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[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]

AFP: Pakistan Information Minister Says Pro-Taliban Gang Plotted Attacks in Lahore
JPP20070701969029 Hong Kong AFP in English 1435 GMT 01 Jul 07
[By Rana Jawad]
LAHORE, Pakistan, July 1, 2007 (AFP) -- Pakistani police said Sunday they had busted a gang of pro-Taliban militants planning major terrorist attacks in the country.
An official statement released here said the militants "got training in Afghanistan in making explosive devices" and were "planning to carry out bomb blasts at several places in Lahore."
The eight-member gang was also involved in training other militants in bomb making and the use of explosive devices, the statement said.
Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani also said the militants were "plotting attacks inside Pakistan and they were trained in the neighbouring country."
Earlier a senior police official speaking on condition of anonymity said the militants during interrogation "confessed" that they were sending suicide bombers for attacks in Afghanistan.
The eight-member group led by former fighters of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad militant faction was based in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, the official said.
They used to collect materials and volunteers from the central province of Punjab, he said, requesting anonymity. The suspects were arrested in Punjab over the past few days.
The police official identified the gang leaders as Mufti Saghir Ahmed, a veteran of the 1980s war against invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and wanted militant Mohammad Safeer. Both are members of the Jaish group, he said.
"The suspects were preparing remote-controlled devices for the Taliban," the official said.
"It's a major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism and reflects Pakistan's strong commitment to fight militancy," a senior security official said.
The network had "links" with former mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his pro-Taliban son Siraj Haqqani, he added.
Last year, nearly 300 Afghan civilians were killed in about 140 suicide attacks, most of them claimed by the Taliban, according to Human Rights Watch.There were 25 suicide bombings in the country in 2005.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, who are key allies in the US-led "war on terror," have been tense over accusations that Islamabad is not doing enough to stop Taliban militants based in Pakistan from launching cross-border attacks.
Islamabad says it has nearly 90,000 troops on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to stop militants moving between the countries, and that it has arrested more militant leaders than Kabul.
Pakistan also insists the Taliban command structure is based in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and security agencies in Pakistan continue to hunt down elements on its territory.
Lahore Police chief, Malik Mohammad Iqbal, told a news conference later that police recovered a large quantity of explosives from the gang.
"This is a major achievement," he said, adding that one of the suspects was an expert in making improvised explosive devices.
Safeer was a key figure who had a bounty of one million rupees (16,600 dollars) on his head over involvement in the 2002 attack on a church in Taxila, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Islamabad, in which three female nurses were killed, Iqbal said.
Jaish was banned by key US ally President Pervez Musharraf in 2002. It was blamed by India for the 2001 attack on its parliament in New Delhi.
The group is also linked to the 2002 kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in the southern city of Karachi.
It was also accused of cooperating with Al-Qa'ida in two failed assassination bids on Musharraf in December 2003.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]

Pakistan: 8 Militant With Links to Jaish-e Mohammad, Taliban Arrested in Lahore
SAP20070702005002 Lahore Daily Times (Internet Version-WWW) in English 02 Jul 07
[By staff reporter: "Eight terror suspects arrested in Lahore"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
LAHORE: The police have arrested eight terrorist suspects here with links to banned militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Taliban, police said.
The eight men are believed to have been behind an attack on a missionary school near Murree on August 5, 2002, killing six Pakistanis; and a grenade attack on a church in Taxila four days later in which four nurses were killed, Lahore police chief Malik Muhammad Iqbal told a press conference on Sunday.
The suspects include Safeer Ahmed, alias Muhammad Azeem, alias Umair, who was wanted by the Punjab government, which had a Rs 1 million bounty on his head.
Safeer, Mufti Sagher Ahmed, Ghulam Qadir and Muhammad Yasir Wifaq were arrested from a bus stand on Saturday night, while Muhammad Siddique, Abdul Moeed, Ubaidullah Asghar and Syed Muhammad Masood were arrested from a house in Iqbal Park, Ittefaq Town in a predawn operation on Sunday.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Iqbal said that Safeer was planning terrorist plots in Lahore. He said they had been trained in use of firearms and making remote-controlled bombs "in a neighbouring country". Police also seized a large quantity of arms, ammunition and bomb-making material from the suspects' hideout in Ittefaq Town.
He said the suspects had confessed they were part of the Jamiatul Furqan, a splinter group of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, which was banned in 2002. They had also confessed to the attacks in Murree and Taxila, he said.
AFP adds: A senior police official told AFP that the suspects supplied suicide bombers and explosive devices to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. He said the eight-member group was based in Quetta, and used to collect materials and volunteers from Punjab. "During the interrogation they confessed to having carried out a series of suicide bombings and bomb blasts against foreign forces in Afghanistan over the past several years," he said.
"The suspects were preparing remote-controlled devices for the Taliban in Afghanistan," the official said, adding that they had "links" with former mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his pro-Taliban son Siraj Haqqani.

