"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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After Baitullah, TTP loses support at home and abroad

From Shaukat Qadir writing for The National.

More than a month after Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike at his father-in-law’s house, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains a diminished force. Not that the death of one man can spell the end of the organisation – many of the Mehsud tribe would say Baitullah was a CIA agent anyway – but the TTP has lost both support inside Pakistan and a connection to al Qa’eda’s foreign forces.

Shaukat Qadir provides and interesting prespective, backed by the history of tribes in the region, and an even more interesting conclusion.

While the struggle against US occupation is unlikely to diminish in intensity, military operations in Waziristan may not even be necessary. If a ground attack proceeds, it is likely to be much easier than it would have been were Baitullah alive and supported by his foreign troops. Has the tide turned? The anti-Taliban feeling in mainland Pakistan certainly seems to have become more unanimous than the anti-American feeling, at least for the time being.

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 now facing 2-front war in Waziristan

From Saeed Shah writing for the Mcclatchy Newspapers published in the Miami Herald. The article starts with:

A militant commander in northwest Pakistan tore up a peace deal with the Pakistani government Tuesday, dealing a major blow to the government's campaign against Islamist insurgents in the extremist-controlled Waziristan region.

So the militant commander "tore" up the peace deal which will deal a "major blow" to Pakistan. Why?

"This accord is being scrapped because of Pakistan's failure to stop the American drone attacks in North and South Waziristan," said Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for Bahadur. "Since the army is attacking us in North and South Waziristan, we will also attack them."

So, the Predator attacks must be hurting them, and hurting them hard, so hard, in fact, they have decided it is better to go to war with Pakistan than continue to be hit by predator attacks. However, this conclusion is never reached. Instead the conclusion that is reached is Pakistan now has to face a 2-front war.

"You have to have a strategy to isolate Baitullah, clear the Mehsud area, then make arrangements for (fighting) Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur," said Asad Munir, a former head of military intelligence for the tribal area. "You have to make every effort to separate the Wazirs and the Mehsuds."

Well really. That is surprising. I bet the only person who knew Pakistan was going to try to deal with Mehsud first and then Nazir and Bahadur was Mr. Munir. That is probably the reason Pakistan has been denying they are aware of the attacks and is representing they are powerless to stop the attacks.

I bet the fact that Pakistan was aware of the attacks never entered into the thought process of Nazir and Bahadur. I bet, seeing their fellow Taliban wiped out in Swat and a major offensive ongoing in South Waziristan and knowing they were next, never entered into their thought process that they better now side with Baitullah before his forces are wiped out.

I believe in this particular case, the Obama administration is on target.

The Obama administration contends that the drone attacks are hurting the ability of Taliban and al-Qaida commanders to plan and mount operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that the domestic political fallout from the strikes hasn't hurt the Pakistani government too badly, said two U.S. officials who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

Yes folks, Afghanistan and Pakistan are connected. They are linked. You cannot win one without the other. Surprise. We haven't heard that before. If that means you have to fight all enemy forces at one time, that is what it means. Would you rather fight one at a time? Of course, and Pakistan has been doing a great job up until now to fight only one, but Pakistan nor the US get to decide when the enemy will begin to fight. The enemy does. And the enemy has.

Will it be a different battle now? Sure. Were contingencies drawn up in case this happened? Undoubtedly. Did everybody know this day was coming? Of course.

What is more important is to see what comes next. And that will begin to shed some light on what the contingency plan really is.

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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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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Fatwa issued against Pakistan President Zardari for “flirtatious” behaviour toward Sarah

From CFP.

Among his other problems, a fatwa has now been issued against “flirtatious” Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

“The leader of the infamous Lal Masjid in Lahore, Pakistan has issued a `fatwa’ against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari for publicly making indecent gestures towards the American Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.” (Watch), (The Times of India, Sept. 29, 2008).

During his first Western mission since his election, Zardari seems to have run afoul of the clerics, who have dubbed his act upon meeting vice presidential Sarah Palin as “un-Islamic”.

The Pakistani elections saw not only the decline of Musharraf's PML-Q party, but also Islamist parties. These two facts taken together can only mean Pakistanis were not only tired of Musharraf's dictatorial tendencies, but also extremists too. To put it simply, Pakistanis did not want a dictatorship, whether headed by Musharraf or the Islamists. They wanted a democracy and voted overwhelmingly for one.

A fatwa issued against President Zardari will only cause more Pakistanis to turn against Islamists, not to mention the full weight of the PPP controlled government too.

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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Pakistan names new intelligence chief in military reshuffle

From M & C.

Pakistan has appointed a new chief of the country's main spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in a major reshuffle of the senior military leadership.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha was appointed ISI director general, according to an army statement issued late Tuesday. He will replace Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj, a loyalist of former president Pervez Musharraf, who resigned in August to avoid impeachment.

Army Chief General Ishfaq Parvez Kayani also appointed, with the approval of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a new chief of general staff and replaced four of the nine corps commanders. The move is also to strengthen Kayani's grip over his forces.

The reshuffle comes at a time when Islamabad has intensified its push against the Islamist extremist Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the lawless tribal region along the Afghan border.

One can only hope this reshuffle is intent on making the Pakistani military more prone to battle isurgents as opposed to siding with them. Given that these appointments were approved by PM Gilani, it appears they are being done to do just that, namely, weed out individuals supportive of isurgents and bring commanders in to battle insurgents. The US did something similar in Iraq until it came up with the Petraeus/Odierno combination in Iraq which changed the way American forces battled insurgents in Iraq.

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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Battle with remote militants pivotal to beating al-Qaeda

From the Taipei Times.

A massive battle with Islamist militants in an obscure Pakistani tribal region is proving to be pivotal to the country’s fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, officials said.

The six-week army operation in the remote region of Bajaur on the Afghan border is suspected to have sparked furious extremists into bombing the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad just over a week ago, they said.

While Waziristan has captured most of the headlines about Pakistan’s tribal belt in recent years, the military says Bajaur is where it faces the stiffest resistance since joining the US-led “war on terror” in 2001.

Why have the Taliban/Al Qaeda put up such a defense in Bajaur?

The rebels cannot afford to lose Bajaur’s strategic location.

To the east is the restive former tourist region of Swat and trouble is flaring south, through the Mohmand tribal area and into the major city of Peshawar.

On the Afghan side is a long frontier with the Taliban hot spot of Kunar Province.

Pakistan's battle into Bajaur is significantly affecting the Taliban/Al Qaeda. They have mandated concription. They have recalled forces from Afghanistan.

The Marriott bombing has only caused Pakistani government and military forces to fight harder and to turn the population more against the Taliban/Al Qaeda. If the Pakistani forces can break defenses in Bajaur, the population may turn in earnest against the Taliban/Al Qaeda. With their defeat in Bajaur, Waziristan becomes the next target.

Let us hope the Pakistani government and military has the fortitude to continue this battle through completion.

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Militants pouring in from Afghanistan: Pakistan

From the Khaleej Times.

Militants battling Pakistani forces are getting weapons and reinforcements from Afghanistan, security officials said on Monday, vowing no let-up in their offensive in the northwest.

Government forces launched an offensive in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border in August after years of complaints from US and Afghan officials that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan were getting help from Pakistani border areas such as Bajaur.

Now the tables have turned and the militants locked in heavy fighting with Pakistani forces are getting help from the Afghan side of the border, officials said.

This report along with the report of the Taliban transcripting sons from Pakistan families in the FATA/NWFP region make an interesting series of reports.

We are told the insurgency in Afghanistan is on the rise. Some point to the fact that our involvement in Iraq, at the expense of Afghanistan, has caused this rise in insurgency in Afghanistan. If true, then while this battle wages in Pakistan, we would expect to see the insurgency in Afghanistan continue to rise or at least stay the same. However, if this report is correct, we should see a decline in the Afghanistan insurgency due to forces being taken out from Afghanistan to Pakistan. I believe the latter will be the case.

