.

Pakistan banned the Taliban on Monday, toughening its stance after the Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for deadly suicide bombings against one of Pakistan's most sensitive military installations.

The ban imposed by the fragile governing coalition comes just a week after the ouster of Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally whose departure has prompted concern that the nuclear-armed country is too unstable to beat back extremists.

Ayone caught aiding the Taliban in Pakistan — which will have its bank accounts and assets frozen — faces up to 10 years in prison.

The Interior Ministry announced the ban 24 hours after rejecting a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajur tribal region, a rumored hiding place for Osama bin Laden, where an army offensive has reportedly killed hundreds in recent weeks.

For a full read, click here.

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Taleban winning war, says Zardari

From the BBC.

Asif Ali Zardari said, in a BBC interview, that the world and Pakistan were losing the war on terror.

"It is an insurgency", he said, "and an ideological war. It is our country and we will defend it.

"The world is losing the war. I think at the moment they (the Taleban) definitely have the upper hand.

"The issue, which is not just a bad case scenario as far as Pakistan is concerned or as Afghanistan is concerned but it is going to be spreading further. The whole world is going to be affected by it."

Mr Zardari's strong remarks came shortly after the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) put his name forward as its presidential nominee.

It is interesting that Zardari would come out publically with a statement like this prior to him being elected by parliament and the provincial assemblies unless he is repeating a new anti-Taliban/Al Qaeda sentiment in Pakistan.

The people of Pakistan not only voted Musharraf out due to his desposition of judges and emergency rule, but also because of his inability to confront insurgents in his country. Not only did the PML-Q suffer at the poles during this last election, but so did the political parties of extremists. Pakistanis, like Iraqis, want to live in peace, have the freedom to provide for their families, and buy items to make their life easier. These truths are why Al Qaeda alienates people where ever they house themselves. Al Qaeda alienated Sunnis in Al Anbar in the middle of 2006. The surge of US forces in the middle of 2007 allowed these Sunnis to confront and overcome Al Qaeda. So too, the election of new leadership in Pakistan is allowing Pakistanis to confront Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now it is up to the Pakistani military in conjunction with the political leaders to provide the security needed for the citizens of Pakistan to overcome these extremists.

We will see if the political leadership can part with their difference long enough to focus on the true battle before them in Pakistan. The current judges in Pakistan are truly just as unbiased as the deposed judges. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are the real battle which Pakistanis need to focus in on.

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Two senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders captured in Baghdad

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Coalition forces captured two senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders behind some of the deadliest violence over the past several years. Both men were detained during the past two weeks in raids by Task Force 88, the hunter-killer special operations teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda's networks in Iraq.

The special operations teams captured Salim 'Abdallah Ashur al Shujayri during an operation on Aug. 11. Six days later, Ali Rash Nasir Jiyad al Shammari was captured. The locations of the raids were not disclosed by Multinational Forces-Iraq.

Mr. Roggio notes that Shujayri and Shammari stayed behind in Iraq to continue Al Qaeda's operations there while many other Al Qaeda leaders have fled to Pakistan.

Al Masri and other senior al Qaeda leaders are believed to have left Iraq for al Qaeda's more secure sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Masri is an Egyptian. By leaving, al Qaeda's foreign leadership has abandoned the Iraqis who signed on to wage jihad against the West.

Shujayri and Shammari, both Iraqis, stayed behind to continue the fight. Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said Shujayri and Shammari are "two of the few remaining experienced leaders" in al Qaeda's network.

This statement brings up a couple of questions.

1. Why would Al Masri and other senior Al Qaeda leaders leave Iraq?

2. Why would Al Masri and other senior Al Qaeda leaders move to Pakistan?

The rejection of Al Qaeda's gruesome tactics by Sunnis left Al Qaeda without the tacit support needed to maintain an insurgency. In addition, Al Qaeda's senior leadership left Iraq because of the surge of American forces not only hunted them down but bought time for Iraqi forces to build capacity. Upon building capacity, Iraqi forces not only went after Al Qaeda elements but also lately Shia insurgents. Iraqi security and political forces are not open to peace treaties as were leadership in Pakistan. Finally, Pakistan represents the last unassailable base for Al Qaeda.

This unassailble base is now being assailed as Pakistani forces have begun attacks in the FATA and NWFP regions. In short Al Qaeda has lost Iraq, have attempted to expand in Afghanistan, and are now being attacked in their heartland, the FATA/NWFP region. Pakistan's new leadership tried a peace treaty, but have since changed their position and have rejected future peace treaties.

What is the cause for this rejection? Simply, the US surge when all seemed lost turned around conditions in Iraq. Other nations, noting the success of the surge, are now more apt to battle vice negotiate with terrorists on their soil.

One has to wonder what today would be like had President Bush listened to doomsayers and began to pull out vice surge forces in June 2007. Al Qaeda would be pushing forces into vice away from Iraq possibly causing it to fracture into three parts, Kurdistan, the Sunni Central, and the Shia Southern giving Iran access to the Mediterranean. Pakistan too would probably be negotiating with Al Qaeda vice battling them in earnest now in the FATA/NWFP regions. NATO forces would be isolated in Afghanistan under pressure to withdraw by their respective leaders.

A simple lesson has been relearned which has been true ever since man began to walk upright. You either confront the bully or become under the bully's control. Thank God, President Bush had the intestinal fortitude to confront the bully. Not only are we safer today, but so will our children be safer in the future.

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Pakistan rejects truce offer by militants in tribal area

From Dawn.

Pakistan on Sunday rejected a ceasefire offered by Taliban militants in the troubled Bajaur tribal region near the Afghan border as troops killed seven more rebel fighters, officials said. Advisor to Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik immediately rejected the offer. “We will not accept the ceasefire,” Malik told reporters in Islamabad. “We do not believe in their verbal commitments. If they are sincere they should first surrender,” he said, adding that tribal militants have violated their pledges in the past after troops stopped their operations. Pakistani forces moved into Bajaur, a known hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, earlier this month. The government says at least 500 militants have been killed since then. Troops fired artillery shells and gunship helicopters pounded suspected militant hideouts almost daily since the operation was mounted on August 6.

Times are changing in Pakistan. Pakistani rulers now understand how insurgents are undermining Pakistan both locally and globally. It is not just Afghanistan's problem. Now it is up to the PPP to keep their coalition strong so they can face the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

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Militants ready for Pakistan's war

From Asia Times Online.

Pakistan has two options. The country can give in to militancy or it can conduct military operations against it, influential advisor to the Interior Ministry, Rahman Malik, said on Thursday. And the government is not going to negotiate with militants, he added.

His remarks follow a suicide bomb attack outside the country's main defense industry complex at Wah, 30 kilometers northwest of the capital Islamabad, which killed as many as 100 people. The Pakistani Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the military's recent air bombardment of Bajaur Agency, which led to the displacement of 250,000 people.

Rahman's comments amount to a declaration of war on growing Islamic militancy, but it could be that the new civilian Pakistani leadership is steering the "war on terror" in the wrong direction.

Rahman's remarks cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. Only a few hours before the suicide attack, the chief minister of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Amir Haider Khan Hoti, announced in a policy statement that even if militants shunned violence and laid down their weapons, they would not be pardoned.

Similarly, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, who spoke to US President George W Bush by telephone on Thursday morning, rejected any possibility of dialogue with militants.

The above are very powerful statements from Pakistan's leadership and builds upon partnerships and plans created in the later part of 2007.

The new elected government is expected to be an active partner in the South Asian war theater and its military will help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The coordination will be similar to that between Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and NATO.

NATO command will identify problem areas and Pakistan will hit those targets. A plan, drawn up between the Americans and Pakistan in 2007, will be implemented under which Peshawar, capital of NWFP, will serve as a base camp from where, under American guidance, the Taliban's bases will be targeted. The Taliban use these bases to launch operations into Afghanistan.

It seems, Pakistan has finally declared war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Previously I noted that the Pakistani people elected businessmen to head the government and an insurgency is bad for business. It appears the new government has finally made the decision to rid itself of its insurgent problem. It will be interesting to watch how this situation develops.

If this article from Syed Saleem Shahzad is true, we should begin to see much more Pakistani Army involvement in the FATA and NWFP region. Recent actions in Pakistan point to the governments change of policy to include recent battles in Peshawar, Swat, and increased Predator strikes in South Waziristan.

2007 was the year in which Al Qaeda lost Iraq. I predicted 2008 will be the year Al Qaeda lost Pakistan. This battle will undoubtedly now go into 2009. A second round of troop increases will finally hit in Afghanistan in 2009 where we are likely to see the situation in Afghanistan greatly change around towards the US's favor. All of this in plenty of time for the vast majority of troops to withdraw from Iraq by 2011. What a difference 2007 was when the US committed to defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq vice withdrawing US forces under pressure. Just a little over a year later, Pakistan is now committed to the War on Terror. It needs to be remembered that Al Qaeda's last unassailable base is in Pakistan which is why this battle in the greater War on Terror will be so important to the overall war.

For a full read, click here.

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Govt's writ in tribal areas to be ensured: PM Gilani

From Dawn.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday said the writ of the government in the tribal areas will be ensured and sought opposition's cooperation in this regard. Speaking in the National Assembly in response to Aftab Ahmed Sherpao's point of order he said: “We are here to protect the life and property of the people...otherwise I have no right to be the prime minister.” He repeated government's resolve to political dialogue with those who were ready to lay down arms and urged the tribesmen to dissociate themselves from the militants. Stating that the militants were exploiting people in tribal areas due to lack of education, economic development and other basic amenities of life, Gilani said the government wanted development of tribal areas and would use force only as the last resort. He said the provincial government entered into agreements with the local people to maintain peace but regretted that girls schools, CDs and barber shops were torched and FC people were targeted. “The writ of the government was challenged which necessitated the action.” On Thursday, he said, some terrorists were nabbed from Rawalpindi and Karachi and added that there was a network of terrorists operating in the country. He said in view of the situation in the tribal areas, members of National Assembly and Senate from FATA were given briefing by the army chief. He also said that such elements were mostly foreigners including Chechens and Uzbeks.


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Al Qaeda's brutality alienates Iraqis

From Stuff.com.

From the slaughter of children to edicts against suggestively shaped vegetables, al Qaeda's brutality and its imposition of severe Islamic laws have been crucial to its decline in Iraq.

Its enforcement of a severe form of Sunni Islam in areas it controlled made everyday life miserable, sapping support among the people for its campaign against US and Iraqi forces.

"I saw them slaughter a nine-year old boy like a sheep because his family didn't pledge allegiance to them," said Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, an influential Sunni tribal leader from the former al Qaeda stronghold of Anbar province in Iraq's west.

Al Qaeda has worn out their welcome in Iraq due to their brutality. As I have stated before, Al Qaeda wears out their welcome wherever they house themselves due to their extremist ideology. Most folks just want the chance to earn a decent living for their family in a safe and secure environment. Iraqis, for the most part, now have this chance and this security. Another reason Al Qaeda wore out their welcome in Iraq so quickly is noted below.

Until the overthrow of former President Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iraq was largely secular in outlook. Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities intermarried, women would dress in jeans and T-shirts and Baghdad was packed with bars and discos.

Most Iraqis are Shi'ites, a Muslim denomination that al Qaeda's Sunnis consider heretical. The country is also home to Christians and members of other faiths, and al Qaeda has targeted Kurds even though many are Sunni Muslims.

Iraq has always been a generally secular country, deep with tribal tradition and influence. This situation is true of much of the muslim world and is a weakness for Al Qaeda which US strategy must pursue.

As we see in Iraq, Al Qaeda is extremely brutal. This brutality can only be defeated by a strong military presence which hunts down and destroys Al Qaeda cells and leaders. The surged helped Iraqis break the back of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraq is a lesson for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries where Al Qaeda hangs it hat. Al Qaeda cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be cajoled. It must be hunted endlessly and destroyed. Just as it has been hunted and destroyed in Iraq, it must be hunted and destroyed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This new form of battle, namely an Islamic Insurgency, will be around for some time to come as it gains strength in this area, but loses it in that area. By putting a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the US is providing all Islamic countries a beacon of freedom and democracy to emulate. Al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq is significant and a major setback for Al Qaeda, and other Islamic extremist organizations the world over. This extremist ideology must be fought by the free flow of information, not by weapons and Soldiers. Weapons and Soldiers can defeat Al Qaeda in a region, but only people freely conversing can destroy the core of Al Qaeda or other extremist organizations.

The US military did the right thing to unseat Saddam. It allowed Iraq to freely chose a way ahead for their country and their culture. Al Qaeda attempted to interfere with this free choice, as did Sadr's militia. Both have lost to the free flow of information and democracy.

The Iraqi model for destruction of a tyrant and subsequent defeat of an extremist insurgency is a model for all people who wish to be part of a free and democratic state in the future. Afghanistan is following this example. Pakistan is just starting to follow this model.

The old saying, "Freedom is not free" is just as true today as it has been in times past. Freedom and democracy must be defended, at times violently. Tyrants, whether in charge of a country, like Saddam, or a movement, like Bin Laden, must be destroyed. Democracy must be defended, sometimes with one's life. Only then, can democracy grow and flourish to benefit a people or a nation. Iraq is truly the model to defeat a tyranny and to grow a democracy.

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Report: Exams prove abuse, torture in Iraq, Gitmo

From Yahoo via AP.

Not wanting to downplay this article nor the use of torturous methods, but I find the wording of the article interesting. First the title.

Report: Exams prove abuse, torture in Iraq, Gitmo

Exams prove abuse, torture. Is it abuse, torture, or both? Clearly being locked up in a jail is abusive when compared to being free. But abuse if a far cry from torture. So, what does the article say about abuse and/or torture.

Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group....

Seven were held in Abu Ghraib between late 2003 and summer of 2004, a period that coincides with the known abuse of prisoners at the hands of some of their American jailers. Four of the prisoners were held at Guantanamo beginning in 2002 for one to almost five years....

Because the medical examiners did not have access to the 11 patients' medical histories prior to their imprisonment, it was not possible to know whether any of the prisoners' ailments, disabilities and scars pre-dated their confinement. The U.S. military says an al-Qaida training manual instructs members, if captured, to assert they were tortured during interrogation.

Looking at three different parts of the article and putting them together we get seven were held at Abu Ghraib during a period of known abuse (again, not torture). The facts surrounding Abu Ghraib have already been reported. So is this article just a rehash of Abu Ghraib abuses that already resulted in disciplinary actions? The article also goes on to state the medical conditions of detainees was unknown beforehand. In addition, are the detainees using their training as the article discusses and then disregards. Now, let's look at what is considered torture.

_Stress positions, including being suspended for hours by the arms or tightly shackled for days.

_Prolonged isolation and hooding or blindfolding, a form of sensory deprivation.

_Extreme heat or cold.

_Threats against themselves, their families or friends from interrogators or guards.

Ten said they were forced to be naked, some for days or weeks. Nine said they were subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation. At least six said they were threatened with military working dogs, often while naked. Four reported being sodomized, subjected to anal probing, or threatened with rape.

Stress positions - Economy seats on airlines are stress positions. However, the article states it "includes" (but doesn't state it was caused by) being suspended by arms or shackled. So, at the very least all detainees had handcuffs or zipcuffs on. And they apparently were on rather tightly. Again, where is the torture?

Blindfolding - We have all seen pictures of detainees blindfolded during transport within the prison and to/from the prison. I am not sure this constitutes torture, much less abuse.

Extreme heat/cold - Both or one of them? Ok, it is hot in Iraq and Gitmo. Got it, the prisoners were hot. So was I wrapped up in body armor in Iraq when it was 130F. While uncomfortable, I would much rather do that than fly in economy seats for prolonged distances on an airplane.

Threats - So, guards or interrogators told detainees they were going to kill and/or capture their other terrorists friends. Again, not sure where the abuse is in this story.

At times, guard/interrogators kept detainees naked, deprived of sleep, or threatened with dogs (understand it doesn't state there were actual attacks). These all sound like pretty sublime interrogation techniques.

However, the article does state, "Four reported being sodomized, subjected to anal probing, or threatened with rape. " Note, the article does not state that any of the detainees were sodomized or subjected to anal probing. Instead, detainees could have only been threatened with rape.

Finally, the article states,

The patients underwent intensive, two-day long exams following standards and methods used worldwide to document torture.

"We found clear physical and psychological evidence of torture and abuse, often causing lasting suffering," he said.

Clear physical and psychological evidence was found of torture and abuse. What physical evidence? The article already stated that past records were not available. As for psychological evidence these detainees are fanatical terrorists who blow themselves up, make women cover themselves from head to toe, prevent women from being educated, or kill a women if she reports a rape. I question their psychological stability prior to detention.

In addition, the article never unequivocably states detainees were attacked by dogs, raped, or hung by the arms. It just states they were threatened or shackled. Again, these are interrogation techniques. The goal is to make the detainee believe that he is going to be attacked by dogs, raped, or hung by the arms if he does not talk.

I guess what the article is implying is we should put the detainees in 72F rooms with nice beds and pillows, TVs, and microwaves and then ask them for information. If they don't give us the information, we should give them ice cream and tuck them in for a good night sleep. If they still don't tell us anything, we should put them up in a middle class neighborhood in the middle of America and let them go free.