[Description of Source: Lahore Daily Times (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Internet version of the independent, moderate daily, run by veteran journalist Najam Sethi and published by the Friday Times group. Strong critic of radical and jihadi elements. Provides extensive coverage of activities of jihadi/militant groups. Caters to the educated middle class, with an estimated hardcopy circulation of 20,000; root URL as of filing date: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk]

Asia Times: 'The World's Worst Suicide Bombers '
CPP20070725721002 Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English 0028 GMT 25 Jul 07
[Report by Brian Glyn Williams : "The World's Worst Suicide Bombers "; headline as provided by source]
Suicide bombing statistics from Afghanistan alarmingly demonstrate that, if the current trend continues, 2007 will surpass last year in the number of overall attacks.
While there were 47 bombings by mid-June 2006, there were about 57 during the same period this year. Compounding fears of worse carnage to come, Afghanistan's most lethal single suicide bombing attack to date recently took the lives of 35 Afghan police trainers near Kabul.
When considering the expanding use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the discovery of the first Iraqi-style explosively formed projectile (EFP) in Afghanistan in May (ie), it is understandable that critics of the war in Afghanistan discuss it in alarmist tones.
About 80% of US casualties in Iraq come from IEDs, and members of the US and Afghan military who were interviewed for this study believe that the absence of mass-casualty suicide bombings and EFPs are the two factors that made Afghanistan less dangerous than Iraq. A deeper investigation of the wave of suicide bombings that have swept the country in 2006 and 2007 paints a less bleak picture.
Missing the target
An analysis of the attacks carried out in the past two years reveals a curious fact. In 43% of the bombings conducted last year and in 26 of the 57 bombings traced in this study up to June 15 this year, the only death caused by the bombing was that of the bomber himself. This means that, astoundingly, about 90 suicide bombers in this two-year period succeeded in killing only themselves.
There was one period in the spring of 2006 (February 20 to June 21) when a stunning 26 of the 36 suicide bombers in Afghanistan (72%) killed only themselves. This puts the kill average for Afghan suicide bombers far below that of suicide bombers in other theaters of action in the area (Israel, Chechnya, Iraq and the Kurdish areas of Turkey).
Such unusual bomber-to-victim death statistics are, of course, heartening both for coalition troops - who have described the Afghan suicide bombers as "amateurs" - and for the Afghan people - who are usually the victims of the clumsy bombings.
These statistics also represent a uniquely Afghan phenomenon that warrants investigation. A part of the reason for the low kill ratio lies in the Taliban's unique targeting sets. As Pashtuns with a strong code (Pashtunwali ) that glorifies acts of martial valor and badal (revenge), Afghan suicide bombers are more prone to hit "hard" military targets than callously obliterate innocent civilians in the Iraqi fashion. On the rare occasions where there have been high-casualty bombings of Afghan civilians, they tend to have been carried out by Arab al-Qaeda bombers. (1)
The Taliban's selective targeting is a calculated decision on the part of the Taliban shuras (councils) to avoid inciting the sort of anti-Taliban protests that led thousands in the Pashtun town of Spin Boldak to chant "Death to Pakistan, death to al-Qaeda, death to the Taliban" after a particularly bloody suicide bombing in that frontier city last year.
Taliban spokesman Zabiyullah Mujahed recently claimed, "We do our best in our suicide attacks to avoid civilian casualties. These are our Muslim countrymen, and we are sacrificing our blood to gain their freedom. Their lives are important to us, of course. But fighting with explosives is out of the control of human beings." Then he made an interesting admission that speaks to other factors that might explain the Afghan suicide bombers' failure rate. He stated, "We have a problem with making sure they attack the right targets, avoiding killing civilians."