If the insurgency is on the rise and the Taliban and Al Qaeda are resurgent, as is commonly reported by the MSM, then these groups should have enough forces to battle on both sides of the border. Pulling insurgents back from Afghanistan shows this theory is also not correct as does mandating concription of Pakistani sons. Therefore the Afghanistani insurgency is not on the rise given these two reports.

More correctly, over the last two years, Coalition forces have increased in siginificantly in Afghanistan as Iraq winds down and NATO members are putting more forces in Afghanistan. As such, Coalition forces are moving further out from city centers causing battles with insurgents which are being reported by the MSM as a growing insurgency. While insurgent forces have initiated more attacks, I venture to say it is because of a more robust coalition force presence outside of cities vice a resurgent insurgency.

Finally, Pakistan is the last unassailable base for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. They must keep the FATA/NWFP region if they hope to have their movement survive. Their unassailable base is now threatened and they are pulling forces out of Afghanistan to help in Pakistan. A similar pulling of forces was seen in mid 2007 from Iraq back to Pakistan/Afghanistan showing Al Qaeda's strength is not as reported.

Instead of losing the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq, the surge defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq and began shaping operations for the Taliban's eventual defeat in Afghanistan where they are forced to withdraw to protect their last unassailable base in Pakistan. Surrounded, this shaping operation will soon beccome the decisive operation resulting in their defeat in Pakistan by a coalition of Pakistani and NATO forces.

This analysis is just another possible scenario not reported by the MSM. It may not be the exact scenario, but just another possible scenario, just as possible as the Coalition is losing Afghanistan.

Just putting out some food for thought.

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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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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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The gloves are off in Pakistan

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

Pakistani authorities have compared Saturday evening's devastating truck suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in the capital Islamabad to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In terms of its psychological effect, the blast, which killed more than 80 people, injured hundreds and burnt out the hotel, has traumatized the nation, and, like 9/11, marks the beginning of a new battle: this time not the "war on terror", but the war by terrorists.

Pakistan is now the declared battleground in this struggle by Islamic militants to strike first against American interests before the United States' war machine completes its preparations to storm the sanctuaries of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Just how will Pakistan fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Syed Saleem Shahzad notes in his article that over 300 American "trainers" just arrived in Pakistand and have taken over large area in Tarbella where the CIA operated out of in the 1990s.

There is little doubt in the minds of those familiar with the American activities at Tarbella that preparations are being made for an all-out offensive in North-West Frontier Province against sanctuaries belonging to the Taliban and al-Qaeda led by bin Laden. Pakistani security sources maintain more American troops will arrive in the coming days.

Now the battle for Pakistan begins in earnest.

I noted before Al Qaeda's bombing of the Marriott hotel was a huge mistake. It did not accomplish its tactical objective (killing Pakistani and foreign leaders) nor its operational objective (making the Pakistani leadership succumb to Al Qaeda's rule), and it had strategic consequences. Pakistanis themselves do not want a rampant insurgency in their country. The Marriott bombing shows they have one and the newly elected leadership will now go after them in earnest. The Marriott bombing has allowed the Pakistani leadership to take off their shackles to allow the full force of American Intelligence into Pakistan to hunt for the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership.

Do not forget that Pakistan represents Al Qaeda's last unassailable base from which to plan, coordinate, and conduct terrorist training and operations. Al Qaeda saw this battle coming with the loss of Iraq which is why Al Qaeda forces there have been redirected to Pakistan and Afghanistan. With the surge of forces in Afghanistan and Pakistani forces in the FATA/NWFP region, Al Qaeda and the Taliban will now be battling for their last remaining sanctuary.

Expect a tough, violent battle in this region. As the battle continues, expect Al Qaeda to alienate the Pakistani population more and more with indiscriminant attacks on innocent civilians to intimidate them. However, expect the Pakistani military to provide security rapidly for the population effectively limiting the intimidation. With an intelligence network already deeply entrenched in Pakistan, Al Qaeda and the Taliban will not last for very long. Nor will Pakistani leaders who are in bed with these members.

Looking back, one can understand why Al Qaeda fears a democracy more than anything else. It spells their death and destruction.

As we look forward from 9/11, we see several democracies on the rise in Muslim countries -- Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Al Qaeda made Iraq its central front of its war of terror. It lost that battleground despite the help of some unlikely players, namely Iran and Syria. The small surge of American troops in Afghanistan coupled with a new defensive posture of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan due to attacks directly in Pakistan will result in Afghanistan's democracy coming of age next year or a year later. Finally, with its defeat in Pakistan, we will now have three countries which have fought and won their democratic right.

The only thing we need to do at this point is to continue to support democratic reforms in these countries. This fact should be the crux of the debate when American go to the polls in November.

Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks not only sought to bring down America militarily, but also economically. It was close to achieving its goal, and may very well do so in the near future. However, we should not go down without a fight. It appears the real fight has just begun, now that the battle for Pakistan begins in earnest.

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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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Jihadi Hellish message to Pakistan

Walid Phares' take on the bombing in Pakistan.

As shown by world networks, the hellish flames ravaging the Mariott Hotel in Islamabad seemed like a vision of the Apocalypse. That's at least how many survivors of the Terror attack that massacred more than 60 and wounded hundreds have described it: "The end of the World." But beyond the barbaric bloodshed and the human suffering ensuing, the heavy question fuses fast: How to read this Jihadi mayhem and what is the message behind the bombing?

As usual, Walid Phares provides interesting insights into Islamists tactics and objectives.

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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Muslim support for suicide attacks, bin Laden down: poll

From AFP.

The number of Muslims around the world who say suicide attacks are acceptable has fallen sharply in the past six years, as has Muslims' confidence in Osama bin Laden, a survey by a US think-tank showed Thursday.

Many pundits tell us that our War on Terror has only incited Muslims. However, as this article shows, the War on Terror has hit home with most Muslims. Overwhelmingly, they do not like suicide attacks. While the article states,

But, the Pew Research Center warned in its Global Attitudes Project, significant minorities of Muslims in eight countries surveyed continue to endorse suicide bombings and support the Al-Qaeda leader.

This significant minority of Muslims is never above 1/3 for suicide attacks and is a similar low percentage for support for Osama Bin Laden.

The question becomes why?

First, extremists muslims have killed fellow muslims which has caused intellectual turbulence among muslims. In fact, their attacks, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, are almost solely directed against fellow muslims.

Second, the extremists have lost in Iraq thanks to the surge of American forces which provided time for the Iraqi Army to build capacity. If we would have pulled out of Iraq and left it a quaqmire, I am sure support for Osama Bin Laden and suicide attacks would have been much higher.

Finally, as I have stated before, people, whether muslim, christian, or other, just want to be able to work and provide for their family. Extremist muslims, the type supported by Bin Laden who commit suicide attacks, prevent this from happening when they extort money, blow up shops, prevent commerce, etc, etc. Fellow muslims see and know this effect firsthand. They do not like it.

We must use this drop in popularity to our advantage in the information war against muslim extremists. This change in attitude is important to capitalize on. Bullets will never win this war. Changes in attitudes will. Changes in attitudes are happening.

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'This is Not Us'

From the Weekly Standard.

Photini Philippidou reports that there's a Pakistani protest song "Ye Hum Naheen", Urdu for "This Is Not Us", seeking to redefine Islam as anti-terrorist. The song has stirred 62.8 million Pakistanis to sign a petition, either by name or thumbprint, saying that true Muslims don't support terrorism. Check it out here.

It is interesting to note 62.8 million Pakistanis have signed this petition. Watching the video, it is noted that the Pakistani Soccer team also chanted this title.

It is reports like this which confirm what I have said in the past. Al Qaeda/the Taliban's extremism is not supported by the vast majority of Muslims. This fact was true in Iraq. It is true in Afghanistan. It is true in Pakistan.