Come on folks. This is a war against people who drive up to an outdoor market with a car ladened with 300 pounds of explosives and blow themselves and scores of innocent men, women, and children. This is a war against people who kill women if they accuse a man of rape. This is a war against people who circumcise women to keep them faithful. This is a war against people who want possession of a nuclear weapon so they can kill thousands with a single push of a red button.

I truly believe that threatening detainees with dogs, handcuffing them, depriving them of sleep, blindfolding them, striping them of clothes, making them hot (or cold), threatening to hurt their friends (read other terrorists), and even threatening rape to make them talk are sound interrogation techniques, not abuse and certainly not torture by any stretch of the imagination.

It is called interrogation and it is what is done during war. It is what is done in a war in which the enemy does not wear a uniform, hides behind civilians, and indiscriminately kills innocent women and children.

Just my thoughts. I welcome yours.

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US runs out of patience with Pakistan

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times.

The words came from Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the weekend, threatening to send troops into Pakistani territory in hot pursuit of the Taliban, but Islamabad has no doubts Karzai was reading from a script prepared by the United States.

The message is crystal clear: Pakistan's failure to cooperate at the sub-strategic level leaves the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with no alternative but to mobilize the newly trained Afghan National Army into Pakistan whenever it sees fit.

Mr. Shahzad always has some interesting insights when it comes to Pakistan. This article is no different. For a full read, click here.

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The Rebellion Within - An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism.

From The New Yorker.

In his “The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge,” written about 20 years ago, Dr. Fadl wrote,

Fadl contends that the rulers of Egypt and other Arab countries are apostates of Islam. “The infidel’s rule, his prayers, and the prayers of those who pray behind him are invalid,” Fadl decrees. “His blood is legal.” He declares that Muslims have a duty to wage jihad against such leaders; those who submit to an infidel ruler are themselves infidels, and doomed to damnation. The same punishment awaits those who participate in democratic elections. “I say to Muslims in all candor that secular, nationalist democracy opposes your religion and your doctrine, and in submitting to it you leave God’s book behind,” he writes. Those who labor in government, the police, and the courts are infidels, as is anyone who works for peaceful change; religious war, not political reform, is the sole mandate. Even devout believers walk a tightrope over the abyss. “A man may enter the faith in many ways, yet be expelled from it by just one deed,” Fadl cautions. Anyone who believes otherwise is a heretic and deserves to be slaughtered. [emphasis added]

Now, Dr. Fadl is announcing a new book, according to The New Yorker which gives some background on Dr. Fadl.

Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt. [emphasis added]

This new work by Dr. Fadl is part and parcel of the intellectual turbulence that is sweeping extremist Islam and Islam in general. It will be interesting to see if Dr. Fadl not only changes his views on apostates but also democracy. The New Yorker article is an interesting read about the history of Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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Taliban bitten by a snake in the grass

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online. A very interesting development, if true, in the Khyber Pass region in Pakistan.

KARACHI - The Taliban and their al-Qaeda associates, in what they considered a master stroke, this year started to target the Western alliance's supply lines that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Their focal point was Khyber Agency, in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a key transit point for as much as 70% of the alliance's supplies needed to maintain its battle against the Afghan insurgency.

The spectacular blowing up on March 20 of 40 gas tankers at Torkham - the border crossing in Khyber Agency into Afghanistan's Nangarhar province - sent shock waves through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led (NATO) coalition. So much so that it made a deal for some supplies to transit through Russia, a much more arduous route.

The Torkham success was followed by a number of smaller attacks, and the Taliban's plan appeared to be going better than they could have expected.

Then came this week's incident in which the Taliban seized two members of the World Food Program (WFP) in Khyber Agency, and it became obvious the Taliban had been betrayed, and all for the princely sum of about US$150,000.

Their Khyber dreams are now in tatters.

With friends like this ...

When the Taliban's new tactic emerged, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - which Pakistan's intelligence community says maintains its biggest South Asian presence in Pakistan - sprung into action and staged a coup of its own. But that's getting ahead of the story.

After coming under intense pressure in its traditional strongholds in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas, al-Qaeda and the Taliban staged a joint shura (council). This meeting concluded that they had to be especially careful of local political parties and tribals who were all too ready to sell themselves in the US's quest to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. The council pointed to the example of Iraq, where the US's policy of courting Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaeda has had marked success.

At this point, the council hit on the idea of taking the initiative and turning Taliban and al-Qaeda attention on Khyber Agency with the aim of bleeding the Western coalition without having to launch major battles.

This was fine in theory, but there were practical difficulties: the agency is the most unlikely place for "Talibanization". The majority of the population is Brelvi-Sufi Muslim, traditionally opposed to the Taliban's Deobandi and al-Qaeda's Salafi ideology. Being an historic route for armies and traders, the population is politically liberal and pragmatist, not easily swayed by idealist and Utopian ideology such as the Taliban's and al-Qaeda's.

So the Taliban sent in its own fighting corps gathered from other tribal areas, and drafted in Ustad Yasir, a heavyweight Afghan commander, from Afghanistan. These predominantly Pashtun fighters consider the Afridi and Shinwari tribes, the natives of Khyber Agency, as materialist and non-ideological, but all the same a local host was essential for their operation.

The Taliban hit on one of the few Salafis in the area, Haji Namdar, as their point man. Namdar is not a traditional tribal, he's a trader who has worked in Saudi Arabia. His Salafi ideology and the fact that he is a practicing Muslim lent him credibility - and trustworthiness - in the eyes of the Taliban.

Namdar came on board, offering to provide the Taliban with sanctuary for their men, arms and supplies along the main road leading to the border area. He gave these assurances to Taliban leaders in his own home.

The Americans were fully aware of the Taliban's designs on Khyber Agency and invested a lot in the tribes to protect the route. In response, the Taliban threatened tribal chieftains, and launched a suicide attack on a jirga (meeting) convened to discuss eradicating the Taliban from the area. Over 40 tribals were killed.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte also visited Khyber Agency to meet with chiefs, but out of fear for the Taliban only six tribal elders showed up. It appeared the Americans had been outwitted, but their game was not over.

Anyway, with the Taliban's arrangement with Namdar, the stage was set and they steadily stepped up their attacks on convoys heading for Afghanistan, leading to the capture of the two WFP members and their vehicle on Monday.

Things start to go wrong

Unlike in previous Taliban attacks in the area, local paramilitary forces chased the Taliban after this incident. The Taliban retaliated and five soldiers were killed, but then their ammunition ran out and they surrendered the two workers and tried to flee, but they were blocked.

The Taliban called in reinforcements, but so did the paramilitary troops, and a stalemate was reached. Eventually, the Taliban managed to capture a local political agent (representing the central government) and they used him as a hostage to allow their escape.

They retreated to their various safe houses, but to their horror, paramilitary troops were waiting for them and scores were arrested, and their arms caches seized. A number of Taliban did, however, manage to escape once word got out of what was happening.

The only person aware of the safe houses was Namdar, their supposed protector: they had been sold out.

Their worst suspicions were confirmed when Namdar broke his cover and announced on a local radio station that Taliban commanders, including Ustad Yasir, should surrender or face a "massacre", as happened when local tribes turned against Uzbek fighters in South Waziristan in January 2007.

Namdar said that he had the full weight of the security forces behind him, and he did not fear any suicide attack. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban immediately called an emergency shura in North Waziristan to review the situation. Al-Qaeda's investigations revealed that the CIA and Pakistani intelligence had got to Namdar and paid him $150,000 in local currency.

The immediate result is that Taliban operations in Khyber Agency have been cut off. This in itself is a major setback, as the attacks on supply lines had hit a raw NATO nerve.

In the broader context, Namdar's betrayal vividly illustrates the dangers of traitors within the ranks of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The fear is that the various peace deals being signed now between the Islamabad government and selected tribal leaders could lead to a whole new batch of betrayals. The conclusion, therefore, is to go all-out to stop the government's dialogue process with militants and tribals.

Very interesting.... At the same time a peace accord is being finalized with the Taliban. This peace accord, unlike others has a specific timetable for eliminating foreigners.

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One Step on the Road to Defeating the Islamists

From Douglas Farah.

One of the more interesting things to me in the recent spate of statements by Ayman al-Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders is al Qaeda’s need now to constantly and viciously attack other Islamist tendencies, particularly Iran and Shities, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood-linked Hamas.

In addition to the attacks, the recent communications show two things: a clear awareness of current events, and the ability to comment on them quickly; and a clear lack of understanding of how the world really operates.

I have been wonder why Zawahiri decided recently to switch to such public rebukes of Hamas and Iran. Mr. Farah has his own views on why this is occurring. I do not necessarily agree with his reasoning, but I do agree with the overall outcome, it can only be good news to us.

All of this points to some growing isolation by al Qaeda and its core leadership, from others outside their group. The splintering of the Islamist groups that share the same overarching objective-our obliteration-can only be good news.

For a full read, click here.

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Gap opens between Al Qaeda and allies

From Josh Meyer writing for the LA Times.

Al Qaeda increasingly faces sharp criticism from once-loyal sympathizers who openly question its ideology and tactics, including attacks that kill innocent Muslims, according to U.S. intelligence officials, counter-terrorism experts and the group's own communications.

A litany of complaints target Osama bin Laden's network and its affiliates for their actions in Iraq and North Africa, emphasis on suicide bombings instead of political action and tepid support for, or outright antagonism toward, militant groups pressing the Palestinian cause.

These complaints show the increasing "intellectual turbulence" occurring within the extremist Muslim community. This phenomenon is discussed in detail here, here, and here.

Zawahiri is attempting to limit this "intellectual turbulence" with his Q & A sessions. It is this rift between extremists which Coalition forces must use and exploit as an information operation as part of the instruments of national power to defeat Al Qaeda.

There already exists speculation that Al Qaeda is having a hard time sustaining recruitment to continue its war in Afghanistan and Iraq. With lower recruitment, some comes lower economic support. In addition, Al Qaeda's popularity is waning in Pakistan as it has in Iraq as citizens are seeing the extreme violence which Al Qaeda perpetuates.

It appears this rift is expanding as more and more Muslims, to include past extremists, are asking tough questions and not getting good answers from the Al Qaeda leadership.

The surge of American forces in Iraq not only allowed the Al Anbar Awakening to rise and spread across Iraq, but it also allowed this "intellectual turbulence" spread outside of Al Anbar into the rest of Iraq and now take center stage among Al Qaeda extremists worldwide.

As Iraq continues to prosper and increase the wealth of its citizens through freedom and democracy, many Muslims are beginning to question Al Qaeda's motives more and more while questioning American's motives less and less.

It is difficult to say the US invaded Iraq for oil when Iraqis are passing oil laws and negotiating contracts with many oil companies not of American origin.

It is difficult to keep recruitment and revenues up when Al Qaeda in Iraq's spectacular bombings are killing 20, 30, 0r 40 or more Muslims at a time, to include defenseless women and children.

It is difficult to suppress anti-Al Qaeda feelings when the popular Bhutto was gunned down in cold blood by extremists. It was well known the US worked within the Pakistani government to allow not only her return but also the chance for her to run again for Prime Minister, only to be gunned down by extremists. The assassination of Bhutto was truly a highly visible symbol of extremists killing innocent women and children across the Muslim world.

Al Qaeda's message of violent jihad is beginning to fall more and more on deaf ears. The Great Satan is not so evil anymore as it has brought freedom and prosperity to not only Shiites, but also to Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq. These three major groups are seeing Americans not as an occupier, but as a builder of countries and societies. American is clearly seen as a just arbiter in Iraq between these three groups.

If we had cut and run a year ago, Al Qaeda's crescent in northern and western Iraq would be growing right now. Iran's crescent would have control over all of central Iraq. Instead, President Bush showed Muslims he will stick with them to allow a democracy to foster and grow in the heart of the Middle East. Al Qaeda only got more violent. Both actions, working in tandem, created the "intellectual turbulence" we see today.

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Iraqi Army soldiers discover large cache with Iranian-marked weapons during Operation Charge of the Knights

From MNF-I. If anybody is wondering what is the purpose of Operation Charge of the Knights, one only has to read this story from MNF-I.

The Iraqi Army discovered a large weapons and munitions cache in a house located in the Al Hyyaniyah area of Basrah April 19.

Soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army discovered the cache during the search phase of Operation Charge of the Knights. The cache consisted of a large number of weaponry with Iranian markings.

The cache included a 240 mm high-explosive war-head and approximately 160 mortars. Some of which were less than 12 months old.

The cache also contained approximately 25 artillery shells, more than 20 complete improvised explosive devices, large quantities of IED components, several explosively formed projectiles and dozens of grenades and fuses. Also included was more than 20 blocks of plastic explosives, homemade anti-personnel mines packed with ball bearings, hundreds of meters of detonation cord, improvised rocket launching rails, and thousands of rounds of small-arms ammunition.

Let's put these dates into perspective. It is currently April 2008. President Bush announced the Surge of forces in Iraq in January 2007 of which the first Brigades arrived in February or March of 2007. The full complement of surge Brigade were on the ground and the Surge effectively started 15 June 2007. This story is dated 19 April 2008 and some munitions were less than 12 months old meaning they were manufactured in Iran after April 2007 and then transported to Iraq probably at the earliest May 2007 or possibly later. In August 2007, after a very public battle in Karbala, Sadr announces a ceasefire to allow US forces to help him rid his militia of rogue elements. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army continues to receive a supply of weapons from Iran.

As the surge is focusing on Al Qaeda in Iraq elements in and around Baghdad, the Iranian regime is stockpiling weapons in the south in support of the Mahdi Army and other Special Groups. By January 2008, the surge against Al Qaeda in Iraq is effectively winding down as it has been routed and focus is starting to shift to the next most powerful enemy, the Mahdi Army and Special Groups, in February 2008. Sadr announces a continuation of the ceasefire in February 2008.

Iran attempts a coup in Southern Iraq in March 2008 which PM Maliki blunts. In April 2008, the Iraqi Army is still clearing Basra and Sadr City after having secured the cities of Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah in March 2008. Iran's coup is blunted, and its Qods Forces Commander must come to Basra to personally assure the Iraqi General in charge of operations that his forces will be pulled out of Basra.

All of these actions by Iran are taking place while it is denying any involvement in Iraq, support of Special Groups, and support of the Mahdi Army.

One must wonder what Iran is doing with regards to nuclear weapons in its own coutnry if it is attempting to do all of this under the nose of the US and Iraqi government in southern Iraq, all the while saying its nuclear development is only for peaceful purposes.

I stated before, the Battle of Basra is a major strategic turning point in Iraq. It showed all external forces, both Al Qaeda and Iran, that the Iraqi Army, the Government of Iraq, and PM Maliki have the courage to defend their country at the risk of harming relationships with Iran, a neighbor and also a Shia led power. In addition, it showed the Iraqi Army can quickly be repositioned to affect an attempted coup while still maintaining order elsewhere in the country. Also, it showed Sistani would allow (and even approve) Shiite on Shiite attacks as long as it was happening to ensure the terroritorial integrity of Iraq. Finally, it showed the weakness of the Mahdi Army, and Sadr in particular, which PM Maliki is now capitalizing upon in Sadr City as his forces are seeking to dislodge the Mahdi Army from this last bastion of control in Iraq.

Far from showing PM Maliki's and the Iraqi Army's weakness, the Battle of Basra has shown both are willing and able to secure their country. It is no wonder the Iraqi Accord Front (the major Sunni bloc in government) just announced it would return to the government. It also appears the Iraqi List (headed by interim prime minister Iyad Allawi) and Al Fadila party (an offshoot of Sadr's Mahdi Army) will possibly be returning soon.

PM Maliki just showed Iran and its Special Groups, Sadr and his Madhi Army, and the Sunnis who once were associated with Al Qaeda that military coups are no longer possible in Iraq. If an element wants to have influence in Iraq, it must seek this influence politically within the frameworks of the constitution and through democratic elections. Militarism will no longer be tolerated. In fact, militarism will be put down by force.

While many mistake the Battle of Basra for a small tactical battle which some say the Iraqi Army lost, it has much larger operational (Iraqi Army able to reposition forces quickly) and strategic (rule of law back by a strong central government) consequences.

This undeniable fact is proved by the Qods Forces Commander personally coming to Iraq to validate a ceasefire, the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraqi List, and Fadila party looking to come back into the government, PM Maliki's continual push into Basra and Sadr City, Sadr's unheeded words that he will unleash his Madhi Army, and finally Al Qaeda in Iraq's yet unseen renewed terror.

Iran will continue to attempt re-establish its influence in Southern Iraq. Al Qaeda will continue to attempt re-establish its campaign of terror in the west and northwestern part of Iraq. However, people making progress in Iraq are doing so within the democratic framework established by the constitution, like the Kurds who will continue to work within the constitution and with the central government for semi-autonomy. Neighboring countries will continue to open embassys, to include Kuwait. The EU is even in the process of signing up for oil from Iraq.

The much feared month long offensive by Al Qaeda in Iraq has failed to materialize as will Iranian influence in Southern Iraq wain. Iran's remaining major influence, Sadr's militia, is being systematically dismantled. Al Qaeda is the walking dead with leaders being killed or captured daily. This is not an organization the Sunnis wish to rejoin, in fact, they are rejoining the government.