Clearly, there is more to the Taliban bombers' stunning failure rate than simply "hard" targeting difficulties and an obvious reluctance to slaughter the Afghan constituency that the Taliban is trying to win over.
Members of the Afghan police, government and National Directorate of Security (NDS) who were interviewed about this trend during the months of April and May offered a surprisingly unanimous expl anation for the Taliban bombers' poor showing. (2) They said it lay in the ineptitude of the people the Taliban were recruiting as fedayeen (suicide) bombers.
Afghan officials continually told stories of lower-class people who had been seduced, bribed, tricked, manipulated or coerced into blowing themselves up as "weapons of God" or "(Taliban leader) Mullah Omar's missiles". Afghan NDS officials also spoke of apprehended bombers who were deranged, retarded, mentally unstable or on drugs.
Such claims should, of course, be accepted with caution, for two reasons. First, the targets of suicide bombings are prone to speak in disparaging tones regarding the mental state and motives of those who carry out bombing attacks against them. They tend to describe them as mindless, insane, fanatical, drugged or brainwashed.
Second, in his groundbreaking work Understanding Terror Networks , Marc Sageman has refuted the long-held notion that suicide bombers are impoverished, voiceless dupes tricked into killing themselves. Rather, he has shown them to be politically and religiously motivated. They are conscious actors who, like the multilingual and educated team that carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001, do not need to be brainwashed.
Certainly, in the Afghan context, there are bombers who fit the Sageman profile. Several Taliban leaders have carried out bombings, and the al-Qaeda team that scrambled on short notice to launch the symbolically important mass-casualty bombing at Bagram Air Base during US Vice President Dick Cheney's February visit was clearly composed of "professionals" (3)
Nevertheless, interviews and field work conducted in Afghanistan for this study revealed considerable evidence that the "duped, bribed, brainwashed" paradigm applies to a growing percentage of the bombers being deployed in the Afghan theater. (4) Afghan police told of numerous incidents where citizens in Kabul reported finding abandoned suicide vests in the city. They seemed to signify a last-minute change of heart in several would-be bombers.
In one case, they told of a mentally deranged man who threw his vest at an Afghan patrol, assuming it would explode on its own. (5) Several of the bombers apprehended by the NDS were carrying mind-altering hallucinogens or sedatives, which they had been told to take to calm their fears during their last moments of life. Others, including a Taliban bomber who was arrested while pushing his explosives-laden car toward its target after it ran out of fuel, appear to be inept beyond belief. (6)
Recent media and think-tank reports have also mentioned the utilization as suicide bombers of an Afghan war invalid who was blind, another who was an amputee and one who was a disabled man whose only motive was to make money for his family. Coalition troops who have spoken of seeing bombers blow themselves up far from their convoys have characterized it as the act of drugged or mentally unstable bombers.
While this might explain some of the Afghan suicide bombers' failures, there also appears to be a financial motive behind several of the bombings that offers further explanation. United Nations representatives spoke of a bomber who entered a Kabul Internet cafe in 2005. Instead of setting off his bomb in the middle of the cafe where it would do the most damage, he went into a bathroom to set it off, killing only two people. [ 7] There are many such examples of Afghan suicide bombers seemingly with a conscience or reluctance to inflict mass casualties.The possibility that a number of them are doing it simply for payments for their families might explain this. [ 8]
Research in the Pashtun areas to the southeast of Kabul reveals an even more disturbing trend than the employment of suicide bombers who are mentally unsound, using drugs or working solely for money: the use of child bombers.
Afghanistan's child bombers

Villagers interviewed for this study - living in front-line provinces such as Khost, Paktika and Paktia - have reported that Taliban recruiters were active in their areas. Many parents have lost their young, impressionable sons to those who prey on them. [ 9]