However, Iraq had a surge of forces which secured the population enough so that fence sitters stopped their tacit support of the extremists eventually causing mass non-support for Al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunni population in Al Anbar which spread through much of Iraq resulting in the relative peace Iraq now enjoys.

More forces are needed in Afghanistan to also cause these "fence sitters" to stop their tacit support of the Taliban. Similarly, the Pakistani Army needs to move full force into the FATA/NWFP regions to provide security for these fence sitters. Several jirgas have been held in these regions which only resulted in death to the jirga members and no response from the Pakistani military. In turn, tacit support of Al Qaeda/the Taliban still exists in this region.

Al Qaeda is demoralized in Pakistan as US predator attacks continue unabaited. Now is the time to strike at the heart of Al Qaeda in this region, their last unassailable base and the homeland of the birth of Al Qaeda. Compensatory payments for collateral damage on our part will go a long way to ensuring the population does not move over to Al Qaeda. A massive military build up in these regions by Pakistani forces will ensure Al Qaeda's presence is reduced.

While a surge of American forces was needed in Iraq to allow time for Iraqi forces to gain capacity, Pakistani forces already have this capacity. They just need to use it. Yes, the Pakistani military is not well trained in COIN operations, but neither was the Iraqi Army which trained on the battlefield. So too can the Pakistani Army train on the fly as they have a much more robust officer and NCO corps than the newly capable Iraqi Army.

The US must continue its pressure in this region to bring the Pakistani Army out of its garrisons and into the fight. While risky, it is much more risky to allow Al Qaeda to retain its unassailable base in this region.

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Letters from Al Qaeda leaders show Iraqi effort is in disarray

From Billl Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda's senior leadership has lost confidence in its commander in Iraq and views the situation in the country as dire, according to a series of letters intercepted by Multinational Forces Iraq earlier this year.

The letters, which have been sent exclusively to The Long War Journal by Multinational Forces Iraq, are a series of communications between Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, Abu Ayyub al Masri, al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq. These letters were intercepted by Coalition forces in Baghdad on April 24, 2008. One of the letters written by Zawahiri is dated March 6, 2008.

Just how bad is it for Al Qaeda in Iraq now vice in March.

An operative captured on Aug. 21 said the group has "lost the overall fight" and suffers from "extreme financial difficulties." Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq do "not presently have any long time plan and are only focused on short time fighting," the operative told US forces.

Another operative, also captured on Aug. 21, said "foreign fighters in Iraq are on the brink of extinction and the group's "biggest concern right now is where to sleep at night without being arrested."....

Throughout Iraq, recruiting is difficult if not impossible. "The main problem is that al Qaeda in Iraq has lost support of the people in Iraq," one captured operative said. [emphasis added]

The significance of these findings cannot be overstated. For an insurgency to exist and proliferate, it needs three main things:

First and foremost, an insurgency needs an unassailable base, that is, a place from which insurgents and leaders sleep, plan future activities, and provide logistical support to the network. From the above we get Al Qaeda no longer enjoys an unassailable base and are not only not planning future activities, but are just trying to find a place to sleep.

Secondly, an insurgency needs at least the tacit support of the population. Tacit support is either allowing the insurgents to operate in a region out of fear of indifference or actively supporting an insurgent. Due to Al Qaeda extreme form of Islam and cruel punishment of members who did not obey this extreme form of Islam, Al Qaeda in Iraq lost its popular support. The surge of American forces and later Iraqi forces gave those who were fearful the backbone to confront Al Qaeda. The successful Awakening movement in Al Anbar thus quickly spread to the rest of Iraq. Al Qaeda lost its popular and tacit support from the population. This fact feeds back into the first tenet which is an insurgency needs an unassailable base. Without popular support, Al Qaeda also lost its unassailable base.

Finally, all insurgencies need external support. Iran is not providing for Al Qaeda and from the sounds of it, neither is Al Qaeda's Zawahiri as he no longer trusts Al Qaeda's in Iraq's Commander. Letters have gone unanswered as have requests for information. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is also being pounded every few days by Predator strikes which limits the support this level of command can give to Al Qaeda in Iraq. They are now trying to stay alive themselves much less plan detailed future operations for the network.

Al Qaeda made Iraq its central front of its terror war. It lost this battle not only against the Shia dominated Iraqi government, but more importantly among the Sunni minority population because it could not provide victories against the Shia dominated government and began a cruel abuse of its perceived power in the region.

Now that Al Qaeda in Pakistan is being pursued more vigorously, Al Qaeda in general will lose more and more popular support in this region. We are already seeing this as tribal jirgas form to rid themselves of Taliban influence and fighters. The difference in Pakistan right now is the Taliban are able to strike back effectively against these jirgas. They lost this ability in Al Anbar, Iraq which resulted in Al Qaeda in Iraq's eventual collapse.

A surge of US forces into Afghanistan will yield similar results in Afghanistan. A push by Pakistani forces into the FATA/NWFP regions in Pakistan will limit Al Qaeda's last unassailable base.

The spring of 2009 is going to be an interesting time as the snow melts in this region and all forces are rested up to begin the next phase of the battle.

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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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Musharraf quits; suspense mounts on his next move

From the Times of India.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign on Monday brings to an end a tumultuous nine-year reign that thrived with US backing, but succumbed under impeachment threat following the first free and fair elections he conducted after grabbing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

During his resignation speech, Musharraf said,

"I don't want anything from anybody. I have no interest. I leave my future in the hands of the nation and people," he said. One main coalition party, that of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, has insisted he face trial for treason. Bhutto's party says parliament should decide. Musharraf ended his final address as president with the words: "May God protect Pakistan, may God protect you all. Long live Pakistan forever."

Given the current situation in Pakistan, this was the smartest move for Musharraf. His resignation will take away a major issue within the newly elected government and decrease Al Qaeda's/the Taliban's ability to use Musharraf's continued presence as a political tool.

However, with Musharraf out of the way, it will be seen whether the coalition between PPP and PML-N can survive or whether infighting between these two disparate parties will break out. In addition, it will be interesting to see if these parties can now band together to meet the Al Qaeda/Taliban threat in the FATA region.

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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Taliban win a fight - and settle scores (- As do others in the global match for control)

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

When several hundred Pakistani troops backed by paramilitary forces on Friday launched an operation against militants in Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan, they received a most unwelcome surprise.

News of the offensive, which proved to be the most bloody this year in Pakistan, had been leaked to the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda militants by sympathizers in the security forces, and the army walked into a literal hail of bullets.

In the first few hours, 65 Pakistani Soldiers were killed, 25 were taken prisoner, and several more were wounded. Furthermore, in the article Shahzad notes,

On Wednesday morning, Haji Namdar, the chief of the "Vice and Virtue" organization in Khyber Agency, a tribal region on the Afghan border, was gunned down in his office by Baitullah's men.

Although Namdar supported the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, he was a strategic asset for the Pakistani security agencies trying to wipe out al-Qaeda-influenced radicals and the neo-Taliban.

In April, he sold out the Taliban after initially agreeing to help them target the North Atlantic Treaty Organization supply lines passing through Khyber Agency. (See Taliban bitten by a snake in the grass Asia Times Online, April 26, 2008.) Namdar had survived an earlier suicide attack in which about 30 people died.

The above linked story is great read to understand why Namdar was killed. In another story in the Asia Times Online, Syed Saleem Shahzad reviews Al Qaeda's/The Taliban's strategy.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have with some success squeezed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's)supply lines that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan, especially goods in transit in Khyber Agency on the border.

He continues with the Taliban's two major objectives,

An al-Qaeda member told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, "The single strategy of severing NATO's supply lines from Pakistan is the key to success. If the blockage is successfully implemented in 2008, the Western coalition will be forced to leave Afghanistan in 2009, and if implemented next year, the exit is certain by 2010."

Several al-Qaeda cells have apparently been activated in Karachi to monitor the movement of NATO supply convoys.