In this war where we have the strategic Corporol whos actions have far reaching ramifications, we have small battles like Basra which have large strategic implications. While the US was slow to realize this fact, it did realize it in late 2006 and adjusted its tactics with the surge in early 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq still has not realized the implications of the strategic Corporol, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Iranian Special Groups may have just realized it, which is why Coalition forces have now shifted focus to these Special Groups.

As I have stated before, 2008 will be an interesting year for the Global War on Terror. It is shaping up to be an interesting year indeed. Al Qaeda is defeated in its central front and has changed tactics to blunt losses in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran has lost a major underground effort in southern Iraq and is currently losing its voice in the Iraqi Parliament as Sadr's party will potentially be banned from participation in future elections. It may very well lose all influence if the Mahdi Army is defeated wholesale in Sadr City and Basra. The two Muslim extremists groups vying for power and control in the region have suffered major defeats at the hands of freedom and democracy, thanks to the Great Satan.

Iraq is truly becoming the beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 and the defeat of Iran in the Battle of Basra in 2008 has assured this young democracy is alive, well, and will continue to influence other nations in the Middle East. President Bush's bold maneuver in the heart of the Middle East is paying off. A democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East is fast becoming a shining star which all other Middle Eastern country's will emulate.

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Operation Charge of the Knights begins phase 3 in Hyyaniyah

From MNF-I.

BASRA, Iraq – Operation Saulat al Fursan, or Charge of the Knights, began a new phase of operations April 19.

Phase 3 of the operation focuses on the criminal militia strongholds within the Hyyaniyah district area. Iraqi Army soldiers from the 1st and 14th Infantry Divisions are conducting the deliberate clearance operation.

The operation began at approximately 6 a.m. when British artillery and US aircraft released ordnance against known criminal rocket and mortar sites west of Hyyaniyah.

British and American Military Transition Teams are working alongside Iraqi Army units to provide leaders with advice, access to surveillance and the ability to “call for fire” and other support, if needed.

“As with the earlier phases of Operation Charge of the Knights, this remains an Iraqi led, planned and executed mission,” said Major Tom Holloway, the British Army’s spokesman in southern Iraq. “Coalition troops are ready to provide support to Iraqi Security Forces as requested and required.”

Operation Charge of the Knights began on March 24.

For all those who believe MSM reports which say the Iraqi Security Forces pulled out of Basra with their heads between their legs, they continue to clear district in Basra. Today, they are entering Phase 3 of yet an undetermined number of phases to clear Basra of criminal elements and militias.

While the Mahdi Army laid down weapons and agreed to a unilateral ceasefire which the Iranian Qods Force Commander was dispatched to Iraq to directly validate, Iraqi Security Forces continue to clear, secure, and hold more and more districts in Basra. Those Mahdi Army forces which did not lay down their weapons and other criminal and militia elements continue to be rolled up.

It must be noted again what is going on operationally to have a strategic outcome. Baghdad is being secured by US and IA forces. Mosul (the second largest city) is being secured by IA and US forces. Basra (the third largets city) is being secured by IA forces with US/British assistance. The three largest cities in Iraq are being secured and criminal elements are being pushed out, whether they be Al Qaeda, Iranian sponsored, or just plain opportunistic thugs. Finally, the Sadr stronghold of Sadr City, in Baghdad is systematically being cleared of rogue elements. US forces in the region signaled a shift of focus from Al Qaeda to Special Groups almost a month ago. The battles are now happening.

It must also be remembered, the Mahdi Army suffered major setbacks in Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah within the first 48 hours of PM Maliki's surge into southern Iraq. Many of these represent the next largest cities in Iraq behind the top three noted above. These operations, along with operations ongoing in Basra is why an Iranian Qods Forces Commander was dispatched to Iraq to broker a Mahdi Army ceasefire. He had to at least keep what remaining elements under Sadr's command still existed in hopes of fighting another day.

Today, the New York Times is reporting,

Iraqi soldiers took control of the last bastions of the cleric Moktada al-Sadr’s militia in Basra on Saturday, and Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad strongly endorsed the Iraqi government’s monthlong military operation against the fighters.

Just last week, the New York Times reported on the dismal showing of Iraqi forces, mass defections within the Iraq Army, and resiliency of Sadr's forces. Now, just a week later, the New York Times is reporting the "last bastions" of Sadr's forces are being rolled up in Basra. What many miss, including the New York Times, is PM Maliki, after securing Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah within the first 48 hours and much of Basra within the same timeframe, demanded that the Iranian Qods Forces commander come to Basra to guarantee the surrender of Iranian-backed Special Groups, chiefly among them the Madhi Army. In addition, Sadr directly told his force to lay down their weapons.

Those groups now fighting against Iraqi Army forces now have no backing from Iran, as such they are being systematically destroyed. Of course the Iranian Ambassador is going to support the continual operations in Basra after its failed attempt to take over the southern part of the country. First, it is the only thing Iran can do to save a little face in the region by signaling it support for ongoing operations, now into their third week. Second, it main sponsored ally in the region, Sadr and his Madhi Army, have either been killed, captured, wounded, or disarmed in all the southern cites and is being systematically cleared in Basra and Sadr City.

What many people outside the region do not understand is Sistani's power and how it plays into this battle and the region in general. Tithes are given to sects which people in this region believe is their Ayatollah or spirtual ruler. The overwhelming plurality of Shiites in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon give their tithes to Sistani, not Hezbollah's Nasrallah nor Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nor Sadr. The Badr Organization in the south is completely loyal to Sistani also. Religiously, Iran and Sadr now coming out in support of Sistani, who supports the Basra (and Sadr City) operations to disarm militias is the only logical thing Iran and Sadr can do to save face. The difference between Basra is it is a completely Iraqi led operation while the clearance of Sadr City, while Iraqi led, is seen as more US influenced. Hence the Iranian Ambassador can come out and claim "The Great Satan" is indiscriminantly killing civilians.

The battles for control of Southern Iraq and Sadr City is just plainly the next phase of the surge which initially focused on Al Qaeda and has now shifted to focus on Special Groups. Iran has seen its largest Special Groups element effectively wiped out in about 48 hours, with only Basra and Sadr City elements able to hold on longer. If the New York Time article cited above is correct, the "last bastions" of Basra are now under IA control, meaning Mahdi elements have been completely defeated in Basra. The next focus will be Sadr City and then possibly a larger effort in Mosul.

Following these actions, we should see low level insurgencies as Al Qaeda and Special Groups remnants attempt to regain some footing in their respective regions. However, provincial elections in October will drastically change the local landscape in Iraq and who controls the distribution of the country's oil wealth. Moving into national elections with a country which is rather secured, PM Maliki has a good chance of resuming his Prime Ministership as he will not only have the backing of a small but influential Shiite sect, but also have the backing of Sunni and Kurds, which he signed a memorandum of agreement with in December of 2007.

In sum, PM Maliki has consolidated power in Iraq. While his party does not have a militia, he now controls the Iraqi Security Forces, the largest and best equipped force in the region. He was able to do this by establishing agreements with both Sunnis and Kurds. His old alliances, namely Sadr, has now been formally dissolved and its militia is quickly being defeated in Basra and Sadr City. Al Qaeda is only a remnant of its former self, and its leaders are the walking dead. If they stay too long in one place they are ratted out by the Sons of Iraq and Special Forces teams move in to detain or kill them. Iran's attempt to co-op southern Iraq has failed wholesale and now they are actually publically supporting the Mahdi Army's distruction. Oil revenues into the Iraqi treasury are at an all time high, which Iran does not get its fair share due to sanctions. Major oil contracts have just been announced in Iraq. Iraq is now a net oil exporter. Finally, Iraqi Security forces are gaining in capacity and experience. Let there be no mistake why the two greenist divisions were put directly into the fight in Basra and Sadr City. It was to give them combat experience, which shortly, may very well be hard to come by in Iraq.

The future of Iraq has greatly changed not only in the last year during the American military surge, but also in the last three weeks during the Iraqi Army surge.

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The Taliban talk the talk

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

With the destruction of a bridge on the Indus Highway in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) region of Darra Adamkhel last weekend, the Taliban have taken another step towards choking the supplies that flood through Pakistan to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in Afghanistan.

At the same time, the Taliban believe an agreement Russia concluded with NATO at its summit last week will not alleviate the situation. Moscow agreed to the transit of food and non-military cargo and "some types of non-lethal military equipment" across Russia to Afghanistan. NATO is acutely aware that the 70% of its supplies that enter Afghanistan through Pakistan are in jeopardy with the Taliban's new focus on cutting transit routes.

Syed Saleem Shahzad discusses "new" tactics the Taliban may be employing this year.

These developments take place as the Taliban-led battle in Afghanistan is about to enter a new phase; for the first time since their ouster in 2001, the Taliban will scale back their tribal guerrilla warfare and concentrate on tactics used by the legendary Vietnamese commander General Vo Nguyen Giap, an approach that has already proved successful in taming the Pakistani military in the tribal areas.

It is a very interesting read with input from NATO, the Taliban, and humanitarian organizations and how each side sees the battle going in Afghanistan. One thing that General Giap had going for him which the Taliban do not is an overwhelming anti-war movement in America. While the war in Iraq is not popularly supported, this same is not true for Afghanistan. From the American public's perspective, it is ambivalence at best.

General Giap lost every battle and his army suffered immense loses. The Taliban do not have the numbers in their insurgency to properly employ General Giap's techniques which is another reason to suspect their adoption of his tactics. Finally, the precision guided munitions have vastly changed the ability of counterinsurgent forces from General Giap's time. These munitions allow the Americans to surgically strike the Taliban in Pakistan. Albiet, the popularity of the war in Pakistan is akin to Vietnam's popularity in America.

They do; however, have an unassailable base in Pakistan. They also have a point of weakness for the Americans, namely the Khyber Pass that General Giap did not have. It will be interesting to see how the Taliban adopt and adjust General Giap's tactics. Only then will we know if they will ultimately be successful in adopting his tactics.

For a full read, click here.

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The Afghanistan success story

From the American Thinker.

Mr. Ray Robison discusses Afghanistan. He shows quite clearly that Afghanistan is a success story despite media misreporting. I particularly like the facts he reports.

Here are a dozen more facts from the report you are unlikely to see in media reporting:

1. The Afghan Army is growing in size, experience, and leadership capabilities.
2. A recent study found that 90% of the Afghan population trusted the countries military force.
3. More than 4,000 km of roads have been built where only 50 km existed in 2001.
4. The rehabilitation of the North-East power system has advanced and access of the rural households to electricity has been significantly increased.
5. In 2007 alone, ISAF nations completed 1,080 civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) projects.
6. 2,000 schools were built or repaired in the last five years and around 6.4 million children (including 1.5 million girls) are now in schools.
7. Since 2001, both infant and under-five mortality has declined by 26% and 22% respectively.
8. In 2001, 8% of Afghans had access to some form of healthcare. Now more than 80% of the population has access to medical care.
9. The non-opium economy has grown at an average of 12% over the past four years; the number of poppy-free provinces has grown from six in 2006 to 13 in 2007.
10. Afghan public support for international involvement in Afghanistan remains high with around 70% of Afghans supporting the presence of international forces.
11. The majority of Afghans believe their country is going in the right direction and 84% support their current government (as opposed to 4% who would support the Taliban).
12. They also maintain a positive view of reconstruction efforts with 63% saying that reconstruction efforts in their area have been effective since 2002.

For a full read, click here.

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Top Taliban militant arrested, 15 killed in Afghan raids

From Yahoo via AFP.

In Kandahar city, police arrested Taliban commander Abdul Jabar, who served as deputy to captured militant leader Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the interior ministry said.

The ministry described Jabar as the most senior Taliban commander after Dadullah, who was taken into custody in Pakistan in February.

Taliban Commanders are beginning to drop like flies in Afghanistan. On 16 March, Al Qaeda confirmed nine of its leading commanders had died in southern Afghanistan. With the capture of Dadullah and Abdul Jabar, Al Qaeda/the Taliban are losing commanders at a high rate this year.

For a full read, click here.

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So Who Really Won Iraqi Offensive Against Shiite Militias? (HINT: Not al-Maliki)

From Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog.

Contradictory signals abound in asymmetric conflicts like the Iraqi offensive. An Iranian general who is a designated terrorist played some significant role in the ceasefire, thus vaildating my prognosis. Sadr's backers in Baghdad are claiming victory today, even as U.S. troops patrol their streets. The British are now freezing plans to withdraw more troops from that city, signaling a lack of confidence that the Iraqis will secure the area anytime this year. But an admission from a U.S. Army general in Iraq is telling:

I stated before in this blog that Basra was a test for Maliki. It was his attempt to consolidate his power and weaken Sadr. The Kurds have kept peace in the north. The Americans are defeating Al Qaeda wholesale in the center. Maliki was supposed to defeat Sadr in the south.

According to reports, Sadr's forces were not defeated. I have to concur with Andrew Cochran that Maliki is weakened now since his forces were unable to defeat Sadr's militia in the south. However, the Iraqi Army forces in the south are predominantly made up of Hakim's old Badr Corp. So, not only is Maliki weakened, but so is Hakim. Furthermore, so is Sadr's forces as they have undoubtedly taken a pounding in this battle for control of the south. Politically, this tells me the struggle for Shiite dominance in provincial elections is now up in the air.

This is where I disagree with Andrew Cochran and other commentators about the endstate which is now being forecasted. Maliki is weakened politically, but is not out. Maliki before entered into a memorandum of understanding with Kurdish and Sunni leadership. Maliki's weakened status, as a result of the Basra operation, will cause him to lean more towards respecting this memorandum of understanding, possibly giving a larger voice to Kurdish and Sunni demands.

While it would have been better if Maliki's forces had defeated Sadr's militia wholesale, politics bring together strange bed fellows. This "unvictory" may cause Maliki to honor his memorandum of understanding to maintain political clout. Since Hakim's forces in the south were unable to defeat Sadr's forces, the two main Shiite parties will now split the Shiite vote, possibly giving more influence to Sunni and Kurds as a result of upcoming provincial elections.

The results in Basra politically are not unlike the current American presidential primaries with the Democratic party being split giving McCain a unique advantage in the upcoming general elections. Similarly, the Shiites are split now offering the Sunni and Kurds the ability to get more influence after this round of provincial elections and quite possibly in upcoming national elections in 2009. Both Hakim's SIIC and Sadr's militia are supported by Iran, which may explain why a Revolutionary Guard General from the Iranian Army stepped in to establish a truce.

In effect, the results of Basra has created four primary blocks instead of three. We now have the Sunni block, the Kurdish block, the Sadr block, and the Hakim block. No love has ever been lost between Hakim and Sadr. It was Sadr's hate for Hakim which forced him to throw in his 30 parliamentary seats to back Maliki for PM. With neither block will have a majority in upcoming general elections in 2009. The Sadr block will have to forge a coalition with the Sunni/Kurdish block if they hope to gain influence at the national level. I do not see this coalition happening due to his militia's past activities in sectarian killings. In addition, another coalition between the Sadr block and the Hakim block is now very remote as we saw in the first general election where both parties participated in a unified block. Therefore, the Hakim block will now have to actively negotiate with the Sunni/Kurdish block in any future national government, resulting in a forced reconciliation due to political factors present in a democratic Iraq.

Provincial elections in October 2008 will ensure provincial governments now speak for the people and allow the provinces to pass laws to regulate their provinces. Up until this time, it was apparent only the Sunni voice would be better represented. Now, both Shiite voices will also be represented, just not united. Nation elections in 2009 will ensure the national government is more representative of all Iraqis due to the possible forced reconciliation this "unvictory" in the south may bring about.

There is a silver lining in all clouds. This "unvictory" of Maliki's may very well be that silver lining that continues the process of reconciliation in Iraq.

Finally, Hakim's forces in southern Iraq which make up the Iraqi Army in this region will definitely be re-examined for loyalty and fitness for duty. This fact is not a bad thing. It is in fact a good thing because the loyalty and dependability of these forces have always been an issue. This battle just brings these factors to the forefront. Integration of Iraqi Army forces has happened all over the country minus the south. This battle may very well force more integration.

In addition, it has caused the Brits to postpone their withdraw and may actually get them actively engaged again in Southern Iraq. It has once again bloodied the nose of Sadr's forces which will cause his forces to once again regroup and retrain buying time for American forces to continue to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq. It has exposed the militia-type mentality of Hakim-dominated forces in the south which the military command can now reform.

What now waits to be seen is if Maliki can understand this "unvictory" was not an outright defeat for him and will seek to solidify partnerships in the "memorandum of understanding" he has been publicly avoiding to solidify his base of support. Only time will tell; however, this "unvictory" in southern Iraq does open new prospects for Iraq's democratic future.

This is just another political possibility as a result of the military operations in southern Iraq.

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Anbar: U.S. trophy for Iraq security losing its shine

From Reuters via Yahoo.

I find this article extremely interesting in its slant towards Anbar security losing ground, as first suggested by the title and reading its first sentence.

Tensions are simmering again in once bloody Anbar province, Washington's prize good news story for security in Iraq.