Parents often learn of their tragic fates only when the Taliban arrive at their homes to hand out their sons' "martyrdom payments". Villagers are, of course, outraged by such tactics, but there is often little recourse in light of the Taliban's dominance in the countryside.
In one case, a powerful tribal chieftain in Khost province who discovered that his son had been recruited by Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani for a "martyrdom operation" managed to get him back (after threatening to attack the Taliban with his tribe); unfortunately, this is an exception, as is the recent case of a captured 14-year-old suicide bomber who was personally pardoned by President Hamid Karzai. The president announced, "Today we are facing a hard fact, that is, a Muslim child was sent to a madrassa [seminary] to learn Islamic subjects, but the enemies of Afghanistan misled him toward suicide and prepared him to die and kill." [ 10]
Such recruitment for madrassa training of young bombers is even more widespread on the Pakistani side of the border. There have been several widely reported instances of the Taliban recruiting schoolchildren to be suicide bombers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in North-West Frontier Province.
In one notorious instance, Taliban soldiers arrived at the Oxford High English medium school in Tank and began to recruit young boys by asking them to fulfill their "jihad duty" and engage in an "adventure". According to witnesses, "The militants came to town with a mission, and wanted to convert us to their cause. 'They said that jihad was obligatory and those who heed the call are rewarded,' the principal said. 'As many as 30 students from each of the four government schools in Tank enlisted.' A similar number have also joined from private schools. The ages of those taken are between 11 ∧ 15 years."
According to one of the teachers involved, the students who were recruited without their parents' permission were subsequently trained as suicide bombers. The age of these bombers would explain why one of the courses in Taliban suicide camps teaches students how to drive a car.
In a similar case quoted by the United States' MSNBC cable network in March, two Pakistani teenagers who left school to train as suicide bombers without their parents' permission claimed, "We were told to fight against Israel, America and non-Muslims," said Muhammed Bakhtiar, 17, explaining why he wanted to become a suicide bomber. "We are so unhappy with our lives here. We have nothing. We read about jihad in books and wanted to join ... We wanted to go to the Muridke madrassa so we would have a better life in the hereafter."
While Mullah Nazir, a powerful Taliban leader in Pakistan's Waziristan provinces, recently made an unprecedented request for the Taliban to stop recruiting children, a recent video of a suicide-bomber ceremony in the region would seem to indicate that his appeal has been honored in the breach.
In the video that was obtained by the American Broadcasting Co (ABC), boys as young as 12 are shown "graduating" from a suicide-bombing camp run by Mullah Dadullah Mansour, the successor to his brother, the recently slain Mullah Dadullah.
As disturbing as this video is, it pales in comparison to the discovery Afghan security officials recently made in eastern Afghanistan. In an incident that caused tears of fury among villagers, a six-year-old street urchin approached an Afghan security checkpoint and claimed that he had been cornered by the Taliban and fitted with a suicide-bomber vest. They had told him to walk up to a US patrol and press a button on the vest that would "spray flowers". Fortunately, the quick-thinking boy instead asked for help, and the vest was removed.
While t his case is obviously an extreme example, it fits the trend and certainly goes a long way in helping to explain why almost half of Taliban suicide bombers succeed in killing only themselves. Many Taliban bombers come from small backwater villages and have to be taught how to drive on strange roads, travel beyond their locale or country, and then hit fast-moving, armored coalition convoys with improvised explosives. Even at the best of times, suicide bombing is a task that involves considerable resolve, determination and focus, and a degree of intelligence. Clearly, such vital ingredients are often missing in the Afghan context, where many of the bombers appear to be as much victims as perpetrators.
Commenting on the bombers' failure rate, US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Fitzpatrick explained the lack of ambiguity that US military personnel have about the bombers who commit suicide instead of suicide bombings. "Certainly there are a fair number of failed attempts, and that's okay. I hope they don't get better."
While some have engaged in relativism in efforts to compare the coalition's "collateral damage" losses from close air support to the Taliban's "collateral damage" from suicide bombing, the coalition clearly has the moral high ground when the enemy has resorted to deploying children as "living weapons".