This focus on Karachi coincides with two major events. First, the Pakistani armed forces are heavily engaged in fighting against militants in Bajaur Agency and in the Swat Valley in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

At the same time, the coalition government in Islamabad is preparing to impeach Washington's point man in the region, President Pervez Musharraf, mainly over his implementation of a state of emergency and dismissal of the judiciary last year when he headed a military administration

Later Mr. Shahzad notes,

NATO is understandably acutely concerned over protecting its supply lines into land-locked Afghanistan. When routes in Khyber Agency came under attack this year, NATO reached an agreement with Russia for some goods to transit through Russian territory. This alternative is costly, though, given the distances involved, and can only be used in emergencies.

Washington tried to get Iran to permit the passage of goods from its seaports into neighboring Afghanistan, but Tehran refused point-blank.

Now we are beginning to see the bigger geo-strategic picture, especially when tying together other players in this region. Iran, to no surprise refused to allow supplies thru its territory. In addition, America has had a pretty timid response with regards to Russia and its ongoing actions in Georgia. Finally, Isreal is also in the mix.

With the eruption of fighting between Russia and Georgia, Israel has found itself in an awkward position as a result of its arms sales to Georgia. Israel is now caught between its friendly relations with Georgia and its fear that the continued sale of weaponry will spark Russian retribution in the form of increased arms sales to Iran and Syria.

So, American supplies lines are threatened in Pakistan, especially with the death of Namdar. The only other option available is bringing supplies thru Russia, who could quickly turn this supply line off if the US interferes with its Georgia operations. Israel, who supplies arms to Georgia, is hard-pressed to continue to supply Georgia as Russia may retaliate by sending more arms to Iran, hindering its ability to reduce a potential nuclear threat from Iran. Finally, we have an article from an earlier Rambling from the Rock post about a naval task force composed of the US, Britian, and France on station at the Persian Gulf with a Russian naval task force in the Mediterranean

All the parties/players in this region are positioning themselves for control in key oil producing or oil shipping regions. A storm is coming, make no doubt about it. Who ultimately comes out victorious may well decide control of this region for decades to come.

Noting the coming storm, all parties may settle for a win-win proposition. Russian wants to reclaim Georgia and have control of its strategic oil fields and pipeline. Israel wants to diminish Iran's nuclear capability, as does all the other players, to include Russia. Russia; however, wants to limit US influence in its backyard, the Middle East, and therefore has no problem giving Iran nuclear technologies to keep the US focused on this enemy and not on its own actions in the Caucus region. For its part, Russia can continue to sell nuclear material to Iran knowing down the road the Iranian nuclear program has a good possibility of being bombed out of existence by Britian, France, the US, and/or Israel.

The staging of its (Russia's) naval task force close to, but in a position to not affect, an allied attack shows its supports Iran, but unfortunately could not come to its aid (in direct action against the US or its western allies which it fears). Therefore Russia continues to have good relations with Iran, possibly beginning again to build its nuclear capability, and in the meantime swallows up Georgia with future sites on the Ukraine. It becomes a winner with more capability down the road.

The reduction of Iran's nuclear ability will be the winning game for Britian, France, Israel, and the US, if they have the nerve to attack. If not, Russia wins this battle also. If they do attack, Russia still wins Georgia and can continue to resupply Iran and maintain influence in the Middle East.

If the US decided to blunt the attack in Georgia and attack Iran, Russia could assist the Taliban in closing the Khyber Pass supply line and close its own, or better yet, keep it open at a hefty cost. Russia still wins, but to a lesser extent. Russia could also decide to supply Iran with better air defense missiles allowing it to still influence Iraq without fear of retribution, thus continuing to tie up Allied forces in Iraq. As it stands now, the coalition just lost another partner in Iraq as 2000 Georgian troops are flying home to defend their country.

All the chess pieces are on the board. Now it is just a matter of future moves, counter-moves, and reactions. The permutations are endless, but the winners and losers are already identified.

Now for a lesson in global politics and strategy. Do you want to be a country in the global politics who can influence and defend its own future path or a country who depends on others to influence its future path? Personally, I want to be part of a country which has major pieces on the chess board to determine its own future path as opposed to a featherweight boxer in the ring with a heavyweight boxer.

The USA is the heavyweight champion in the realm of global politics and strategy. Russia is the contender who has been beaten once but is inline for a rematch. All others are lesser contenders who need the support of either of these two heavyweights to have say in the modern world.

As we move closer to another general election where the candidates are clearly for and against a military or other presence in the Middle East, we must keep in mind what is truly at stake. At stake is whether we will be the heavyweight champion in the region, the beaten contender, or just another featherweight boxer who needs a heavyweights assistance to have any say in global strategy and in the global economy. To me, the choice is easy.

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Missiles kill 10 militants South Waziristan tribal region

From Dawn.

At least 10 militants were reported killed when four missiles fired from Afghanistan hit their hideouts in a Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region, officials said Wednesday. The missiles struck two militant hideouts in Baghar village in the area Tuesday night, a senior security official told AFP. “At least 10 militants were killed in the strikes according to our initial reports,” he said.

What is interesting about this release is the missiles apparently came from Afghanistan. APF via Yahoo is reporting

In Kabul, the US military said the missiles were not fired by either NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or the US-led coalition.

"This is not true. We have no reports of missiles being fired into Pakistan," US-led coalition spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Perry told AFP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is also known to operate pilotless drone aircraft armed with missiles, but it was not available for comment.

The initial story from Dawn makes it seem like surface-to-surface missiles. However, the Yahoo story seems to link missiles from a Predator aircraft, which would seem more realistic. We will continue to monitor the story for more details.

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Posters slamming ‘Talibanisation’ appear in Karachi areas

From the Daily Times.

Hundreds of posters condemning the Talibanisation in Karachi were seen on walls across the provincial capital on Saturday, a satellite channel reported.

The posters contained gruesome images of severed heads and mutilated limbs, Dawn News reported, adding that most of the posters were found in North Karachi, New Karachi, North Nazimabad and Gul Baharabad areas of country’s financial hub. The posters put on walls by ‘citizens of Karachi’ did not contain the name of any organisation or group, the channel added, saying that the posters had sparked a debate about the threat of Talibanisation in Karachi.

This is similar to how the resistance started in Al Anbar. Karachi is worth watching for this reason.

For a full read, click here.

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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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Militant group orders Baitullah’s Taliban to leave Khyber Agency - The Tale Continues

From the Daily Times.

Conflict has arisen between anti-United States jihadi groups, as Amar Bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munker chief Haji Namdar has ordered all Baitullah Mehsud-led militants to leave the Khyber Agency, following claims of responsibility for the suicide attack on him on Thursday.

All militants belonging to Baitullah Mehsud’s group have been ordered to leave the Khyber Agency following the confirmation that the suicide attack on Namdar was ordered by Baitullah,” a close aide to Namdar told Daily Times on Saturday.

One may ask who is Namdar. Recently, Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote an article in the Asia Times about how Namdar double-crossed the Taliban in the Khyber Agency after the Taliban successfully blew up 40 or more tankers waiting to cross the Pakistani border into Afghanistan.

In short, the tribes in Khyber Pass are businessmen who's history of monitoring the pass and exacting taxes for its use has made them more realists than the fanatical Taliban. The recent Taliban attack which destroyed 40+ tankers was an afront to their business as was the attack on the Shura they called to discuss the future of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Khyber Pass area. As such, their leader, a devout Muslim betrayed Taliban positions, resulting in many Taliban killed or captured.

What is critical here is a rift exists in the tribes in the NWFP in general and the Khyber Pass specifically. This rift is probably the biggest rift that has existed thus far. US forces must continue to support Namdar as he is an element which can be dealt with and trusted.

For a full read of the Daily Times article, click here.

For a full read of Syed Saleem Shahzad's article in the Asia Times, click here.