But when reading the quotes from Anbar residents, one gets a different perspective.

"We thought that when security was established in Anbar, then the situation would turn to development and reconstruction, but we're surprised to see neglect from the government," said Kamal Nouri, a member of Anbar's tribal council.

Anbaris want jobs because,

The city desperately needs potable water, but a plan to stop sewage contamination has been stalled for months. The province was also once a major manufacturing centre, but little has been done to re-open the factories that at one time employed thousands.

Falluja councilors and the U.S. military have said job creation is crucial to lasting security. The unemployment figure in Falluja alone is 20,000, said city council leader Sheikh Hameed al-Alwani.

"We're worried that the unemployed will deviate to bad ways to make a living. Al Qaeda has great financing, so we're afraid for our youth," Alwani said. [Emphasis Added]

It does not appear that Anbaris will go back to being militants. Instead, they want job growth to prevent Al Qaeda from enticing former militants back to their old ways. They way out of this predicament is not a return to militancy, but through elections.

Most Sunnis boycotted 2005 local polls and blame local councilors for failing to represent their interests and for delays in jobs and services. The councilors blame the central Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad....

Meanwhile, the Sahwa leadership has formed a political party and is, like others in Anbar, pinning its hopes for progress on the provincial polls, due by October 1.

"I expect great competition and voting for the provincial polls, the opposite of the past, when people's wisdom was weak and ruled by the misconception that voting ... meant supporting the occupation," bank worker Ahmed Latif said.

"People will not accept the bad management of the past." [Emphasis added]

When reading this article one does not get the sense that Awakening groups will go back to being militants as the author points out in his title and first sentence. Instead one gets a sense of frustration with the national government and local counselors who were elected when Sunnis boycotted the last elections. Now they have made political parties and are pinning their hopes on 01 October provincial elections. And unlike last elections where parties were voted for, this election people will be voted for.

Yes, Anbaris are growing more and more frustrated each day, but they plan to take their frustration out on current politicians in the upcoming 01 October provincial elections and not through the use of force. It sounds like this young democracy in Iraq is headed in precisely the right, and not wrong, direction.

Just like in Pakistan where extremists parties suffered a resounding defeat, expect Iraqi extremists (on both the Sunni and Shia side) to suffer a resounding defeat in upcoming provincial elections paving the way for secular businessmen (and women) to lead Iraq towards a vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the original war goal of the invasion.

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New Pakistani lawmakers flashier, more secular

From Lauren Frayer, AP writer, in the Deseret Morning News.

Parliament's parking lot was crowded Wednesday with new Mercedes and Toyota sports utility vehicles festooned with flashy tire rims and hood ornaments. Women in bright colors clogged past in heels and huge designer sunglasses. Bodyguards fanned out.

The Feb. 18 elections saw a hard-line coalition of religious groups lose control of the country's northwest along the Afghan border, and only six Islamists win seats in parliament, compared to 68 in the previous legislature. Many conservative-minded allies of Musharraf also lost their seats.

In the last parliament, about a dozen female lawmakers from the religious alliance wore body-shrouding black veils that concealed everything except their eyes.

But as parliament elected its first female speaker Wednesday, just a single lawmaker — one of 74 women in the 342-seat house — covered her face with a light beige wrap. Others wore traditional flowing gowns, some with bare heads and others with their hair only partially covered by loose scarves.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban cannot be taking this display as a good sign for their future. One thing this article points out is wealthy businessmen, possibly connected to previous regimes, have taken over the country. One thing is for sure, businessmen do not like turmoil and militancy in their own backyard. Its bad for business.

It will be interesting to see how the cards fall. But given the flashy dress of the females in parliament, I do not believe the newly elected business people will side with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Instead, if anything, they will continue with Musharraf's economic reforms he emplaced just before the recent elections to bring industry to the tribal regions. That's good for business.

In addition to these economic reforms, he instilled Regional Coordinating Offiers, District Coordinating Officers, and Tribal Agents in the tribal regions to administer the new economic reforms. That's good for government coffers, which these folks are now administering.

While Musharraf is not well liked by the PPP nor the PML-N, he is a great military leader and may just be kept in position to fight the militancy in the tribal regions. If Al Qaeda/Taliban militancy is reduced in the region, all the better for business. If the coming war devastates certain areas, Musharraf can always be used as a scapegoat. In many respects, the current status quo with Musharraf as president (with reduced powers) and the PPP and PML-N ruling parliament is a marriage made in heaven. Given the coalition between the PPP and PML-N has a majority of PPP members in it who are anti-militant, they may just keep the current situation in effect, as long as it is good for business.

Reinstatement of deposed judges who only look forward and not backward to Musharraf's emergency rule could do a lot to increase popularity of the ruling PPP and PML-N while keeping Musharraf in power, as long as he keeps miltancy in check.

For a full read, click here.

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Dozens of NATO oil tankers destroyed on Pakistani-Afghan border

From Monsters and Critics.

Dozens of tankers carrying oil for NATO forces were destroyed Sunday in a bomb blast targeting a Pakistani border crossing where they awaited clearance to enter Afghanistan, officials said.

'The explosion took place this evening when the oil tankers were parked in the parking lot of Torkham border in the tribal town of Landi Kotal. More than 60 tankers caught fire and 35 of these were completely destroyed,' a government official Bismillah Khan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA.

This attack is part of Al Qaeda's ongoing strategy this year. It seeks to disrupt NATO forces where it hurts most, logistics coming through Pakistan. Al Qaeda suspects supplies through the Khyber Pass is NATO's "Achilles' heel".

The US is paying a hefty price to tribes in the Khyber Pass region to protect these fuel shipments. As such, these tribes have generally been loyal to the US and Pakistani effort in the region.

Three possible scenarios exists here:

1. The tribes have turned against American forces and are no longer protecting fuel shipments. If this situation is the case, Americans will have to seek different (and possibly much more costly and potentially less abundant) methods to bring supplies into Afghanistan. While possible, this situation does not seem probable as fuel shipments through the Khyber Pass have gone unimpeded for many years now.

2. The tribes have not turned against American forces and Al Qaeda infiltrators managed to execute this attack despite tribal protection. If this situation is the case, then Al Qaeda has alienated another set of tribes. In doing so, this attack may show the desperation of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's recent attack on a tribal jirga which was being held to gather support against Al Qaeda militants in the region is another desperate attack. While this attack is definitely dramatic, US and Pakistani forces will ensure the fuel shipments are better protected in the future.

3. Given that Afghan National Army had to dispatch two fire brigades to the attack, the attack may have occurred on a seam between Pakistani tribal protection and Afghan National Army protection on the Afghani side of the border. If this is the case, this seam will be closed rapidly and we should not see anymore dramatic attacks such as this one. While attacks will persist, they should include tens of tankers being destroyed. Rather we should see one here, one there.

While the loss of 60 plus tankers is definitely significant, it should not significantly disrupt NATO's future missions if NATO can stop further dramatic attacks. This situation is worth watching to see how NATO, Pakistan, and Afghanistan respond to this potential "Achilles' Heel" to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. NATO and Afghanistan must protect the shipments to continue their mission. Pakistan must protect the shipments to continue its aid from America.

This attack may force the new Pakistani government's hand against the militants as they were recently seeking peace talks with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Again, we will have to wait and see reactions on both sides of the border.

For a full read, click here.

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Where is Pakistan Heading?

From Farhana Ali writing for the Counterterrorism Blog.

Last month, I traveled from Islamabad to Peshawar and then headed north to Kashmir. To understand where Pakistan is today and where it is heading, I presented the following briefing to the U.S. Congress.

Today, there is cautious level of enthusiasm and hope in the country, made evident by the February 18th election results which confirmed the popularity of the country's two main centrist parties. It would be an understatement to say that the Pakistani public desires change, and hope that the new civilian government, which convened in Parliament this month, will be able to mitigate the rising threat of suicide attacks. The new government has a great burden and responsibility to counter the threats from the Pakistani Taliban, local emirs / commanders in the northwest province, and the terrorists' claim to Pakistan's settled territories, such as Swat.

Pakistanis have selected and been granted a democracy. They hope the democracy will be able to tame the militants in their country. Most importantly, Farhana Ali points out a changing attitude among Pakistanis.

Based on my recent trip, it seems to me that an issue of great importance revolves around perceptions of the war on terrorism. How is the war perceived by the general public and established elites? With militants' largely striking Pakistanis, as opposed to Westerners in the country, the Pakistani public is now beginning to view the U.S.-led war on terror as "their" war; there is general acceptance that this battle that can only be won in the long-run with support from the local population to root out criminal and terrorists from within their families, neighborhoods, and communities. According to a prominent editor of the Daily Times, winning the war on terrorism in Pakistan will required the support of "the people a a whole." [Emphasis Added]

This is an important shift in thinking from the immediate years following 9/11, when any military operation or counter-terrorism cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan was regarded as being driven by the United States for American strategic interests.

The key change in attitude which is happening in Pakistan is a result of Al Qaeda's heavy handedness in the region. Originally, Pakistani thought the war against terrorism was something which was thrust upon them due to neighboring Afghanistan's support for Al Qaeda. Now with Al Qaeda routed out of Afghanistan (for the most part), Al Qaeda is attempting to turn the tribal areas into a sanctuary. In doing so, they are alienating the population which while extremely religious, are not extremists. People in the region listen to western music and watch western movies. They go to barber shops. Women are actively engaged in the tribal family. Al Qaeda seeks to destroy these freedoms.

As such, people in the region are beginning to realize Al Qaeda and the Taliban are against them. Al Qaeda, once again, is wearing out its welcome by imposing its strict interpretation of Islam. Farhana Ali notes how the US can assist Pakistan in its war on terror. His analysis is interesting indeed and coincides with Musharraf's multi-pronged strategy to deal with militancy in his country.

As stated before, whether or not Musharraf survives as president, he has set into motion the instruments of national power to deal with militancy in his country.

1. He has established a democracy which militants abhor.

2. He has established Regional Coordinating Officers, District Coordinating Officers, and Tribal Agents in the tribal areas to give representation to tribes within the governmental structure.

3. He has established an economic package to enhance the quality of life in the tribal regions. He plans to bring in industry and economic activity into this region.

4. Finally, he is battling militancy within his country using the military.

All these factors, taken together, will isolate and reduce the influence of extremists in the region.

For a full read, click here.

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Bad news for al Qaeda. . .and for liberal talking points

From Powerline.

For years now, the American left has been arguing that the war in Iraq is a distraction from the "real" war against al Qaeda and is counter-productive because it's "creating" new terrorists. Apparently, it never occurred to these deep-thinkers that inflicting a defeat on al-Qaeda in Iraq -- a defeat made possible because a previously sympathetic population turned with our help against al Qaeda -- might constitute a devastating blow to al Qaeda's standing in the Arab world.

Powerline goes on to show how Al Qaeda has lost support over the last few years to include a book by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, who was once Zawahiri's spritual mentor, denouncing Al Qaeda's tactics and a fatwa by Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, condemning Bin Laden. In addition, opinion polls in 7 of 8 Arab countries (where trend data is available) has shown a dramatic decline in support for Al Qaeda. Finally, Powerline points to Sunnis in Iraq siding with America against Al Qaeda to show how much support Al Qaeda has lost in the region.

All of these factors taken together show that Al Qaeda's influence in the Middle East is in decline, as is Al Qaeda in Iraq's influence is severely weakened. This fact can be a reason for Bin Laden's latest audiotape in which he is echos the discourse of "political jihadist" instead of leading the discourse as noted by Walid Phares in his recent article for the American Thinker.

In addition, he cannot miss the fact of the four recent strikes in the Pakistan tribal agencies has shown his unassailable base in Pakistan is threatened. Finally, the recent suicide bombing against the jirga of several tribal elders in Pakistan has backfired, pitting tribal elders against Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

So what does all this mean?

For starters, Bin Laden is echoing the discourse of "political jihadists" to drum up support for his movement. One thing is clear about Al Qaeda. Wherever they decide to call home, they soon alienate their supporters, who eventually turn against them, often violently. This situation occurred in Iraq in the Al Anbar province and is now occurring in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The jirga in Pakistan was called precisely for the very reason of vowing to fight against Islamic militants, namely Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda had no other option but to kill the leaders of the jirga; however, the bombing had the effect of strengthening the tribal leaders resolve against Al Qaeda in the long run.

Secondly, Bin Laden is reacting to his loss of support. There are two key words in the last sentence. First Bin Laden is reacting. Al Qaeda is no longer on the offensive, internationally or in Iraq, his main effort in his terror war. He is on the defensive and seeing his terrority decrease daily. Secondly, as noted above, his is trying to rally his base by echoing their themes and discourse. If his base strikes, most likely in Europe, he is hoping apologist in Europe will counter act the conservative governments which now control Germany, France, and England. However, an attack in Europe will only strengthen the resolve of these conservative government for their NATO mission in Afghanistan. England specifically will pressure its old colony, Pakistan, to step up efforts against Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda and Bin Laden are on the ropes and only now have the better of bad choices to execute to save their movement. Arab countries and governments are turning their back on Al Qaeda. Europe is doing the same. Al Qaeda is losing support from Muslims in general as "intellectual turbulence" continues to increase.

What a change a year makes. Last year at this time liberals were saying how the war in Iraq (and hence the War on Terror) was lost. One year later, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have been routed in Iraq, are suffering significant loses in Afghanistan, and are being attacked in their last remaining unassailable base, Pakistan.

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Bin Laden's Threat and the New Jihadist Message for Europe

From Walid Phares at the American Thinker. Mr. Phares analyzes the recent tape released from Bin Laden.

In short, I see in it the imprint of Jihadi "politicians" and strategists in international relations deeply immersed in the diplomatic games across the Mediterranean. Even though it is indeed the voice of al Qaeda's master, one can see the increasing impact of political operatives on the movement's public statements....

Either al Qaeda is using the argumentation of political Islamists to provoke a mass clash against Europe, or is it that the "political Jihadists" are now able to influence the war discourse of al Qaeda. In both cases, it deserves a closer analysis.

Mr. Phares believes political Jihadists are influencing the rhetoric coming out of Bin Laden vice Bin Laden directing the future actions of Al Qaeda. Mr. Phares answers why Bin Laden is repeating the discourse of political Jihadists.

In many spots in Europe, citizens are rejecting the Jihadi intimidations and becoming vocal about it. France is going to Chad, Germany has ships in the Eastern Mediterranean and Spain is arresting more Salafists. But the traditional apologists toward the Islamist agenda in Europe, remains strong. Al Qaeda wants to use the apologists against the "resistance." What better means than threatening to strike at Europe's peace if its liberal values are not altered?

Plain and simple, Bin Laden and the political Jihadists are fearful of increased committment of NATO forces in Afghanistan. To that end, they are trying to get apologists to resist increased European committments in Afghanistan (on the military side), and quite possibly Pakistan (on the diplomatic side).

In addition, Mr. Phares explains if a spectacular attack happens now in Europe, Bin Laden can take credit for the attack even though it may have not been carried out by Al Qaeda trained members. He ends with,

What I saw in the al Qaeda message and the al Jazeera debate was clear: The Salafist movement worldwide was "talking" to the Europeans and the Euro-Jihadis. It was threatening Governments to retreat from the confrontation on the one hand and unleashing the pools of indoctrinated Jihadis across the continent to "engage" in violence. The near future will tell us if the trigger will be successful or not.

An interesting analysis indeed.

For a full read, click here.

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Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan

From Matt Dupres at The Long War Journal.

A devastating explosion destroyed the fortress-like home of a tribal elder in South Waziristan on Sunday, killing up to 20 people and leaving five others injured today, state-run Pakistan Television announced. Foreign fighters and Taliban insurgents are believed to be among the dead. One of three missiles fired from an “unidentified location,” with several local tribesmen believing they were fired from Afghanistan, is responsible for the massive explosion, according to witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press of Pakistan. Other residents reported seeing a drone circling the village shortly before the blasts occurred and added foreigners with links to al Qaeda have lived in the area for some time.

What is really cool is nobody knows how it is happening, just it is happening. This is the fourth strike in less than three months. If you are Pakistani Taliban or Al Qaeda in the FATA or NWFP region, these four attacks have got to make you nervous.

For a full read, click here.

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Operational Update: Rear Adm. Greg Smith, March 16

From MNF-I.

Iraq is in a tough fight… a fight between a lethal minority who want to destabilize the country by indiscriminately killing innocent men, women and children …executing a campaign of intimidation and terror in order to instill a corrupt and foreign ideology of hate and division … and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis who find such ideology bankrupt and have rejected violence in order to help build the new Iraq.

Much of this violence has been carried out by foreign fighters … al-Qaeda foreign fighters … which is the sole topic of my brief to you today.

Not only have Iraqis turned against Al Qaeda, foreign terrorists entering the country are also turning against Al Qaeda.

The indoctrination always used two common themes: Americans were abusing the people of Iraq; and the recruits had a duty to avenge these abuses by joining al-Qaeda’s jihad in Iraq....

During their interrogations, these 48 men told us they were lured here with the promise they would be killing Americans … but they were disappointed that most of the violence they saw was directed at the Iraqi people … fellow Muslims. Again and again, we heard this reality bothered the recruits … this disconnect between the stories they were told as they were recruited and being indoctrinated and the reality of a war against innocent civilians was deeply disturbing … they had not come here to kill Iraqi civilians. They also complained of a different shading of the truth … many of the recruits told us they were promised they would see a victorious al-Qaeda … and instead they found an organization constantly being hunted by security forces and on the run and rejected by the Iraqi people. They felt misled.

These foreign terrorists told us that, eventually, they felt discouraged and just wanted to go home. But their al-Qaeda facilitators had their passports and their money … they felt trapped and hopeless.

Admiral Smith also says Al Qaeda is "deeply suspicious of the fighters from other lands". They are suspicious because they know they have lied to recruits to get them to Iraq. Once in Iraq, these foreign fighter see they are only killing Muslims. They don't see the abuse against Muslims at the hands of the Americans. This is why the following occurs.

They told us they were actually relieved to be captured … some of them even cried tears of relief during their initial interrogations … ironically they were relieved having been captured by the very Americans their recruiters said they would kill in Iraq.

You cannot keep lying for very long. Lies told by Al Qaeda are causing the organization to lose membership. Innocent killing of Muslims further degrades support for Al Qaeda. This is why the Sunni Tribes ran them out of Al Anbar. This is why Al Qaeda had to strike a jirga in North Waziristan. Those tribal leaders were voting on the same thing the Al Anbar tribes voted on, namely, to withdraw support from Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda is an evil organization that will eventually implode upon itself if pressured. Right now, America and NATO are keeping up the pressure. Currently America is creating more pressure on Al Qaeda in their unassailable base, Paksitan.

For a full read, click here.

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Looking to the Levant: Internationalizing the Iraqi Insurgency

From the Jamestown Foundation.

A number of Iraqi insurgents are increasingly turning their guns outward—rhetorically at least—toward the Levant (Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Lebanon) in general and Israel in particular. It is no secret that Osama bin Laden has renewed calls for the destruction of Israel and the liberation of Palestine, and has also stepped up efforts to set up bases of operations around the Levant in its attempt to restore the Caliphate over every former territory of Islam, from Spain to Iraq. At a time when al-Qaeda is enhancing its Israeli-Palestinian agit-prop and is developing networks in Lebanon and Palestine, the rhetoric of Iraqi insurgents—whether involuntarily or by design—might play into the hands of al-Qaeda’s master plan for the region

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan opposition parties win over independents to tighten grip on parliament

From Dawn.

Parties opposed to President Musharraf have won the allegiance of 11 lawmakers who contested last month's elections as independents, the election commission said Friday. Seven independents have joined Pakistan People’s Party while four have lined up with Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz, according to a breakdown provided by the commission. No lawmakers have joined pro-Musharraf parties. The election commission said 18 parliamentarians will remain independent after Thursday's deadline to sign up for a party. The cutoff also triggered the allocation of additional seats reserved for women and non-Muslims. PPP now has 120 lawmakers in the 342-seat National Assembly, the commission said. The PML-N has 90, while the PML-Q has 51. The election commission said 11 seats in the National Assembly remain vacant. The results in seven constituencies are in litigation, while voting in three places has been delayed by either security concerns or the death of a candidate. One seat reserved for a woman will be decided by drawing lots because two parties - the PML-Q and an alliance of religious parties - have an equal claim on it.

What is significant here is a PPP and PML-Q coalition now has a majority of the seats in a new coalition. Take this together with the Army's backing of Musharraf and the fact that the PML-Q still maintains a majority in the senate, a coalition between the PPP and PML-Q is a likely prospect as is Musharraf's continuation of the Presidency. Musharraf announced the parliament will be convened within 10 days. The next ten days will see interesting political maneuvering in Pakistan.

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Pakistan's generals come down hard

From Asia Times Online.

With Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's allies routed in last month's parliamentary elections and civil society led by lawyers aggressively calling for his dismissal and trial for his actions in the "war on terror" over the past eight years, Musharraf has received a boost with the top military brass putting their weight behind the presidency.

Faced with rising militancy, the military did not have much option but to close ranks and back the US push to tackle Taliban and al-Qaeda militants head-on.

Militants in Pakistan have stepped up their attacks. As a result, General Kayani only has the choice of bringing the battle directly to the militants in Pakistan.

The raids reinforce the conviction that there is no longer any chance for reconciliation, at least for this year, and that the Pakistan armed forces and the militants will be battling it out with full force, whether in the main cities or in the tribal areas along with North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces.

Thursday's Corps Commanders' meeting confirms this open battle against the militants as a continuum of the Washington-led "war on terror".

For a full read, click here.

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Saudi arrests 28 suspects for links with Zawahiri

From Dawn.

Saudi Arabia said Monday it had rounded up 28 more Al-Qaeda suspects after arresting a similar number in December following an alleged plot to carry out attacks during Hajj. This brings to 56 the total number of people arrested who are linked to the Al-Qaeda leadership abroad and were in contact with Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency. The group had been instructed by the Al-Qaeda leadership to launch a “terrorist campaign” inside the kingdom, it said.

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US to send 100 military trainers to Pakistan

From South East Asia News.

The US military is planning to send around hundred American trainers to work with a Pakistani paramilitary force that is fighting against al Qaeda, the Taliban and other radicals in that country's troubled tribal areas, US military officials have said.

Initially trainers would be restricted to training compounds, but after seeking permission from the Pakistan Government they could accompany Pakistani troops on missions "to the point of contact" with militants, the New York Times quoted a senior US military official, as saying.

The British Government is also mulling sending a similar training mission to Pakistan, officials said. However, a spokesman at the British Embassy here had declined to comment over the matter

Right now about 50 US forces are in Pakistan. This will quadruple their number. The British are also looking at providing training. Training will be focused on the Frontier Corps according to this article. Undoubtedly, training will focus on linking the military muscle to the Frontier Corps ability to gather intelligence. This is being done in Iraq through Joint Security Stations. In addition, General Kayani has requested intelligence personnel.

The US Central Command has sent a four-member intelligence team to Pakistan at the request of Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Americans are also helping with techniques on sharing satellite imagery and addressing Pakistani requests to buy equipment used to intercept the militants' communications, a senior American officer said.

General Kayani is upgrading his satellite and signal intelligence in the FATA/NWFP regions. He is getting counterinsurgency training for his military and the Frontier Corps. He has also apparently approved more armed Predator overflights as noticed by the two recent attacks on high value targets. All facets needed to conduct a successful counterinsurgency are starting to be applied.

HUMINT on the ground in terms of Frontier Corps.

SIGINT intercepts to localize terrorists, track movements, and establish cell linkages.

IMINT to put faces to other intelligence and allow for precision strikes.

Precision Strike capability in terms of Predators to reduce civilian casualties.

Pakistani Military to conduct raids for high value targets and to assist the Frontier Corps in security of the populous.

Joint Security Stations manned with District Coordinating Officers, Tribal Agents, Frontier Corps, and Pakistani Military.

Loss of tacit support from the populous. This facet is something only Al Qaeda/Taliban can give up. They are losing support due to their indiscriminant killings and attacks on tribal leaders.

As intelligence builds, Al Qaeda/Taliban will run out of hiding places, be killed and captured, or be forced back into the mountainous regions along the Afghanistani border. Either way, 2008 will be a year in which Al Qaeda/Taliban will be pushed out of their unassailable base and brought back to mountainous caves preventing them from executing complex attacks and limit their ability to support terror activities abroad or in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

2008 in Pakistan will look very similar to 2007 in Iraq from Al Qaeda's perspective.

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Doctor: 40 dead in Pakistan attack

From Yahoo via AP.

A suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday at a large meeting called by tribal elders pushing for peace in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 100, witnesses and officials said....

The five tribes involved wanted to finalize a resolution calling for punishing anyone who sheltered or helped militants, including those of al-Qaida and the Taliban, Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said on state-run Pakistan Television.

This attack is reminiscent of similar attacks against Al Anbar tribes in Iraq and signals a complete break with these tribes and Al Qaeda/Taliban. There is no way reconciliation can now happen between these tribes and Al Qaeda/Taliban.

While the Pakistani people believe the US is responsible for increased violence in their country, much like the Sunnis in Iraq initially did, attacks like these will focus anger at Al Qaeda/Taliban and decrease support for these terrorists.

It is key to understand an insurgency can only exist with tacit support of the populous. Once the populous turns against an insurgency, it is doomed to fail.

Al Qaeda is repeating their failed policies of indiscriminant murder of any entity that opposes it. As such, it not only loses tacit support, but creates significant enemies which turn on the organization.

Musharraf's and General Kayani's multi-pronged strategy takes this fact into account. An insurgency cannot be won by military forces. Military forces can only help secure a population which wants to secure itself.

The fact that five tribes were finalizing a resolution to punish anybody who helped or sheltered militants show the complete lack of support for Al Qaeda/Taliban and the active maneuvering by tribes against Al Qaeda/Taliban.

Just like in Al Anbar, a military presence is needed to provide security for the population. Once they have some semblance of security, locals will begin to point out Al Qaeda/Taliban members in the area. As opposed to creating CLCs from scratch as American's did in Iraq, Pakistan already has frontier corps of locals to provide security. Pakistan should begin vetting these members to ensure they are on the government's side, employ these members at checkpoints to limit Al Qaeda's/Taliban's movements in the region, and establish joint security stations with the Frontier Corps, the Pakistani military, and tribal leaders. Pakistan will find this solution as they have a perfect template in Iraq to go by and have the basic template already installed in Pakistan.

I have noted before that 2008 will be the year of Al Qaeda's/Taliban's destruction in the final unassailable base. Attacks like these will initially terrorize the populous, but eventually cause the populous to act against Al Qaeda/Taliban.

For their part, Pakistanis need to understand this is not a war the US created in Pakistan or Musharraf caused. It is a war against Pakistanis by Al Qaeda/Taliban. Attacks against high profile targets such as the one noted above will sway the population against Al Qaeda/Taliban. Instead of securing their future, they are adding nails to their coffins.

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Al Qaeda's Resurgence - The leadership regroups.

From Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writing for the Weekly Standard.

FOUR YEARS AGO, HIS WORDS WOULD have represented an almost unquestioned consensus view. In late January, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Dell Dailey, described al Qaeda's top leadership as isolated, saying that they have "much, much less central authority and much, much less capability to reach out."

He is not alone in this assessment. In July 2007, Stratfor's Peter Zeihan argued that while a few thousand people may claim to be al Qaeda members, "the real al Qaeda does not exercise any control over them. . . . The United States is now waging a war against jihadism as a phenomenon, rather than against any specific transnational jihadist movement." The most prominent proponent of this view has been Jason Burke, a reporter for London's Observer and the author of Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam. By the time that book hit newsstands in 2003, Burke was already arguing that the "nearest thing to 'Al-Qaeda,' as popularly understood," only existed for a five-year period, and the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001 showcased "the final scenes of its destruction." Now, Burke contends, we are "in a 'post-bin Laden' phase of Islamic militancy."

Unfortunately, all these men are wrong--and we will fight the war on terror less effectively if we continue to harbor mistaken assumptions about the al Qaeda network.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan, US raise militant tempo

From Asia Times Online.

With the United States missile attack on an important Taliban compound in Azam Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal area in the early hours of Thursday, a new phase in the regional "war on terror" - joint Pakistan-North Atlantic Treaty Organization strikes - has begun.

The attack is also a stark reminder to the newly elected Pakistani politicians who recently put their weight firmly in favor of dialogue rather than military operations against militants. This underscores their limited role in the coming months in concentrating on domestic issues while the bigger battles are dealt with by NATO and the Pakistani military command.

For a full read, click here.

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Old jihad, new jihad

From Amr Elshoubaki writing for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

The recent ideological retractions of Sayed Imam El-Sherif, founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, mark the beginning of a major departure from the theological underpinnings that governed the militant Islamist organisation's actions in the 1980s and 1990s. The ideological shift -- probably more than practical realities -- will make it extremely difficult for the organisation and those inspired by it to revert to violence and terrorism.

In Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World, Sheikh Imam writes,

On fighting unjust rule, Sheikh Imam holds, contrary to his earlier stance, that insurrection can result in many evils. During recent decades, he writes, Muslim countries have experienced numerous incidents of insurrection in the name of holy war and with the purpose of establishing the rule of Islamic law in these countries. These incidents gave rise to grave ills at the level of Islamic groups and at the level of the countries in which they occurred. Wrong is not redressed by a like wrong, and certainly not by a worse wrong. (emphasis added)

Understand, this is the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad stating "the ends do not justify the means." The "ends justifying the means" is exactly why suicide bombers feel it is within the parameters of jihad to kill oneself and civilians. However, Mr. Elshoubaki does not feel this refutation of earlier writings will affect current jihadists which he labels the "new jihad".

Sheikh Imam's revisions are undoubtedly sincere and historic. But they will not influence the new terrorist generation, because they were written with the old style of jihad in mind. They, therefore, do not take into account the new youth, which is essentially an unknown quantity and which operates independently and who seldom read books exceeding 50 pages let alone voluminous philosophical or theological treatises.

Mr. Elshoubaki may very well be right. However, it is indeed significant when the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad comes out and refutes violence. Imam El-Sherif's Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World will undoubtedly add to the intellectual turbulence which is occurring among muslims. This intellectual turbulence was first noted in November 2007 when Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, wrote, "On the Jihad in Iraq". In this article, Al-Tartousi chastised "Awakening" tribes in Al Anbar. However, closer examination of the work also seems to chastise Al Qaeda in Iraq. In his article, Al-Tartousi states three concerns with Al Qaeda.

1. Exaggeration of the Sins of Rival Groups

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups.

3. Blindly following extremists.

If we couple Al-Tartousi's article with Imam El-Sherif's current work, we see a reformation of sorts happening in among jihadist circles. They both are pointing to the same theme, namely, "the ends do not justify the means". More specifically, it is not right to blow up innocent muslims in the name of jihad. El-Sherif even spells it out specifically stating,

"it is regrettable that some pursue forbidden means to obtain money, justifying their actions on the grounds that this money is needed for jihad. Thus, they kidnap innocent people in order to demand ransom, or they rob blameless persons in the course of which they might commit wrongful murder. It is a grave sin to attack the persons and property of blameless persons."

These type of writings are becoming more prevalent in jihadists circles and signifies a fundamental shift in muslim religious leaders. The leaders are seeing that dishonorable acts are breeding to a dishonorable muslims resulting in a loss of followers. A loss of followers is leading to decreased economic support. The great infidel, the USA, is gaining support in the region due to its fairness in dealy with jihadists and muslims in general. The extremists, whether Sunni or Shiite, are rapidly losing support among followers.

The complete loss of support among Sunnis caused Al Qaeda's insurgency in Iraq to completely unravel. The loss of support resulted in the MMA losing handedly in Pakistan during their recent elections. The loss of support for extremists has resulted in Hezbollah losing ground in Lebanon. The loss of support for extremists may very well have the same effect in Iran during their upcoming elections on 14 March.

Both of these holy leaders are showing precisely why extremists are losing support. Extremist stifle individual freedom and happiness. When they cannot stifle, they murder. In the place of extremists, we have a US-sponsored democratic Iraq which is quickly becoming the economic powerhouse in the Middle East providing for freedom and happiness among fellow muslims. Neighboring countrymen are beginning to see what a democracy brings to its people. Even while still engaged in a war, a democratic Iraq provides for more freedom for its countrymen than do neighboring countries not at war.

Democratic freedom and happiness is spreading like a wild fire in the Middle East. As Jordanian, Saudi, and Turkish drivers continue to bring in goods into Iraq, they are undoubtedly wondering how these people at war are enjoying more freedom and economic opportunities than they enjoy at peace. This economic freedom is powerful and has caused the intellectual turbulence described above. Religious leaders are also seeing what the opposite effect, namely radical, extremist jihad, brings. The contrast is stark.

I predict we will see a new jihad, or rather an old jihad, soon come to the forefront in the Middle East. That jihad will be the internal struggle which marked the jihad of old. The internal struggle has already began. It is creating the intellectual turbulence described above. This internal struggle has already had significant effects in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iraq. It will shortly have significant impacts in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.

Not only are Iraqis returning to Iraq for freedom and happiness, but come next decade we will see immigration into Iraq as neighboring countrymen seek the economic benefits that a free and democratic Iraq brings. This freedom will spread, continue to create the intellectual turbulence among muslims, resulting in an internal jihad, and eventually resulting in an external jihad, of sorts, against tyrants in their own muslim nations.

George W. Bush and the American military have caused this intellectual turbulence in the Middle East. George Bush caused it by his surge of forces in 2007. The American military caused it by being fair and impartial in Iraq. Al Qaeda helped with its indiscriminant murders. All these foreces have given to Iraqis and to muslims in general the jihad of old, the internal struggle. This internal struggle will soon manifest itself between tyranny and democracy. The leaders of the Middle East are trying to prevent this struggle, but this struggle began on 20 March 2003, when US forces crossed the berm from Kuwait to Iraq. It is quite frankly, too late to stop.