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Details of the 15-Point Draft Agreement between Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud and the Pakistani Government


MEMRI has release the 15-point peace agreement between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani Government. While peace with the Taliban in Pakistan has not worked in the past, I do find items 8, 9, and 13 interesting in this peace agreement.

8. The Mehsud tribe will expel all foreigners in its areas, and will not allow its region to be used as shelter for militants.

9. Within a month of signing the agreement, the expulsion of foreign elements will begin; if the process is not completed, the tribe will receive a one-month extension.

13. If the Mehsud tribe fails to eliminate suspicions of militant training in the area, the government will have the right to take action as per tribal customs and traditions and the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

The last peace accord did not include a timetable for expulsion of foreign elements. This peace agreement does, and it also spells out what will happen if expulsions fail to happen within two months. Finally, I found it interesting the Pakistani military withdraw from the region was not put under the same timetable.

15. Government troops will begin phased withdrawal from the region of Mehsud tribe after the agreement is signed.

It will be interesting to see if the Pakistani Taliban do not adhere to item 9, if the Pakistani military will adhere to its requirements in item 13. Given the timing of the expected signing, it appears if the Pakistani Taliban do not obey item 9, then would should see the Pakistani Army commit forces into the FATA and NWFP regions around July, at the height of the summer.

The timing will also give the Pakistani military time to regroup and replan a thrust into these regions.

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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US, Pakistan say Taliban commander killed

From Dawn.

A Taliban commander blamed for the deadliest attack on U.S. troops has been killed in a shootout with security forces in Pakistan, American and Pakistani officials said. Police killed Ahmad Shah, also known as Mullah Ismail, at a roadblock near Peshawar, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said. Two U.S. security officials confirmed Shah's death in a shootout and said Pakistani authorities had his body. U.S. and Afghan officials have described Shah as the leader of Taliban militants who ambushed a group of U.S. commandos in June 2005 and shot down a Chinook helicopter sent to rescue them. Sixteen American special forces members died on the helicopter. Jehanzeb Khan, a police official in Badhber, six miles south of Peshawar, said local officers responding to an emergency call about a kidnapping on April 10 set up a roadblock to check passing vehicles and opened fire on one car when the driver tried to speed away. Khan said two suspected kidnappers were killed and their victim, an Afghan national, was freed unharmed. He said the dead men carried papers that identified them as Haroon and Noor Agha. He said local police took the bodies to a local morgue and had no more details about the case. But the senior Pakistani intelligence official said the papers were false and further investigation had identified one of them as Shah. He did not identify the second man or provide other details of the incident. Spokesmen for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Pakistan army said they could not confirm Shah's death. Zabiullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, also said he did not know if Shah had been killed.

While I am not keeping a running count. Senior Taliban commanders are dropping like flies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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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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Pakistan minister: govt won't negotiate with 'terrorists' in new counterterror policy

From Yahoo via AP.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Monday that Pakistan's new government will not negotiate with "terrorists" even as it seeks talks with some militant groups....

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has offered talks to militants ready to renounce violence.

But in remarks that could ease concern in the West that the new government will be softer on al-Qaida, Qureshi said that offer excluded groups that Pakistan considered terrorists.

This is the first official word from Pakistan's new government on how it will deal with terrorists. On first apparence, his policy seems similar to Musharraf's. While meeting with British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, PM Gilani stated,

In a separate meeting, Gilani told Smith that Pakistan would follow a "multi-pronged" strategy against terrorism and extremism, his office said in a statement.

Gilani urged the international community to address root causes of terrorism in "unresolved political issues" and economic disparities.

Once again, we hear the term "multi-pronged" strategy. This stategy was first introduced by President Musharraf on 17 January 2008 when addressing PTV’s weekly interactive programme ‘Aiwan-e-Sadr Sey’ on the “Challenges confronting Pakistan and the way forward.” In detailing his new strategy, Musharraf said the country currently faced three major challenges; terrorism and extremism; transition to democracy and need to sustain socio-economic growth.

It seems the new government in Pakistan may not be so different from Musharraf on their approach to terrorism. In addition, the new government may very well realize what Musharraf and the Pakistani people in general are realizing -- namely, they created the Taliban which supported and continues to support Al Qaeda in the tribal regions in Pakistan. Withdrawing support from the Taliban and Al Qaeda is bringing terrorism to directly to Pakistan, not only in the tribal areas, but in Pakistan cities as well.

I have often stated in this blog one of the best approaches Pakistan's new government could take is to lead the charge in socio-economic growth in the Pakistani tribal areas which Musharraf enacted late last year. Most significantly, the bureaucratic machinery for socio-economic growth in the tribal areas was implemented last year with the development and implementation of Tribal Agents, District Coordinaing Officers, and Regional Coordinating Officers under the leadership of the Provincial Governor. This structure would allow the tribal framework in the tribal areas to not only be included in the decision making and financing of growth in this region, but also to maintain this all important tribal alliance which this region has come to depend upon.

Musharraf guaranteed Pakistan's transition to a democracy, even at his own personal risk politically. Musharraf should be allowed to lead the charge on the military front with General Kayani.

If successful against terrorism, the new government could claim credit and reap its benefits. If unsuccessful, the new government could blame Musharraf. This situation is the best of both worlds for the new government.

It appears from the statement above from PM Gilani, he is going to pursue the same course as Musharraf developed later last year. While military action will, in the near term, potentially slow as the new government feels its way in its new position of authority, I expect to see an increase in military action shortly against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The new government will see what they can change with negotiations. The Taliban and Al Qaeda will fail to keep their ends of new agreements, just as they did with Musharraf. This time though, Pakistan has in place a "multi-pronged" strategy to deal with terrorists in the tribal regions. When military action again starts, one will see a revitalized national army ready to take the fight to terrorists.

The battle will come. Make no doubt about it. Extremists lost wholesale in the latest democratic elections. Businessmen won. Sharia law and extremism is bad for business. The two will eventually clash.

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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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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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Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

From the Long War Journal.

A decisive Coalition strike against a high-level meeting of Taliban-linked insurgents on March 12 took place one and a half kilometers inside Pakistani territory, US military officials have confirmed to The Long War Journal. Several precision-guided munitions struck a compound owned by a senior member of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban splinter group that is based in the Pakistani tribal state of North Waziristan. The strike occurred shortly after multiple intelligence sources confirmed the presence of the group’s upper echelon inside the compound. Several other high-level Haqqani commanders, including Sirajjudin Haqqani, had planned to attend this meeting, intelligence sources confirmed.

Many more strikes are occuring of Pakistani soil. This is the third strike in two months. We are beginning to see the start of increased coordination between Musharraf and Coalition forces in the region to disrupt the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal regions.

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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PPP, PML (Q) working towards national consensus government

From South East Asia News.

A national consensus government involving the Musharraf-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) appears to be in the making in Pakistan's Punjab province, if the results of the over two-hour long talks between PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML (Q) leader Hamid Nasir Chattha on Saturday are anything to go by.

The Daily Times quoted sources privy to the meeting as saying that a thaw in relations between the two parties is in the offing."

The PPP is keeping all its options open. However, it is difficult to say at this time whether it will take the PML-Q on board," the sources added.

A coaltion between the PPP, the PML-Q and the PML-F would give this coalition 187 of the 186 seats needed to form a coalition government. One would ask why would the PPP form a coalition with the PML-Q and not the PML-N. A couple of factors are at work here.

1. The PML-N is supportive of Al Qaeda's/Taliban's presence in Pakistan. If the Pakistani elections tell anything, it is the population is growing less supportive of militants noticed by the loss of several seats by the MMA garnering only 3% of the vote compared to 11% in the last election. While the PML-Q also lost significant seats, it managed to maintain 15% of the electorate.

2. A little know fact is the PML-N's Sharif put Zardari, the PPP Co-chairman, in prison for in 1994. He gained his release from Musharraf in 2004.

3. PML-Q has a majority in the Senate and senatorial elections are two years off. This fact and the lack of a 2/3 majority will prevent the PPP from impeaching Musharraf. In addition, a lot can change in two years and Zardari does not want to burn more bridges after spending 11 years in jail for one thing or another.

4. The PML-Q won a majority in Balochistan Province where the new Gwandar port is becoming fully operational which will allow international trade and access to proposed oil pipelines from Iran and India.

5. The PML-Q threatened to file money laundering charges against Zardari last month. Forming a coalition with the PML-Q will make these charges go away.

6. Mr 10% (Zardari) would have no issue focusing on the economy while letting Musharraf battle militants. In many respects, it is a marriage made in heaven.

7. Musharraf recently delivered an olive branch to the PPP offering to reinstate expelled justices.

8. Maintaining Musharraf in power will ensure continued military support and financial aid from the US.

All of these factirs gives the PPP good incentive to form a coalition with the PML-Q.

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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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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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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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PPP breather for Musharraf

From The Statesmen.

In a breather for beleaguered President Pervez Mush-arraf, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has indicated that the new government will not seek his immediate impeachment as western envoys confabulated with leaders here to shore up his position.

Asked whether the new government will move forward to impeach Musharraf, PPP leader and frontrunner for Prime Ministership Mr Makhdoom Am-in Fahim said the party did not wish “to rock the boat” at this stage.“

I think there's no need at the moment but the parliament is sovereign. Once we go to the Parliament, the Parliament will look at every issue. We should not rock the boat at this time. We must have civil transition of power from the military to the civilians,” the 68-year-old Bhutto loyalist told CNN.

More Text

More Quoted Text

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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Taleban are worn down, say British troops

From Times Online.

British troops in southern Afghanistan have “worn down” the Taleban and forced them to abandon many of their key strongholds in Helmand province, a senior commander said yesterday.

Brigadier Andrew Mackay, commander of 52 Brigade, said: “The Taleban are now suffering from a lack of manpower and that is why they are having to rely on foreign fighters. They are also now operating outside their normal areas because they lack support from the local populations.”

There is evidence that the Taleban are now having to adopt new methods of attacking British and other Nato troops. There have been more asymmetric attacks and suicide bombings in places such as Kandahar in the south. Brigadier Mackay said that the use of more foreign fighters had damaged the Taleban's relations with the Pashtu people living in the area.

Up to 80 per cent of the population is now under government protection, according to the latest military assessment. Three thousand extra US Marines are joining Nato forces in southern Afghanistan to concentrate on defeating the Taleban in Garmsir.

Several articles are stating how the Taliban are resurgent noting that 6500 people, mostly Taliban, have been killed in 2007 which is up a few thousand from 2006. What these articles fail to understand is the ANA is now powerful enough and with the help of NATO forces they are able to go into places like Musa Qala and defeat the Taliban.

Quite simply, the number of Taliban deaths are up in 2007 from 2006 because NATO forces brought the attack to the Taliban and stunted their spring offensive.

In turn, the Taliban replaced their forces with foreign terrorists who kill indiscriminantly using suicide bombers. Hence the rise in suicide bomber attacks in 2007 and early 2008. However, Al Qaeda's use of suicide bombers is now having the same effect in Afghanistan that it did in Iraq, namely loss of support from the population. The question becomes why has it taken more time in Afghanistan for the populous to turn against Al Qaeda than it has taken in Iraq? A little history of the conflict has to be reviewed.

After initially overrunning the Taliban in 2001, instilling a friendly government, and executing free and fair democratic elections, Afghanistan quickly turned to an economy of force operation in the Long War from the American perspective, especially given the onset of a persistent insurgency in Iraq and Al Qaeda labeling Iraq as their central front. As such, attacks in Afghanistan were sporadic and did not affect most of the population.

The Taliban were easily overrun in 2001 because they did not have active support from the population. They did; however, have tacit support from the population. The difference here is that a tacit population are fence sitters. If side X is more powerful, the population will tend to support side X. If side Y is more powerful, side Y tends to be supported. With the American military making Afghanistan an economy of force operation and neither side able to gain terroritory, much of the population in Afghanistan remained on the fence, not wanting to commit to either side in case the other side proved victorious. For its part, NATO has been unable to get European committment to soundly defeat the Afghanistani insurgency.

From 2001 to 2006 however, NATO forces increased in size (mostly due to American increased) and scope of combat operations they could conduct. In addition, the ANA grew in size and capability. Over this time, Taliban Commanders have been killed as have several thousand of their foot soldiers. But no major change in front lines occurred. Hence most Afghanistanis still straddled the fence, providing tacit support to whoever controlled the terrority where they lived.

Finally, in late 2006/early 2007, Iraq exerienced the Al Anbar Awakening and the complete collapse of the insurgency in this country. With Iraq lost, 2007 saw a rise in foreign Taliban and Al Qaeda forces moving to Afghanistan instead of Iraq. In turn increased NATO numbers and ANA capabilities resulted in many battles which the Taliban were consistently defeated and overrun.

Less Afghanistani Taliban, more foreign Taliban, and the loss of key battles all resulted in the Taliban in Afghanistan to begin employing more suicide bombers which ultimately led to more indiscriminantly killings of innocent Afghanistanis. As such, tacit support of either side is beginning to shift to active NATO/ANA support. This change of attitude is especially noticable in the recent defection of Mullah Abdul Salaam who has been put in charge of the Mula Qasa district in Helmand province.

Rewarding Mullah Abdul Salaam with a governship is no different than putting Sunni tribes in charge of Al Anbar. It is the only way to win an insurgency. They enemy must be turned to our side. Once turned, the new friend must be rewarded. His defection to NATO is no different than Risha changing sides in Al Anbar. The difference is foreign Al Qaeda were not prevalent in sufficent numbers in Afghanistan until recently, which is putting the Afghanistani "Awakening Movement" behind the Iraqi one. However, the end result will be the same, especially given the recent "surge" of Marines to Afghanistan. Afghanistan in late 2007 is reminiscent of Al Anbar in late 2006/early 2007.

2008 will be the year to watch in Afghanistan. There should be an increase in attacks as Al Qaeda attempts to terrorize the population in submission. "Awakening Movements" will begin in the spring of 2008 as Al Qaeda's terror campaign gets into full swing. Slowly, over the course of a year to 18 months, Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan will be defeated and pushed out of several areas where they currently have tacit support. They will be pushed back to the FATA regions in Pakistan. A year from now, Iraq will be essentially peaceful, Afghanistan will still have a low-grade insurgency trying to survive (much like Iraq currently), and Pakistan will very well see an increased insurgency.

Pakistan has at most a year before Al Qaeda launches a full fledge insurgency in Pakistan as they see their fortunes failing in Afghanistan and Iraq completely lost. In fact, if Al Qaeda is smart, it would start a full insurgency now while the government of Pakistan is in transition. However, this action is also risky as it may leave Musharraf in office as the President and result in rapid loss of support among fellow Pakistanis.

Either outcome does not bode well for Al Qaeda. They will be completely defeated in Iraq by next winter. They will have been defeated in Afghanistan, and they will begin being pursued in their last remaining secure base, the FATA regions in Pakistan.

Yes, 2008 will be an interesting year. Even more interesting will be the 2008 Presidential elections which will see marked success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a battle possibly raging in Pakistan. One candidate is fully supportive of the Long War we will be undeniably winning at the time of the elections. The other candidate(s) will be trying to change his/her story about how they now really support the long war.

Whoever is elected will be forced to keep a strong, but reduced presence in Iraq, increase forces in Afghanistan as NATO force committments expire, and coordinate with whoever is in charge of Pakistan to assist this military in defeating the last remanents of Al Qaeda in the region.

For its part, Europeans will once again feel disenchanted with their governments because they did not stick it out with the victors to see the destruction of Al Qaeda as a viable international force.