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Egyptian al Qaeda leader reported killed in South Waziristan airstrike

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Pakistani and US intelligence are attempting to sort out the names of the al Qaeda and Taliban operatives killed in yesterday's airstrike in Azam Warzak, South Waziristan. Initial reports indicated Arabs and fighters from Central Asia were killed in the operation. One report indicates an "al Qaeda fugitive from Egypt" was among those killed, sparking rumors that Ayman al Zawahiri was the target of the strike.

South Waziristan Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, who is often characterized as a "pro-government" Taliban leader, appears to be the center of the storm. "Sources said that the militants belonged to the Abu Hamza group whose leader was said to be a follower of local militant commander Maulvi Nazir," Dawn reported. The attack occurred at the home of Shero Wazir, a follower of Nazir "who had rented it out to an Arab."

It will be interesting to see the fallout from this strike as the Pakistani government has just entered into a peace accord with the Wazir tribe in this region. If the Waziri tribe was hiding militants, they violated the peace accord. If however, the Waziri tribal leaders set up these militants and provided intelligence to Pakistan and the US, it may signal a significant break with Al Qaeda.

Either situation puts the Waziri tribe on the defensive, either from the government or Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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Reviving the North Waziristan Peace Accord May Stabilize Tribal Pakistan

From The Jamestown Foundation.

A day before Pakistan’s crucial February 17 parliamentary elections, the military government renewed the September 2006 North Waziristan peace accord. The move is widely seen as part of a revived effort to restore peace and order to the region under the aegis of the new military chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, who took over the military leadership after President Musharraf retired from that post. Indeed, the agreement came two days after General Kayani visited the regional military headquarters in Miranshah and handed gallantry awards to soldiers there (Dawn [Karachi], February 18).

However, Afzal Khan notes the difference between this accord and previous accords.

There are two principal differences between the 2006 and the 2008 accords. While the 2006 accord was negotiated with so-called militant Taliban leaders, the 2008 accord involves 286 tribal elders representing all the sub-clans of the Utmanzai Wazirs and Daurs that dominate the region. In a region with nearly 400,000 inhabitants, the Utmanzai Wazirs outnumber the Daurs almost two to one. North Waziristan is spread over 1,817 square miles, with the Daurs living in the fertile Tochi River valley and around the principal towns of Miranshah and Mirali.

The 2008 accord also extends its writ over all North Waziristan, in contrast to the 2006 accord that was mostly limited to Miranshah because that was where the principal militant group leader, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, held sway. Representatives of the militant leader were also present at the jirga (tribal assembly) this time around and endorsed the decision (Dawn, February 18). The inclusion of Mirali—the tribal agency’s second largest town—in the present accord is important because of the activity of foreign militants around there, as seen in the CIA drone attack that killed al-Libbi.

For a full read, click here.

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‘Zardari, Fahim and Rashid on terrorist hit list’

From the Daily Times in Pakistan.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Vice Chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, and former federal minister Sheikh Rashid are among the politicians placed on the terrorists’ hit list, according to a letter issued by the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC).

A few interesting items come out of this article.

1. While Bhutto was expressly anti-Taliban, Zardari and Fahim have not been so expressive as Bhutto in this regard. In fact, they are forming a coalition with the PML-N which seeks to establish peace with the Taliban vice war in the tribal regions.

2. The PPP was not seeking an alliance with Musharraf's PML-Q which is currently battling the Pakistani Taliban and has assocations with the US. In addition, there is an effort possibly in the future impeach Musharraf once the coalition gains strength.

Given the above, why would the Taliban/Al Qaeda put these members on a hit list? It must be something being worked under the table with the PML-Q and the PPP.

It will be interesting to see how the PPP reacts to being on the Taliban's hit list. Their reaction may very well determine how Pakistan deals with the Taliban in the future. This situation is worth watching.

For a full read, click here.

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US experts expect Pak Army push in tribal area

From The News International.

Pakistan's military appears to be preparing for a new tribal-area offensive against the Taliban leader blamed for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, US officials and experts say....

They expect military action to curb Mehsud's rising influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas possibly in the coming weeks as Pakistan's newly elected civilian leaders try to form a coalition government."

Baitullah has gone and got himself so visible. He wants to kind of consolidate all of the Fata underneath his control, and because he's sticking out so far, the Pakistanis are going to hammer him down," said one US defence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It will be interesting to see if this offensive happens. Given the fact the Pakistani government just reached a peace accord with the Wazir and Daur tribes in North Waziristan on 19 February 2008 which many feel will fail like past peace accords.

However, as noted before, this peace accord is unique as it was reached with tribes vice militants in the area. In addition, this peace accord was made with tribes who do not align themselves with the Pakistani Taliban of Baitullah Mehsud. Most notably, it was made with the Wasiri tribe which suffered the lose of nine tribal elders at the hands of Baitullah Mehsud in January 2008 and attempted to bring a lashkar against him.

Making peace with Baitullah's enemies, establishment of Regional and District Coordinating Offices in the tribal areas, and economic incentives to the region are all part of Musharraf's and General Kayani's multi-pronged strategy to fracture the Pakistani Taliban and eventually bring peace to the region.

While we in the US may not like this or past peace accords, it is in effect the same accords we are making with the Sunni tribes in Iraq. Musharraf and General Kayani know they cannot defeat the Pakistani Tribes and Taliban; however, they do believe they can defeat the more extremists elements within these groups. To do this, they must use fractures within the tribes. They have done this with the recent peace accord with the Wasiri and Daur tribes. It appears they will use this peace with these tribes to allow more freedom of action of military forces in Waziristan against Baitullah's Pakistani Taliban.

If we see an offensive happen against Baitullah with participation of the Wazir and Daur tribes, Musharraf and General Kayani may succeed their battle against the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda as a whole in the region.

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France eyes sending troops to Afghan combat zone

From Yahoo via Reuters.

France may send hundreds of ground troops to east Afghanistan where NATO-led forces are fighting al Qaeda-backed insurgents, Le Monde newspaper reported on Tuesday....

France has about 1,900 soldiers under NATO's Afghan command, most of them based in relatively calm Kabul, and Le Monde said the fresh troops would be deployed outside the capital.

"Their destination would be zones of potentially fierce fighting, preferably the eastern region of Afghanistan close to the tribal areas of Pakistan," it said.

You got to like Sarkozy.

For a full read, click here.

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Qaeda's Zawahri vows revenge over Libi killing: Web

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri vowed revenge for the killing of a top group commander in a suspected U.S. attack in Pakistan, speaking in a video posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

"No chief of ours had died of a natural death, nor has our blood been spilled without a response," Zawahri said in the video posted on an Islamist Web site, referring to the killing of Abu Laith al-Libi.

If one wonders whether or not Libi was a high level Al Qaeda operative, this statement should answer the question.

For a full read, click here.

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The Taliban have Kabul in their sights

From Asia Times Online.

As Pakistani politicians scramble to form a coalition government following last week's parliamentary elections, there has been a surge in violence in the Swat Valley and in other parts of North-West Frontier Province, and on Monday a senior army officer was assassinated.

Syed Saleem Shahzad discusses the Taliban's future plans.

Asia Times Online investigations show that the Taliban's three-pronged plan for their spring offensive comprises cutting off NATO's supply lines running from Pakistan to Afghanistan, recruiting fresh volunteers and, most importantly, the creation of a strategic corridor running from Pakistan all the way to the capital Kabul.

And he provides some insight to NATO's and Pakistan's counterstrategy.

American special ground troops have escalated their activities in Kunar and Nooristan provinces and a US base in Kunar, just three kilometers from Bajaur Agency, is now fully operational. Once the operations are in full swing, Pakistan will provide assistance through its air base in Peshawar for attacks on militant bases in the agencies.

"The operation has to start in the month of March as the Taliban have to launch their operation in April," a Pakistani security official told Asia Times Online.

Musharraf has instilled a multi-pronged strategy to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban whether or not he maintains his position as President.

For its part, as Al Qaeda/Taliban continue to attack inside Pakistan, they continue to lose popular support, which will eventually be their downfall.

In addition, tribes which are benefitting from allowing supplies through the Khyber Pass will have to be dealt with by Al Qaeda/Taliban.

Either way, this spring should bring an interesting time in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

For a full read, click here.

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Suicide bomber kills senior Pakistani general in Rawalpindi

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

The Taliban have struck again in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi. The latest suicide attack in the sister city of Islamabad claimed the life of Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig, the Surgeon General of Army Medical Corps. Mushtaq is the senior-most officer killed since the al Qaeda attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

Seven others were killed in the attack and 20 were wounded after a Taliban suicide bomber rammed into Mushtaq's staff car. The attack occurred close to the military hospital and a post office. Several vehicles and shops were damaged in the strike.

Today's suicide bombing comes one day after the re-arrest of senior Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in Lahore. Obaidullah was in Lahore raising money to fund Taliban operations in Afghanistan.

For a great roll up of recent bombings in Pakistan, click here.

As Al Qaeda and the Taliban ramp up attacks in Pakistan, it will be interesting to see the elected coalitions that form to counter these attacks. It will shape the way of Pakistan's future.

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Pakistan: The Light at The End of The Tunnel

From Amir Taheri.

A year ago it was out of the question. A month ago, it looked like a bad bargain for all concerned. A week ago, it loomed on the horizon like a prelude, rather than a substitute, for civil war.

And, yet, last Monday, Pakistanis turned up in millions to confound doomsayers by voting in what now looks like the country's first free and fair general election with results that few would contest.

Mr Taheri goes on to state how the election showed lack of support for Islamists.

The Unified Assembly for Action (MMA), a coalition of Islamists that won almost 11 per cent of the votes in the last general election five years ago saw its share drop to around three per cent. It lost control of the only one of Pakistan's four provinces that it governed. Almost all its principal leaders lost their seats. In the provincial assembly of Sindh, the MMA won no seats.

Worse still, the Islamists' defeat in the Northwest frontier Province came at the hands of the avowedly secularist Awami League Party (ANP) which preaches a form of socialism.

He also notes that the party of the military, PML-Q, Musharraf's party lost.

The message of this election is clear: the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis reject both military rule and its political twin of Islamism. The twins started dominating Pakistani politics in the 1970s when General Zia ul-Haq overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a military coup. Unable to build a popular political base, the general played the Islamist card, using religion as an ideological prop for a corrupt and brutal regime.

What does all this mean?

The formation of a people-based government has always been a basic condition for winning the war against terror in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That condition can now be fulfilled. In political terms, this means a strategic turning of the tide against the terrorists

This election is a nail in the coffin for Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan - Operation in Swat relaunched

From the Daily Times.

The security forces have restarted the military operation in Matta tehsil of Swat, Channel-5 reported on Friday. According to the channel, the measure followed a remote-controlled bomb explosion in Matta. Security forces shelled suspected positions of militants from Kanju, the channel said, and the operation had not ended until midnight. daily times monitor

More to follow as this situation develops.

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Two Winnable Wars

From Anthony H. Cordesman writing for the Washington Post.

No one can return from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I recently did, without believing that these are wars that can still be won. They are also clearly wars that can still be lost, but visits to the battlefield show that these conflicts are very different from the wars being described in American political campaigns and most of the debates outside the United States.

These conflicts involve far more than combat between the United States and its allies against insurgent movements such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban. Meaningful victory can come only if tactical military victories end in ideological and political victories and in successful governance and development. Dollars are as important as bullets, and so are political accommodation, effective government services and clear demonstrations that there is a future that does not need to be built on Islamist extremism.

He ends with,

Any American political leader who cannot face these realities, now or in the future, will ensure defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Any Congress that insists on instant victory or success will do the same. We either need long-term commitments, effective long-term resources and strategic patience -- or we do not need enemies. We will defeat ourselves

The choice is our America. We can only defeat ourselves in both of these wars.

For a full read, click here.

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Islam at the Ballot Box

From Amir Taheri wrting for the Wall Street Journal.

Pakistan's election has been portrayed by the Western media as a defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. The real losers were the Islamist parties.

The latest analysis of the results shows that the parties linked, or at least sympathetic, to the Taliban and al Qaeda saw their share of the votes slashed to about 3% from almost 11% in the last general election a few years ago. The largest coalition of the Islamist parties, the United Assembly for Action (MMA), lost control of the Northwest Frontier Province -- the only one of Pakistan's four provinces it governed. The winner in the province is the avowedly secularist National Awami Party.

Mr. Taheri goes on to show how bad Islamists have faired in several other countries in elections. He ends with,

Far from rejecting democracy because it is supposed to be "alien," or using it as a means of creating totalitarian Islamist systems, a majority of Muslims have repeatedly shown that they like elections, and would love to join the global mainstream of democratization. President Bush is right to emphasize the importance of holding free and fair elections in all Muslim majority countries.

Tyrants fear free and fair elections, a fact illustrated by the Khomeinist regime's efforts to fix the outcome of next month's poll in Iran by pre-selecting the candidates. Support for democratic movements in the Muslim world remains the only credible strategy for winning the war against terror.

For all that President Bush may not have done, he has brought democracy to the Middle East. This fact can never be changed. Democracy will continue to grow in this region.

Currently, the beacon of democracy in the Middle East is Iraq. It is a beacon that is continuing to shine brighter daily for all other countries to emulate.

Mr. Taheri is correct. Tyrants fear democracy. Whether the tyrants are dictators of Middle Eastern countries or terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, they are fearful of Iraq's success because they know if democracy succeeds in Iraq, Muslims will continue to push for democracy in surrounding countries.

The Bush Doctrine will survive and is currently alive and well. To solve the festering problem on Middle Eastern sponsored terrorism, President Bush took a bold step to end it. Terrorism will not end under his watch, but the democratic principles he forced upon Iraq continue to spread to neighboring countries.

Over time the Bush Doctrine will force out all tyrants in the Middle East. This fact is why Al Qaeda declared Iraq its central front. Having lost Iraq, Al Qaeda is attempting to re-establish itself elsewhere, but as Mr. Taheri points out, they fail to garner much public support where-ever they may be.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi security forces are al-Qaeda's 'enemy No. 1'

From USA Today.

Al-Qaeda and other militants in Iraq have shifted their sights to the growing number of U.S.-backed neighborhood security groups, quadrupling the number of attacks on the lightly armed volunteers over recent months.

Al-Qaeda calls the local security forces "the most dangerous enemy" it faces and ordered more attacks against the groups, according to a document captured last month. The letter from an al-Qaeda regional commander to a subordinate was dated Jan. 3, 2008.

The number of CLC in now over 90,000 and continuing to grow daily. According to this article, Sunnis make up 80% of CLCs, while Shiites make up the other 20%. Not only is Al Qaeda going after CLCs, but so is Iranian backed Special Groups. Why?

Col. Raad Ali Hassan, commander of a volunteer group in Baghdad's Ghazaliyah neighborhood, said the volunteers are a threat to militants because they know the neighborhoods and can point out al-Qaeda and other extremists.

The number one item an insurgency needs to survive is at least tacit support from the populous. All extremists groups in Iraq have lost this tacit support. Iraqis are sick and tired of extremists indiscriminantly killing fellow Iraqis, whether Sunni, Shiite, or Christian. Iraqis are not afraid to come forward because they are seeing a large professional security force able to secure them. This large professional security force is not from the US, but instead is home grown Iraqi.

In Iraq right now, 1 in 20-25 people are involved in security of the country. This means that most Iraqis have brothers, cousins, or some relative in the Army, Police, Badr Corp, Peshmurga forces, CLCs, Sons of Iraq, or Awakening Groups. This is a powerful deterrent.

In addition, in the last five years, probably all people in Iraq have had a relative killed by extremists. It was always stated that Iraqis are the only ones who can stop extremists. This statement is completely true.

What is happening in Iraq is not an isolated incident. Where ever Al Qaeda concentrates itself, it begins to impose strict Islamic Salafist codes on its neighbors resulting in it alienation of the populous. It then indiscriminantly kills fellow Muslims including women and children. This creates what has been coined "intellectional turbulence" among fellow Muslim.

"Intellectual turbelence" among Muslims is created due to three facets.

1. Exaggeration of the Sins of Rival Groups
2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups.
3. Blindly following extremists.

This "intellectual turbulence" came to the forefront in Iraq in middle 2006 when Sunni Tribes began contesting Al Qaeda's role in Al Anbar. The Awakening movement was allowed to grow and flourish by the presence of extra US forces on the ground.

This "intellectual turbuleance" allowed Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be overthrown in Afghanistan and will continue to grow and flourish under NATO.

This "intellectual turbueance" will develop in Gaza now that Al Qaeda has entered Gaza in force.

The beacon of democracy in the Middle East, Iraq, is a light that is shining for all Muslims. The Great Satan, the Infidel, has brought democracy to the heart of the Middle East. Democracy is not easily secured, nor easily maintained as Iraqis are figuring out now. Democracy has to be fought for. All Muslims are now seeing this fact in Iraq. They are also seeing that Al Qaeda is nothing but a bunch thugs.

In addition, they are seeing the Great Satan putting its own forces on the line to bring Muslims freedom and democracy.

In addition to the "intellectual turbulence" described above, Al Qaeda made a grave mistake denouncing democracy. One of the reasons for the growth of Al Qaeda type organizations is a yearning for democracy as a relief from dictatorships in the Middle East.