I thank God I live an a country that still has a backbone. Americans have always been tough. And when the going gets tough, Americans shine. Lets hope we change Europeans more to our way of thinking in the upcoming four years instead of America moving closer to a European spineless attitude. It is looking good from this perspective as more conservative leaders have all been elected in Germany, France, and England since the Long War kicked off. If we are successful in strengthening European's backbones, we have nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran. If we are not successful, then unfortunately Iran will become Al Qaeda with a bomb. And that will not be a pleasant time.

George Bush is not a very effective communicator; however, he did give Americans a backbone for the Long War. As we were waivering and unsure of what to do, George Bush surged forces into Iraq which resulted in Al Qaeda in Iraq's defeat. It will be interesting if we give up this backbone in November 2008. While the social policies of all remaining candidates are not much different now, the international policies are clearly distinguishable. It is in foreign policy where this presidential election will be decided.

In the last eight years, George Bush, for all his failings, will have done his part to defeat Al Qaeda. We know Europeans run when the going gets tough. The question is will we? If we do, we must prepare for battle with a nuclear Iran and the Long War will continue.

Alexander III, king of Macedon, became Alexander the Great and forever has a place in history due to the Battle of Gaugamela in which he defeated Darius, the Persian King. With all hope lost, he turned the battle into a rout of the Persian Empire. George Bush, with the surge, has done the same thing in modern times against Al Qaeda. Again, the question is will we do the same again present day Persia?

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Forming Pakistan's coalition government

From Dawn.

Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the leaders of Pakistan's two main parties, have decided in principle to forge a coalition government following their resounding election victory. If they succeed, it will be the first time the two main parties in Pakistan have come together. As the two parties and their leadership work out the modalities of the coalition arrangement, the Election Commission will be ready to formally notify the election results which is expected by March 1. This will be followed by President Musharraf summoning the inaugural session of the National Assembly. How soon after depends on whether there is a government ready. In 2002, Musharraf convened the assembly session more than a month after the election, to give time to political parties to agree on a coalition. The president will thereafter invite a member of the National Assembly who commands the confidence of the majority of the members to become prime minister and form the government. Before the formal election of the leader of the house/prime minister, the newly elected members will be sworn in, and they will elect the Speaker and his deputy.

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Zardari, Sharif to discuss Pakistani coalition government

From South Asia News via Monsters and Critics.

Pakistani opposition leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif were due to meet Thursday evening to discuss forming a coalition government after their big win in crucial parliamentary elections.

The article continues.

Zardari on Wednesday ruled out a coalition with both Musharraf and the PML-Q, but said he was open to inviting smaller regional parties not linked to the previous government into a coalition.

Earlier Thursday, Zardari met with Asfand Yar Wali, chairman of the Awami National Party (ANP), a secular-left party based in the country's volatile North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

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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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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Pakistan's ruling party concedes defeat

From Yahoo via AP.

Pakistan's ruling party conceded defeat Tuesday after opposition parties routed allies of President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections that could threaten the rule of America's close ally in the war on terror.

The significance of this fact cannot be understated. Musharraf's party, which came to power through a coup, held free and fair elections which resulted in it losing several parlimentary seats. And it has peacefully conceded defeat.

While Sharif is calling on Musharraf to step down, there potentially is no reason for Musharraf to do so according to the numbers.

Geo TV said unofficial tallies from 229 of the 268 National Assembly seats being contested showed Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party with 33 percent and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party with 27 percent. The PML-Q was third with 14 percent.

Thje PML-Q may align itself with the PPP to assist this party in getting a majority through a coalition with other smaller parties effectively pushing the PML-N out of a majority coalition. This idea was surfaced before the election and would allow Musharraf to continue to focus his presidency on defeating the militants while the PPP focuses on the economics of Pakistan. A major sticking point between the PPP and PML-N is that the PML-N supports the Taliban while the PPP is against Islamization of the country, especially in light of Bhutto's assassination by Baitullah Meshud.

Another fact this article brushes over, but is even more significant, is the MMA (pro-Taliban cleric, Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman) won only eight seats or about 3% of the vote. This is a significant decrease from the 11% it won during the last elections. Not only is support waning for Musharraf's party, but so has support for the Taliban.

Musharraf saw the writing on the wall prior to the elections and spoke of his multi-pronged strategy to defeat the insurgents in his country. This strategy included:

1. Countering terrorism and extremism

2. Transition to democracy

3. The need to sustain socio-economic growth

Musharraf has just helped his country make the transition to democracy in free and fair elections resulting in his party coming in third. He has appointed General Kayani head of the military. General Kayani will ensure the fight is taken to the insurgents. He has transformed Pakistan economically by opening up the country to international trade to include several lucrative oil pipeline deals. He is transforming the FATA and NWFP region with the appointments of Regional Coordinating Officers (RCOs), District Coordinating Officers (DCOs), and making the offices of the political agents below Governors.

Pakistan's transition to democracy marks the beginning of the end of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The PPP leading a coalition will ensure it demise. The Bhutto assassination assured this fact. Its garnering of only 3% of the vote sealed its fate.

Now it is up to the PPP to convince Pakistanis the battle against the Taliban is not just America's war, but also their own. The over 600 innocent Pakistanis murdered last year by suicide bombers helps the PPP accomplish this mission.

We will soon see if the PPP is up to this task. Aligning the PML-Q with itself will signal its intentions for not only Pakistanis, but also to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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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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Revolt in Pakistani Tribal Areas

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online in Part I and Part II.

The ceasefire deal between the Pakistani security forces and a leading member of the al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, brokered by two stalwart Afghan commanders who persuaded Mehsud to stay in Afghanistan, is just the lull before a big storm and the beginning of a new chapter of militancy in Pakistan.

Mr. Shahzad continues that the ceasefire is tenuous and is not expected to last.

Even before Thursday's ceasefire, the Taliban's preparations in the strategic backyard of Pakistan were well underway. This included the isolation of Mehsud and appointing a new team of commanders in the Pakistani tribal areas. Most of the new appointments are Afghans, to signify the importance of fighting a war in Afghanistan rather than in Pakistan. The two main commanders are Abdul Wali in Bajaur Agency and Ustad Yasir in Khyber Agency.

A key component of the Taliban's offensive this year will be to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) plans against them and al-Qaeda. (emphasis added)

I find this Al Qaeda strategy interesting in that it is a defensive strategy rather than an offensive one. Their prime strategy is to counter NATO's plans against them. This fact shows that Al Qaeda is on the ropes in Afghanistan despite MSM reporting. Al Qaeda tells of its areas where it will focus.

"But since the Taliban want to chop off NATO supplies from Pakistan into Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban have warned these tribal elders to stay away from the conflict. However, the elders have received huge bribes [funds] from NATO, and so they are obsessed with providing protection to the supply convoys. Therefore, the Taliban will increase their activities in Khyber Agency, which means a war with the elders of the Shinwari and Afirdi tribes," the contact said.

The second sector of Taliban activity will be in Nooristan and Kunar provinces in Afghanistan, where US forces are conducting huge counter-insurgency operations.

"This year, the Taliban will focus their main attention on a new plan specifically aimed at Kunar and Nooristan. The details of the plan cannot be revealed at this point," said the contact. (emphasis added)

The Khyber Agency in Pakistan and the Nooristan province in Afghanistan both border the Khyber Pass from which US forces in Afghanistan receive supplies from Pakistan. On the Pakistani side of the border, Peshawar will be key to Al Qaeda attacks in the Khyber Pass. Tank and later Bannu would have also given Al Qaeda a tactical advantage. However, securing Tank was the key to securing Bannu. With Tank back in the hands of Pakistani forces and the Shinwari and Afirdi tribes in the Khyber Pass still supporting the flow of supplies, one is hard pressed to see how Al Qaeda can continue with this strategy which is why I find the strategy more of a defensive strategy than an offiensive one.