Many Muslims are now seeing that Al Qaeda is nothing more than another dictatorship, no less violent than Saddam's dictatorship was in Iraq. And no Muslims want to put their life on the line for another Saddam.

All of these factors above are adding to "intellectual turbulence" among Muslims. All of these factors above will result in Al Qaeda's eventual defeat. All of these factors above will eventually lead to a broader democratic revolution in the Middle East. Al Qaeda is nothing but an outgrowth of Nazism from Germany in the 1930s. It took the better part of 70 years to find a dissatisfied faction able to champion its cause in the Middle East.

However, like the Third Reich in Germany, it will not last a 1000 years, but a short decade as fellow Muslims begin to understand what fellow Germans finally understood in the mid 1940s. Their leader is nothing but a crazy man.

For a full read, click here.

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Gaza's New Residents

From the Weekly Standard.

The border incident, initiated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, allowed some otherwise unwelcome guests to enter Gaza. The Bethlehem-based Maan news agency quoted Hamas sources as estimating the number of Arab men who had entered the Gaza Strip as new residents at 2,000. Many of these men, according to Egyptian sources, toured a number of Hamas-affiliated training bases and security installations and expressed their desire to remain in the Gaza Strip and launch attacks against Israel. Some
of the men, according to Arab sources, had recently fled from Iraq, where they had been carrying out attacks against U.S. troops.

So, Al Qaeda in Iraq forces have entered Gaza in force. While Al Qaeda has had members in Gaza for some time, it now appears they have entered Gaza in force.

One thing is certain. No matter where Al Qaeda has hanged its hat, it manages to alienate the populous. Not only does Al Qaeda indiscriminantly kill innocent infidels, but they also indiscriminantly kill innocent Muslims who do not follow strict salafist ways.

While Hamas' shares extreme violence with Al Qaeda, Palestinians in general are not strict salafists. They enjoy smoking, music, television, and the like. Al Qaeda's presence in Gaza is sure to turn many Palestinian noses.

It will be interesting to see how this situation develops. Palestinians have always supported Al Qaeda since it has attacked the US and Israel. Now that Al Qaeda is in Gaza in force, it is sure to begin attacking Palestinians. It will be nice for them to get a taste of their own medicine.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan revives the North Waziristan Accord

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Almost one and a half years after the Pakistani government signed the North Waziristan Accord with the Taliban and the agreement’s subsequent collapse last summer, a new agreement has been inked. The political administration of North Waziristan has agreed to terms with the two major tribes. The Taliban were represented at the negotiations.

Another insightful article from Mr. Roggio.

For a full read, click here.

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Taliban commanders killed in Afghanistan

From Yahoo via AP.

Afghan and NATO-led troops killed two regional Taliban commanders in southern Afghanistan, and an explosion in the same province claimed the life of a British soldier, officials said Thursday.

"As a result of this successful attack (on the commanders), the Taliban's networks have suffered another severe setback," said Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The joint NATO-Afghan forces killed commander Mullah Abdul Matin and his associate, Mullah Karim Agha, in the southern province of Helmand on Monday, the alliance said in a statement.

I know I will be sleeping a little easier tonight knowing two more Taliban Commanders are with Allah.

For a full read, click here.

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Anti-terror pact reached with NW tribesmen

From Daily Times in Pakistan.

The Wazir and Daur tribes on Monday reached an “agreement” with the North Waziristan (NW) political administration against “extremism” and “terrorism”, according to governor’s office.“

The political administration of North Waziristan and all sub-tribes and clans of Wazir and Daur tribes have agreed to jointly struggle against extremism and terrorism throughout the agency,” a press release from Governor’s House said.“

The agreement was signed in Miranshah (headquarters of North Waziristan),” it said.

The Daily Times notes the significance of this agreement.

Monday’s agreement was the first the government had signed with local tribes instead of militant groups.

An agreement with the Wasir tribe is significant in that it recently organized a lashkar against the Meshud tribe after the killing of nine of its tribal leaders. Also of significance is the Wasir tribe is led by Maulvi Nazir who made a name for himself by leading attacks against Uzbeks in April 2007, effectively clearing them out of the Wana region. Both of these tribes have influence in both North and South Waziristan. Expect these tribes to find positions in the newly established Regional Coordinating Officers (RCOs) and District Coordinating Officers (DCOs).

The lines are being drawn in the FATA region as part of Musharraf's multi-pronged strategy to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

For a full read, click here.

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Devastating suicide attack rocks Kandahar

From Matt Dupee writing for The Long War Journal.

A Taliban suicide bomber detonated himself among a densely packed crowd in southern Afghanistan during a dog fighting match, killing at least 55 people and injuring 80 others. Local Kandahar health officials have counted 70 dead bodies, and claim families took away other dead bodies from the scene for a traditional quick burial making a final death toll unknown, according to an NPR report.

The intended target of the attack appears to be Abdul Hakim Jan, an anti-Taliban militia leader, who was in attendance at the event. Jan was recently appointed as the leader of the auxiliary police force in the contested Arghandab district of Kandahar province. He opposed the Taliban in the early 1990s when he served as Kandahar’s provincial police chief. Witnesses say the bomber came within 15 feet of Jan before detonating. Investigators have so far failed to find Jan’s remains but have presumed him to be dead.

Mr. Dupee does an excellent job of detailing high profile attacks in Afghanistan. It shows how the Taliban are focusing their efforts on local representatives. However, just like in Iraq, this will eventually alienate its own citizens as they see leaders representative of their beliefs killed.

Without respect to whether dog fighting is legal or moral in this country, it is obviously part of the culture in this region. Where Al Qaeda/Taliban constantly alienates themselves is in attempting to impose its will and beliefs on citizens. Individuals who do not agree with Al Qaeda/Taliban are blasted to death by suicide bombs.

It is hard to state you are obeying Muslim tradition when you kill innocent people at a dog fight, at a mosque, or at a memorial service. While we in this country may be adverse to dog fighting, it is not worth blowing up 70+ people. For these reasons alone, Al Qaeda/Taliban will continue to alienate themselves among Afghanistanis.

It must be remembered that the Taliban in Afghanistan fell in 2001 not due to overwhelming US forces in the country attacking the government but to Special Forces uniting already anti-govenment forces against the Taliban.

The Taliban/Al Qaeda was never liked by the vast majority of Afghanistanis. Indiscriminant killings currently on the increase in Afghanistan will further alienate an already alienated Afghanistani population which is why suicide bombers were for so long no employed in Afghanistan.

The fact that they are now being employed shows how desparate the situation has become for the Taliban.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq's Jihad Myths

From the Washington Post.

Among Democrats and even many Republicans, it is by now accepted wisdom that the war in Iraq brought huge numbers of holy warriors to the anti-American cause. But is it true? I don't think so.

Reuel Marc Gerecht elaborates further.

Regarding the Iraq war and jihadism, two facts stand out.

First, if we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptismal font for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Mesopotamia since the U.S. invasion in 2003....

A second striking fact about Islamism and the Iraq war is that the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population -- the exact opposite of what happened in Afghanistan.


More important, the gruesome anti-Shiite tactics of extremist groups, combined with the much-quoted statements made by former Sunni insurgents about the positive actions of the United States in Iraq, have caused a great deal of intellectual turbulence in the Arab world.

In Iraq, Salafist were indiscriminately killing Muslims. Shiite Militias were indiscriminately killing Muslims. Americans have always acted to protect both sides, functioning as the arbiters in this region. In addition, Americans continue to die to promote democracy with representation from Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. Finally, it is clear, we are not after Iraqi's oil wealth. All of these facts produced the "intellectual turbulence" seen in Iraq. The infidel (the US) gained respect while Muslims lost respect.

From a more Muslim perspective, this "intellectual turbulence" is also noticed in recent writings of Syrian sheikh 'Abd Al-Mun'im Mustafa Halima, who is also known as Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, from his article, "On the Jihad in Iraq". He noted three points which has caused the jihad in Iraq to suffer.

1. Exaggeration of the Sins of Rival Groups

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups.

3. Blindly following extremists.

While in this article, Al-Tartousi was condemning Sunni Awakening groups with his three points, his three points point clearly to Al Qaeda and created "intellectual turbulence" not only among Sunni Awakening groups in Iraq, but also among Muslims in general. When looking at these three points, it is clear the infidel (the US) is following these three points more closely than fellow Muslims.

For all the mistakes made or not made in Iraq, one thing is clear. By maintaining the moral high ground in Iraq, the US has gained powerful allies in the region and has also created "intellectual turbulence" among Muslims. For their part, many Muslim dictators are sitting out this batttle as they know that a successful democracy in Iraq will lead to their own downfall, increasing "intellectual turbulence" among Muslims in the region. The only nation which has kept up the "faith", for sake of a better term, is the US (the infidel).

When all were saying withdraw, one was saying surge. That surge has amplified the "intellectual turbulence" of Muslims and Islamic nations. That surge has started Muslims to become introspective. Instrospection is the main thing that Islam has been lacking. It is the main reason Muslims and Islam have stagnated and have not joined others in the last or current century. It is the main reason that Muslims have resorted to suicide killings which indiscriminantly kill not only infidels, but Muslims alike.

One country, America, led by one president, Bush, has caused this introspection within Islam. One coutnry, America, led by one president, Bush, took a bold step to put a democracy in the center of the Middle East.

The status quo has been forever changed in the Middle East. Islam is becoming introspective. A democratic nation has been planted in the center of the Middle East. Freedom and democracy is now possible for all Muslims. Al Qaeda on the otherhand only offers death and despair.

At times it is hard to accept change, especially when the change that is most needed is offered by an infidel. This very fact is creating the "intellectual turbulence" being observed within Islam. Christianity caused this "intellectual turbelence" in Judaism 2000 years ago and forever changed this religion. Two thousand years later, Christianity is doing the same for Islam. I am sure Jesus Christ would be proud of what his religion has done for the world. I am sure that Jesus Christ would be proud of America and its President.

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U.S.–Pakistan Relations: Assassination, Instability, and the Future of U.S. Policy

From The Heritage Foundation.

Conventional wisdom holds that in this part of the world stability and democracy are mutually exclusive. But in the case of Pakistan, it is increasingly clear that holding fair and transparent elections provides the best chance for stabilizing the country. Ultimately, a popularly elected civilian government working hand-in-hand with a strong military focused on its primary mission of battling extremists will provide stability and security for the Pakistani people.

Lisa Curtis delivers an excellent lecture on the way forward in Pakistan.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan’s Taliban Battle Military for Frontier Arms Bazaar and Strategic Tunnel

From the Jamestown Foundation. An excellent piece on the significance of the Khyber Pass, the Kohat tunnel, and Peshawar.

Darra Adam Khel is a familiar name to all those who have any acquaintance with Pakistan's lawless tribal frontier region of seven tribal districts, or agencies. The town takes its name from the Adam Khel clan of the Pashtun Afridi tribe native to this region. Situated about 20 miles to the south of Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and halfway to the garrison city of Kohat, Darra Adam Khel has long been considered a hub of criminals, car thefts, fake academic degrees and counterfeit foreign currencies. More importantly, this small town has a notorious reputation as South Asia’s largest illegal arms and ammunitions market (Dawn [Karachi], March 27, 2003). It is entirely run by local tribesmen without any state control or supervision. The extraordinarily skillful gunsmiths of Darra Adam Khel can make replicas of anything from small arms to AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns.

For a full read, click here.

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Senior Taliban figure caught in Pakistan

From Yahoo via AP.

Pakistani security forces critically wounded a top figure in the Taliban militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, among six militants captured after a firefight near the border Monday, the army said.

Mansoor Dadullah, brother of the Taliban's slain military commander Mullah Dadullah, and the five others were challenged by security forces as they crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan. They refused to stop and opened fire, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

For a full read, click here.

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The Impact of Pashtun Tribal Differences on the Pakistani Taliban

From the Jamestown Foundation.

Though members of militant Islamic groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and other jihadis have almost the same anti-United States and pro-al-Qaeda worldview, they are not especially disciplined when it comes to organizational matters. Difficulty in this area explains the existence of so many extremist factions operating under different leaders and commanders who sometimes express conflicting opinions on domestic and international issues.

President Musharraf is using these tribal loyalties to his government's advantage. As noted in a previous blog, the Pakistani government is establishing below the Governor, Regional Coordinating Officers (RCOs), District Coordinating Officers (DCOs), and making the offices of the political agents in the NWFP and FATA regions active and functional to accomplish three strategic objectives:

To strengthen the NWFP’s own financial resource base, improve its trade potential by improving its infrastructure and create necessary incentives to attract investment for industrialisation.

What was not mentioned in this Dawn article is the fact that this RCOs, DCOs, and political agents would most likely fall along tribal lines and historical leadership lineages. Bringing tribal leaders into the government may very well allow Musharraf to win over tribal alliances in the FATA and NWFP regions. As noted in the Jamestown Foundation article,

These groups also have regional and local political agendas and are, therefore, under pressure from their tribes and communities not to become involved in wider conflicts that could transform their areas into battlegrounds and contribute to their suffering.

It is precisely this split which Musharraf is trying to harnass to bring the tribal regions under control. Through the establishment of RCOs, DCOs and political agents, Musharraf is attempting to give the tribes a voice within the government and to use the governmental structure to resolve disputes. If two political agents (of say different tribes) have a dispute, then the DCO or RCO could mitigate the issue and provide a win-win situation for both tribes.

In this region tribal differences were solved by warfare which has resulted in this region never prospering, thus becoming ripe for Al Qaeda recruitment. By establishing RCOs, DCOs, and Political Agents, Musharraf is attempting to resolve differences within the governmental structure, lessen disputes, and bring economic investment to this region.

As we see the Musharraf government pursuing peace accords with tribes in the FATA and NWFP region, one must understand Musharraf is doing no different than US forces have done with Sunni tribes in Iraq.

One cannot win an insurgency by killing it. One can only win an insurgency by bringing less violent elements of the insurgency back into the government. Musharraf's plan supplies the structure to do this very thing. Musharraf is hoping the differing regional and local political agendas of the tribes will provide the impetus for them to join vice fight the government.

Once the tribes stop supporting Al Qaeda, it will be easier for Musharraf to deal with this extremist group.

For a full read of the Jamestown Foundation article, click here.

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Poll: Pakistanis turn against bin Laden

From Yahoo via the AP.

Sympathy for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has dropped sharply in Pakistan amid a wave of deadly violence, according to the results of a recent opinion poll.

The survey, conducted last month for the U.S.-based Terror Free Tomorrow organization, also identified the party of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as the country's most popular ahead of Feb. 18 elections, and said most Pakistanis want President Pervez Musharraf to quit.

Later, the article notes,

According to the poll results only 24 percent of Pakistanis approved of bin Laden when the survey was conducted last month, compared with 46 percent during a similar survey in August.

Backing for al-Qaida, whose senior leaders are believed to be hiding along the Pakistani-Afghan border, fell to 18 percent from 33 percent.

Support for the Taliban, whose Pakistani offshoots have seized control of much of the lawless border area and have been engaged in a growing war against security forces, dropped by half to 19 percent from 38 percent, the results said.

Just like in Iraq, when Al Qaeda (and the Taliban) begins its indiscriminate killings, popularity falls. In the case of Pakistan, it is falling sharply and rapidly. Al Qaeda (and the Taliban) are losing popular support in their last unassailable base, Pakistan. Unlike Iraq, where Al Qaeda had an infidel enemy (the US) to focus its insurgent military and propaganda efforts on, Al Qaeda can only focus its efforts in Pakistan on Pakistanis. As such, Al Qaeda (and the Taliban) are losing popular support rapidly.

The elections will show just how sharply popular support for Al Qaeda has dropped. The MMA, the political arm of insurgents, is expected to lose significantly in the election. While Musharraf's support is also suffering, a coalition between the PPP and his PML-Q party may very well happen to form a majority in the government leaving Musharraf to fight Al Qaeda (and the Taliban) while the PPP focuses on the economic front.

For a full read, click here.

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The General’s New Mission

From Newsweek.

Pakistan's latest Army chief holds the key to next week's vote, and to the future of his unstable nation....

He's been tasked with one of the toughest, most urgent military assignments in the world: reforming Pakistan's armed forces and rescuing the country itself from possible collapse.

Later, the article states,

At this point they want basically the same thing: a stable, democratic Pakistan that can defend itself against the jihadists. That goal remains elusive. Kayani has warned publicly that no counterinsurgency campaign can succeed without the public's full support. And yet less than half of Pakistan's people favor using Army forces against Al Qaeda and its allies. The last thing Kayani needs now is a bunch of camouflage-painted American Rambos running around Waziristan. Still, it won't be easy watching him go it alone.

This article gives a rough insight into Pakistani politics, its military, and the upcoming elections, but misses the main point. Namely, Musharraf has set up a multi-pronged strategy to deal with the insurgents in his country that not only involves a military solution, but also an economic and political aspect.

On the political front, Musharraf is ensuring free and fair elections which will undoubtedly result in his party losing the majority to the PPP and the PML-N. In addition, he appointed an Army Chief who is non-partisan, has instructed his military to stay out of politics, and will ensure the fairness of the elections. Finally, he has instituted restructuring of the government in the FATA and NWFP regions.

On the economic front, Musharraf has implemented capital markets and engaged in international trade and treaties which will move his country, and its people, out of poverty reducing enticement to join such extremist groups as Al Qaeda.

It is not about General Kayani and the military as this article implies. He is definitely one of the major players in Pakistan's future and will undoubtedly ensure Pakistan remains unified should the situation worsen. However, Musharraf has laid the ground work on the other instruments of national power to bring his country into the future as a democratic muslim nation, whether or not he personally survives the upcoming elections or its aftermath.

For a full read, click here.

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Diary of an Insurgent In Retreat

From the Washington Post.

On Nov. 3, U.S. soldiers raided a safe house of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near the northern city of Balad. Not a single combatant was captured, but inside the house they found something valuable: a diary and will written in neat Arabic script.

"I am Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector," it began.
Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.

Abu Tariq went from 600 to 20 Al Qaeda fighters in the October 2007 timeframe. According to the article, he was the religious emir of an area stretching from Taji to south of Balad. The area marks the center of the famous "Sunni Triangle" along the Tigris River Valley. More importantly,

He provided details of what appears to be one of the ways his group financed its activities -- buying and selling trucks and cars, which he called "spoils." He recorded incomplete transactions, including details of money still owed to his group.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, has been decimated according to a diary from one of their own leaders who has now fled to Mosul. The diary speaks of desertions, dismantled battalions, and money woes of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is on its last leg due to The Surge of US forces in Iraq. They have consolidated their forces in Mosul in the hopes of regrouping; however, they are encircled by Iraqi Security and US Forces. January 2007 was a time in which many members of the US Government and MSM were saying all hope for victory in Iraq was lost. Just one year later, the cards have completely turned and it now seems all hope is lost for Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda in general.

One wonders what Iraq and Al Qaeda would be like today if we had listened to defeatist forces in the US Government and the MSM and began the withdraw of forces last year instead of surging them.

For a full read, click here.

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Shift in Tactics Aims to Revive Struggling Insurgency

From the Washington Post.

The Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq is telling its followers to soften their tactics in order to regain popular support in the western province of Anbar, where Sunni tribes have turned against the organization and begun working with U.S. forces, according to group leaders and American intelligence officials.

The article continues with how disenchanted Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters have become.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq's change in tactics comes in response to the turmoil and self-doubt that arose among its members as they lost the support of Sunni tribesmen, a process vividly described in a letter by an unnamed al-Qaeda in Iraq emir that the U.S. military said it seized last November.

What caused this disenchantment? In a captured Al Qaeda in Iraq document,

the emir said the difficulty in assigning tasks to potential suicide bombers was caused by increases in U.S. military operations and the formation of U.S.-backed Sunni tribal groups, known as Awakening councils, to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"We found ourselves in a circle not being able to move, organize or conduct our operations," he wrote. "There was a total collapse in the security structure of the organization."

For a full read, click here.

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Media Spins Success in Afghanistan as Failure

From the American Thinker.

American and Coalition forces have taken the initiative in Afghanistan, and have the Taliban on the run. Yet major American media outlets, to the extent they cover fighting in Afghanistan, are portraying the Taliban as "resurgent". Going on the offense and succeeding at it always increases violence. But is being spun onto bad news?

The increase in fighting in Afghanistan is not a sign of a stronger Taliban, but rather a more desperate one. Despite all the media reports to the contrary it is we who are surging in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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Swat fighting more deadly than Iraqi insurgency

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

More than two months after the Pakistani military launched an operation to clear the district of Swat in the Northwest Frontier Province, pockets of Taliban forces and safe havens remain. The Pakistani military and police have taken casualties far greater the combined US and Iraqi forces have fighting the insurgency in Iraq, according to an Interior Ministry report obtained by the Daily Times.

For a full read, click here.

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Chad's Future Taliban enters capital while the West is asleep

From Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog.

As Americans are debating who among their candidates for the primaries can best confront the Jihadists or at least preempt their offensives worldwide, future Jihadi forces have in one day invaded an African country (under European protection), a key location for the Darfur forthcoming Peace missions. In less than 12 hours the so-called armed opposition of Chad, crossed the entire country from its Eastern frontiers with Islamist-ruled Sudan to the capital N'Djamena across from Northern Nigeria. The latest reports mention fierce battles around the Presidential Palace and back and forth inside the city. But at this stage the geo-political consequences are crucial for the next stages locally, regionally and internationally. The bottom line is that in one day, what could become the future Taliban of Chad have scored a strategic victory not only against the Government of the country (which was supposed to back up the UN plans to save Darfur in Sudan) but also against the efforts by the African Union and European Union to contain the Sudanese regime and stop the Genocide. Today's offensive, regardless of the next developments, has already changed the geopolitics of Africa. Outmaneuvering the West and Africans, those regimes and forces standing behind the "opposition" have shown that they are restless in their campaign against human rights and self determination on the continent. But even more importantly the events of today shows how unprepared are Europeans and Americans in front of Jihadi regimes which seem weak on the surface but highly able to surprise and crumble Western efforts of containment.

Mr. Phares' commentary is very instructive. He also links the players behind this action. While the "coup" was ongoing, Jibrin Issa, who will probably be the new official minister of Chad, was seated in al Jazeera's studios in Qatar.

Issa played the script very well until a point where reality surfaced abruptly. At first, as I was listening to his impeccable Arabic, I was wondering why did he have this Arabian Peninsula accent and utter those mechanical sentences. It was strange to hear an African "minister" of a future regime in Chad speaking excellent Arabic, but I gave it a pass. Until, at the end of his interview he made a troubling mistake. Out of the blue he started to thank the "brave commander of the Islamic Republic of Sudan" General Omar al Bashir (the head of the regime responsible for the Genocide in Darfur) for his help to the "movement" and started to praise his "highness the servant of the two shrines," (that is the Saudi Monarch) for his support (obviously to the movement). Suddenly, and despite the frustration of the al jazeera anchor that the game may have been exposed,

I concur with Mr. Phares. Both the United States and France were asleep at the wheel and did not foresee this dramatic development. The UN for its part is continuously asleep at the wheel, so I do not fault them.

Al Qaeda has expertly opened up a new front in the Long War. And without the Chadian buffer to keep them contained, Sudan can now threaten Ethiopia's back door, resulting in Ethiopia possibly pulling forces out of Somalia to protect itself now that it is completely surrounded by violent regimes or regimes, like Kenya, who are involved in internal turmoil.

Like the Chinese entering the Korean war, it is a whole new ballgame as the geo-political situation in Northern Africa has now dramatically changed. Mr. Pharis' last statement is telling.

Let's admit it, the Jihadi strategists are having a blast. One more country has fallen on the way to Constantinople.

Let's hope Chadian forces can overcome this threat.

For a full read, click here.

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Administrative system changes in NWFP, Fata likely

From Dawn.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani on Thursday disclosed that the government was actively considering a set of measures to bring about structural changes in the administrative system in the NWFP and adjoining tribal regions to improve governance and ensure better security.“

Extraordinary times require extraordinary decisions,” Mr Ghani said in his maiden interaction with senior journalists at the Governor’s House.“

The government system in settled districts and the political system in tribal regions are heading towards a state of collapse. It’s a matter of grave concern. We face tough challenges. The whole system has become weak, demoralised and despondent. We are facing unusual set of circumstances that require unconventional and extraordinary support for the administrative system,” he said.

The Pakistani government is establishing below the Governor, Regional Coordinating Officers (RCOs), District Coordinating Officers, and making the offices of the political agents in the NWFP and FATA regions active and functional to accomplish three strategic objectives:

To strengthen the NWFP’s own financial resource base, improve its trade potential by improving its infrastructure and create necessary incentives to attract investment for industrialisation.

This economic development sounds a lot like what US Forces are doing in Iraq. Pakistan is establishing layers of government (which will likely be held by tribal leaders) thoughout the NWFP and FATA region to control and promote an accountable financial base, trade, and manufacturing. What we are seeing here is Musharraf's multi-pronged strategy in the NWFP and Fata regions. He, like George Bush, knows the only way to prevent further recruitment for Al Qaeda is to establish law and order (which he will do with the military after elections); promote investment, trade, and manufacturing (which is his economic prong); and democratic elections for parliament (the political prong).

And like US Forces have done in Iraq, Musharraf is also looking towards reconciliation.

Answering a question, he said that no talks were being held with militants in South Waziristan but emphasised that contacts were essential to create conducive atmosphere for negotiations.

He said that militants had carried out eleven concerted attacks on Luddah fort in South Waziristan and stormed the Sara Rogha fort while negotiations were on through a tribal jirga. “This was an open war against the state,” he said. But he made it clear that the government’s action was in line with the Riwaj (local traditions). “The government was forced to react,” he said.

Musharraf is keeping open contacts with tribal leaders who are looking for reconciliation. These same tribal leaders may very well find themselves rewarded as future District Coordinating Officers or political agents if they choose reconciliation backed by the Pakistan military. Reconciliation is still possible because the Pakistani government's actions are still in line with the Riwaj, noted above. This reconciliation again sounds a lot like reconciliation with Sunni tribes in Al Anbar.

While we (the USA) may not like it, Bin Laden is not Musharraf's number one enemy. Currently it is Baitullah Meshud who has unified the Pakistani Taliban. He needs to find and kill/detain Meshud to break up the Pakistani Taliban. Having RCOs, DCOs, and political agent positions open will allow Musharraf to bring the now disparate Pakistani tribes into the government and provide stability to the NWFP and FATA regions. He already has the CLCs in place. They are the Frontiers Corps. However, due to tribal relations with locals, they have been less than proficient at holding the tribes in check.

For his part, Musharraf is silently happy with the CIA using Predator aircraft on Al Qaeda targets. Killing Al Qaeda makes his future reconciliation easier with the tribes. He can always protest to show his concern for the people in the tribal regions, but also blame lawlessness created by Al Qaeda on his inability to have sway over the CIA. The US is seen as the bad guy and Musharraf slowly sues for peace with the fractured Taliand puts tribal officials into the government; thereby incorporating them into the government. While Governor Owais states,

“The battle for peace and stability in the region will be won and lost in Afghanistan,”

Governor Owais is only half right. Both countries are completely linked. Peace and stability in the region is dependent on both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Operations in South Waziristan halted for peace talks

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Just 10 days after the Pakistani military launched an offensive to clear the Taliban from South Waziristan, the fighting has been put on hold to conduct peace talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban is conducting internal negotiations with Mullah Nazir for all pro-Uzbek Taliban leaders to return to South Waziristan.

The military announced the South Waziristan cease-fire on Feb. 2. "Negotiations are underway at the time," Geo TV reported based on an official statement from a Pakistani Army colonel. "If the talks bear no fruits, then the Pakistan Army is fully geared up to undertake full-fledged military operations in Sararogha and Ladha."

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan's New Breed of Ruthless Leaders

From Susanne Koelbl writing for Spiegel.

A new generation of Taliban fighters has taken over in Pakistan's tribal regions near the Afghan border. Their ruthless leader is believed to have been involved in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

When an underling disobeys him, Baitullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, fines the offender 1,000 rupees, or about €11, sends him home with needle and thread, and orders him to have someone sew his own shroud within 24 hours. The offender is usually dead by the time the 24 hours are up, executed by the extremist leader's militias.

These are the type of people we are fighting against in the Long War. It is also this new breed of ruthless leaders that President Musharraf now understands he must defeat. Ms. Koelbl continues to show the difference between the older generation of Taliban leaders and the newer generation.

The old mujaheddin who fought in the war against the Soviets and the Taliban who were driven from Afghanistan in 2001, however, still respected the tribal hierarchies and the Pashtuns' rudimentary code of honor. Although it includes blood feuds, it also stringently requires that the innocent -- especially women and children -- be protected. Nowadays, on the other hand, anything done in the name of jihad seems permissible. The cooperative arrangement between al-Qaida and the Taliban has broken ranks with the ultraconservative but ordered world of the tribes living in the regions along the Afghan border. This has led to new tensions, so much so that most traditional tribal leaders are now refusing to cooperate with bin Laden's terrorist network. But members of the young neo-Taliban have used every means available to protect their foreign "guests." In the ensuing power struggle, the new Taliban commanders have already killed more than 250 tribal leaders. (emphasis added)

Not only are the younger Taliban leaders attacking innocent women and children, they are also killing their own who disagree with them. These brutal tactics are causing the Taliban to fracture. President Musharraf is using this fracture to his advantage.

In the meantime, the upstart leader has even challenged the authority of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has criticized the high civilian death toll during recent suicide bombings.

This fracture among the Taliban will continue to grow as will the fracture with older Taliban and Al Qaeda continue to become wider. As Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban turn their sights towards Pakistan, they have activated the 600,000 strong Pakistani Army against them. Where once their rear areas were safe for them to train their soldiers to fight the 100,000 strong Coalition forces in Afghanistan, now they must defend themsleves on several fronts against a much larger combined force.

In addition, the brutal tactics identified above will not help Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban with their support among people in the region. The recent missile strike which killed the top tier Al Qaeda leader, al-Libi, is testament to this fact. While undoubtedly coming from an armed UAV (read US Predator), strikes such as these inside of Pakistan are also typically backed up by intelligence on the ground and other intelligence sources. The International Herald Tribune notes that this missile strike occurred just 1.3 miles from a Pakistani military compound. However, it incorrectly interprets the significance of this fact by noting this shows how entrenched Islamic militants are in Pakistan. The article later also notes the lack of reaction from Pakistanis and the government itself but does not understand its significance.

President Musharraf early on attempted to make peace with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal region only to have peace agreements broken immediately. In response, Musharraf emplaced a pro-western Chief of Army Staff (General Kayani), made General Tariq Majid (who led the attack on the Red Mosque) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and moved several regular Army Brigades down from Kashmir in late 2007. All of these moves are indicative that Musharraf intends to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. His recent meetings with high level US officials to assist his forces is another indicator of his intentions. Finally, his recent speech against Al Qaeda and the Taliban lays down his overall strategy in the upcoming fight.

If one examines Musharraf's recent speech, it would be noted that he spoke of multi-pronged strategy involving the military to focus on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the political process of transitioning to a democracy (not only in the settled regions of Pakistan, but also in the tribal areas), and socio-economic aspect to enhance commerce within his country to lift the masses out of poverty and dispair.

Al Qaeda's and the Taliban's current fracture and more brutal tactics only makes his job easier. Musharraf has expertly emplaced all instruments of national power for the upcoming military action he now understands he must take against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He has illicited the advantage which US technology and support will give his forces to assist is this battle. While he states unauthorized foreign intervention in Pakistan is unauthorized, he does not speak of authorized foreign intervention. This distinction is clearly evident in the recent lack of governmental reaction to the killing of al-Libi noted above.

However, above all, Musharraf must wait until after 18 February Pakistani elections when the second prong of his strategy is implemented. His country cannot be in all out war or the elctions will not be seen as free and fair effectively giving Al Qaeda and the Taliban a political victory. While Musharraf's PML-Q party will undoubtedly lose seats, the MMA (the consolidated party of the insurgents) will lose significantly more.

To ensure the success of his multi-prong strategy, Musharraf implemented the final leg of his country's national power, namely informational. He successfully accomplished this information operation when he embarked on an eight day visit to several EU nations where he laid out his military, political, and economic strategy to world leaders.

Musharraf and his generals continue for the time being to contain Al Qaeda and the Taliban. When advances are made by the Pakistan Army, it is only to contain these elements so that Pakistani's can freely make their decision as to Pakistan's future on 18 February. After the elections, Musharraf and his generals will have shaped the battlefield and international community properly to begin decisive operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban while at the same time giving freedom and democracy to his country.

The end result of Musharraf's actions will be significantly reduced fighting this spring in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda routed from Pakistan, an orderly transition to democracy, followed by signficant economic growth. It is no wonder that when asked by a reporter about possible covert operations by Americans in the region, Musharraf responds,

"The United States seems to believe that it can do something that our army cannot," he says. "This assessment is completely wrong."

It is notable that Ms. Koelbl breaks Musharraf's quote up and implies Musharraf is stating the United States' assessment is wrong. When looking at Musharraf's strategy to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and his behind the scenes dealings with the US forces for technological support with this effort, it seems more correct that Musharraf is stating Ms. Koelbl's "assessment in completely wrong."

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Captured militant planned to hit Pakistan elections: officials

From Yahoo via AFP.

Pakistani officials said Wednesday that a key Al-Qaeda-linked militant captured in a shootout in the southern city of Karachi planned to launch terrorist attacks on rallies for next month's elections....

In Karachi, officials said Qasim Toori, a wanted member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group Jundullah (Army of God), was wounded and arrested after a raid on his hideout in the port city late Tuesday.

Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to stop democratic elections in Pakistan on 18 February 2008. If free and fair democratice elections take place, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are doomed.

For a full read, click here.

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Terror Leader Killed in Missile Strike?

From ABC News.

Pakistani intelligence sources say they believe a "high-value" al Qaeda target was killed in a missile strike yesterday in the country's tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said there was no indication that the target was Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, but one senior official told ABCNews.com the strike was aimed at one particular figure.

"We don't know whether we got him yet, we are sorting through it," the official said, indicating the intended target was a top leader of the terror group.

For a full read, click here.

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