It appears that both the US and Pakistani forces are more apt to go on the offensive this year noted by the following.

Wana military airfield in South Waziristan and Miranshah airfield in North Waziristan have been upgraded from makeshift airstrips into proper runways with backup facilities, which indicate plans for a powerful air operation.

The deployment of US forces at Lowari Mandi and Ghulman Khan checkpoints (both on the Afghan side of the border near North Waziristan) and the construction of a new military camp near Shawal (North Waziristan), on the Afghan side, indicate that the US is not planning on peace for very long.

American and Pakistani forces are building capability to attack Al Qaeda in its unassailable base in Northern and Southern Waziristan. Precision air power has been used very effectively in Afghanistan to prevent any Taliban advancement. It appears the Pakistani military is planning to use precision air power in Pakistan also given the upgrades to the air fields noted above. Al Qaeda however believes that any large scale operation it launches would fracture Pakistan.

"We assess that any large-scale operation would break the army and Pakistan, and this would be a blessing for us. Of course, the Indians would take advantage of the situation and that's why we have a plan to immediately spread this war to the whole region, including India and Afghanistan," Abu Haris explains, basing his arguments on information from al-Qaeda's intelligence and review committee.

While this is certainly a possibility, Musharraf's multi-pronged strategy takes into account the current fragile nature in Pakistan. He and US forces will be able to contain Al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan, destroy training camps in the future using precision air power, and maintain the flow of supplies through the Khyber Pass.

Mr. Shahzad notes Al Qaeda is aware of future Pakistan and US forces intentions, but Al Qaeda has a plan to strike first. While valiant, this tactic from Al Qaeda will mark its death. While Pakitanis overwhelminingly do not want the US to interfere in their country, they also overwhelmingly do not want Al Qaeda to persist in Pakistan either. As Al Qaeda forces move into the cities, they are spreading fear and panic among the population. While Pakistanis have a certain mistrust for the Armed Forces in their country, they trust Al Qaeda much less.

If Musharraf can ensure the Army secures free and fair elections, support for the Army will be greatly enhanced. Al Qaeda will shortly attack after free and fair elections which will result in Pakistani's favoring an Army presence in their cites to secure them. In turn, Pakistani air power will strike with precision at the heart of Al Qaeda camps in North and South Waziristan. Al Qaeda will have nowhere to retreat as the main border crossings in these regions have been closed by US forces in Afghanistan. Bringing India into the battle will only seal another Al Qaeda avenue of retreat.

It is no wonder that Mullah Omar is paniced that Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are choosing to do battle in Pakistan and has subsequently sacked Meshud. Continued battle in Afghanistan is at least hopeful as NATO countries are reconsidering their presence in this region. However, a 600,000 man Pakistani Army in their unassailable base supported by precision air power and US intelligence will spell the death of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.

However, at this point Al Qaeda can do nothing else but attack knowing well that a large-scale operation in Pakistan will spell its ultimate destruction. This very fact is why Al Qaeda's tactical focus in Pakistan is defensive (countering NATO actions) while it is pretending to be offensive (large-scale operation in Pakistan).

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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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Pakistan's Interior Minister orders negotiations with Baitullah Mehsud

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani government and the Taliban appear close to signing the next round of "peace" accords to end the fighting in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Pakistan's Interior Minister stated a deal can be made with Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, while Baitullah announces a cease-fire in northwestern Pakistan.

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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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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US envoy: Iran gained from US invasions

From Yahoo via AP.

The headline of this article, "US envoy: Iran gained from US invasions" does not accurately represent what Khalilzad stated or implied in his speech at Columbia University, but unfortunately will be used as another example of the failure vice success of Bush's presidency.

Iran is stronger today because of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American ambassador to the United Nations said Friday.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq removed a key rival of Shiite Iran with the ouster of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government. Iran has friendly ties with the Shiites now in power in Iraq....

And Afghanistan, too, the change was helpful to Iran."

Five terrorist sponsoring states in a row (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) enabled terrorists to freely roam from Asia to Europe. Now three of those five states are actively pursuing terrorists. Two are still actively supporting terrorists. This dramatic change is not a bad record for seven years however it is attempted to be portrayed. Khalilzad notes,

"And I used to tease the (Iranian) ambassador that we have done so much for you in Iraq and Afghanistan, the least you can do is to be helpful to this effort. Otherwise, one day you will get a big bill."

The two remaining terror sponsoring states have indeed been momentarily strengthened due to the decline of other terror sponsoring states; however, Khalilzad also warned Iran to be helpful to this effort or it may one day get a big bill. The following statement would be a much more appropriate title, "US envoy: Iran will pay for its defiance" because in time it will pay for the terrorists it supports or harbors just like Pakistan is currently paying for it.

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.

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Pakistan: Shari'a Courts Spark Fears Of 'Taliban-Like State' On Afghan Border

From Radio Free Europe.

Fearing the creation of a Taliban-like state near the Afghan border, Pakistani rights activists are concerned over plans to set up a hard-line Islamist judicial system in Pashtun-populated parts of the country's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

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Pakistani Taliban grows bolder, taking fight to doorstep of frontier city

From Yahoo via McClatchy.

Islamic militants known as the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach across all seven of Pakistan's frontier tribal regions and have infiltrated Peshawar , the provincial capital, heightening U.S. concerns that an insurrection may be broadening in the nuclear-armed nation.

US officials believe the Pakistani Taliban are not just coordinating their actions, but are formenting an insurrection in Pakistan with Al Qaeda coordinating the actions.

"These are not groups of Pashtun brigands popping potshots at army patrols," he said. "This looks like there is clearly coordination going on. This looks like an effort that appears to have been planned."

This insurrection has a two-fold purpose. First, Al Qaeda is trying to disrupt supply lines from Pakistan to US forces in Afghanistan.

The increased fighting also has U.S. officials worried about possible threats to supply lines to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan , which stretch from Karachi through the tribal territories, the State Department official said.

Secondly, Al Qaeda is attempting to relieve pressure on the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan.

"The militants are trying to put pressure on the Pakistani army so the military campaign in Waziristan is either called off or the attention is diverted," Yusufzai said.

However, these are just tactical objectives, but the strategic goal must not be forgotten. The overall goal of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda is to instill fear in the population to gain their tacit support which will weaken Musharraf and the Army, so they can eventually take over Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal. They have accomplished instilling fear which gives them tacit support as noted by a professor at the Peshawar University.

"I almost don't go anywhere now, just to my office and my home," he said.

A few weeks ago, Taliban sympathizers briefly set up a booth at the school to collect money. The group is illegal, but police didn't stop them.

"People are afraid to confront them," said Ijaz Khan , another scholar at the university. (emphasis added)

And they have weakened Musharraf and the Army, putting both on the defensive.

Momentum by the Pakistani Taliban has thrown President Pervez Musharraf on the defensive over the army's ability to fight radicalization of his country....

But senior army officers are clearly uneasy about fighting fellow Pakistanis.

"These people are not our enemies. . . . These people have been misguided," army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in an interview.

It remains to be seen whether the fighting will intensify enough to where Musharraf postpones elections. If he does, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda will have won another strategic victory.

However, intense fighting in across the tribal agencies has also limited the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's freedom of action. February 18th is the key date. Pakistani Army forces are conducting containing operations in the tribal agencies until the election is over in the hope to stem the insurrection that is taking place in Pakistan. Once the elections are over, I suspect the Pakistani Army will attack the Mehsud tribe and Al Qaeda wholesale.

The questions become can Musharraf and General Kayani keep their country together for another three weeks by stemming the rise of this Taliban insurrection so they can hold successful, free, and fair elections?

If elections are held, the next question becomes can Musharraf thwart attempts to impeach him and keep the political structure in tact so he and the newly elected government can focus on the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

So far, it seems that Musharraf can keep the country together and has played his card well minus postponement of the elections for such a long time. Unfortunately, only time will tell whether on not he postponed them too long.

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