1. The bomber who killed 20 people in a mosque in Kandahar in 2005 was an Arab. The bomber in the Spin Boldak bombing of 2006 that killed 26 civilians was also said to be an Arab, and the Taliban later denied responsibility for the unusually bloody bombing. Similarly, al-Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libi has been accused of being the mastermind behind the February large-suicide bombing at Bagram Air Field during Vice President Dick Cheney's visit that killed 22 civilians. Most recently, National Directorate of Security officials this month arrested an Arab member of al-Qaeda who was planning to use suicide bombers to assassinate Afghan officials.

2. Author interviews, Kabul, April 2007.

3. In one case, a mullah drove a vehicle-borne improvised device into a bus. Most recently, the Kunduz bombing of May was carried out by a mullah named Jawad from Baghlan province.

4. Marc Sageman's excellent work has more applications for elite, transnational al-Qaeda-style bombers than the impoverished, illiterate Afghans who seem to make up the majority of the bombers in recent years.

5. Author interview in National Directorate of Security headquarters, Kabul, April 2007.

6. Story relayed to the author by Craig Harrison, director of UN security in Afghanistan, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) compound, Kabul, April 2007.

7. The media erroneously reported that the bomber had set the bomb off in the middle of the cafe.

8. As in other "zones of jihad", including Chechnya and Iraq, it appears that Arab financiers are offering payments ranging from US$11,000 to $23,000 for those who carry out bombings.

9. Author's findings while carrying out research in the region in April 2007.

10. This story was conveyed to the author in Gardez, Paktia province, by Tom Gregg of the UNAMA, on the morning after a suicide bomber hit the town. Local Pashtuns interviewed after the bombing called the attack "obscene" and "un-Islamic".
Dr Brian Glyn Williams is assistant professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English - - Hong Kong-based online newspaper with a Bangkok branch office focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe. Successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors as of Feb 2006, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region. Root URL on filing date: http://www.atimes.com]

Pakistan: Geo News Discussion on Army Operations in Tribal Areas, New Red Mosque
SAP20070802093001 Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu 1800 GMT 01 Aug 07
[Discussion between Sami Yusufzai, prominent tribal affairs analyst, on video line from Peshawar and senior journalist Kamran Khan in studio in Karachi on latest Army operations in tribal areas--live; taken from regularly scheduled "Today with Kamran Khan" program; words within double slant lines are in English]
[Kamran Khan] There was a lull in violence in Pakistan's tribal areas, especially in North Waziristan, today. Military squads are continuing their operations [against the militants]. According to reports, 58 militants have been killed until last night in the Army operations launched yesterday. Reports cite unofficial figures of about 58 militants killed in the Army //operations// and //activities// last night and this morning. This is the biggest loss suffered by the militants in North Waziristan. Although the figure has not been officially confirmed, but knowledgeable sources say that the militants suffered the biggest loss last night when the military squads launched a full-scale operation inflict a big loss of life on militants. Similar reports have been received from Mohmand Agency where a tomb and mosque were captured and named as Jamia Hafsa seminary and Lal Masjid [Red Mosque] respectively. Taliban were put under pressure in Mohmand Agency due to which the Taliban have started leaving the mosque.
We will go to Peshawar where we have with us on [video line] Senior Journalist Sami Yusufzai to know the latest situation.
Sami, reports are being received today that the militants have suffered a big loss in the operations launched yesterday and they have been forced to retreat. What reports you have received from North Waziristan?
[Yusufzai] Yes Kamran Khan, as you know the Pakistan Army launched an operation yesterday in which about 18 local Taliban, as they are called there, were killed. Their dead bodies have been sent to their respective homes in various areas. Reports speak of a sense of enragement in whole Waziristan, but no immediate activity was carried out on behalf of the militants and I think today was a rare day in the whole week when no report of untoward incidents was received so far from the entire area. It is, however, being reported that the local Taliban and the militants have spoken about taking revenge of the killing of their companions in the bombing and Pakistan Army's operation yesterday and they are preparing for anti-government activities.
[Khan] Sami, what are the reports from Mohmad Agency where a tomb and a mosque were captured and named as Jamia Hafsa seminary and Red Mosque respectively. We have received some reports that pressure has been increased there on Taliban and they, perhaps, are ready to evacuate both places. What information you have regarding the situation in Mohamand Agency?
[Sami] Yes Kamran Khan, the situation today is that the //numbers// of Taliban present at mosque and seminary of Haji Sahib Turangzai, which were occupied by the local Taliban, have come down and they are leaving. But there has also been a report that //students// have started coming to one seminary, where the Taliban had put the signboard of Jamia Hafsa. A baffling situation, however, prevails in the entire Mohmad Agency area and the reports say that //local political// agents and the government officials are concerned that this conflict at local mosque could open a new front in the tribal areas like Bajaur which could lead to a process of clashes between the local Taliban and the government.
[Khan] Who are the //commanders// of these local Taliban and the militants, who are waging a //guerrilla// war against Pakistan Army in the tribal areas? To what extent the local Taliban commanders have been identified and who are they?
[Yusufzai] Kamran, there are different Taliban commanders in different areas at present. For example, Baitullah Mehsud, who is the biggest Taliban commander in the tribal areas, enjoys a very big //influence// in both South Waziristan and North Waziristan and commands a large number of people. Besides, there is a small commander whose name is (Moedad Khan), who also has few people under his command. Besides, it is reported that Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was a former prominent commander during the Taliban era in Afghanistan, is himself leading the Afghan Taliban and militants present near Miranshah. In other tribal areas like Bajaur, it is reported that Maulana Faqir Mohammad is also commanding a large number of Taliban there and he has contacts with other //militant commanders// in other tribal areas and he is increasing the number of militants under his command.
[Khan] Thank you very much. Sami Yusufzai was telling us about the latest situation in tribal areas.

[Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu -- 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan's Jang publishing group, broadcast from Dubayy. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Programs include some Indian shows and dramas which the group claims are aimed at promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.]

Asia Times: 'Taliban a Step Ahead of US Assault '
CPP20070813721003 Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English 1021 GMT 10 Aug 07
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - The ongoing three-day peace jirga (council) involving hundreds of tribal leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan is aimed at identifying and rooting out Taliban and al-Qaeda militancy on both sides of the border.
This was to be followed up with military strikes at militant bases in Pakistan, either by the Pakistani armed forces in conjunction with the United States, or even by US forces alone.
The trouble is, the bases the US had meticulously identified no longer exist. The naive, rustic but battle-hardened Taliban still want a fight, but it will be fought on the Taliban's chosen battlegrounds.
Twenty-nine bases in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan that were used to train militants have simply fallen off the radar.
The US had presented Islamabad with a dossier detailing the location of the bases as advance information on likely US targets. But Asia Times Online has learned that since early this month, neither the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led coalition in Afghanistan nor Pakistan intelligence has detected any movement in the camps.
Human intelligence on both sides suggests the bases have been dismantled, apart from one run by hardline Islamist Mullah Abdul Khaliq. All other leading Taliban commanders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, Gul Bahadur, Baitullah Mehsud and Haji Omar, have disappeared. Similarly, the top echelons of the Arab community that was holed up in North Waziristan has also gone.
The new battlefield
The al-Qaeda leadership has apparently now installed itself in Jani Khel village in the Bannu district of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This includes Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The Taliban leadership, most prominently Haqqani, is concentrated in the Afghan provinces of Khost and Gardez, where much fighting is expected to take place.
A spillover of al-Qaeda's presence in Jani Khel is likely to spread to Karak, Kohat, Tank, Laki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan. Kohat in NWFP is tipped to become a central city in the upcoming battle, as the office of the Pakistani Garrison commanding officer is there and all operations will be directed through this area. In addition, Kohat is directly linked with a US airfield in Khost for supplies and logistics.
A second war corridor is expected to be in the Waziristans, the Khyber Agency, the Kurram Agency, Bajaur Agency, Dir, Mohmand Agency and Chitral in Pakistan and Nanagarhar, Kunar and Nooristan in Afghanistan.
The fiercest battleground, however, will be in Khost and Gardez, making the previous Taliban successes in Helmand and Kandahar during the spring offensive of 2006 a distant memory.
The Taliban's evolution
The death in May of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah in Afghanistan during a coalition raid set in motion a major change within the Taliban's command structure.
The loss of the heroic commander was a huge blow for the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan, as a major symbol of success had been killed - and there was no one of his stature to replace him, as another top Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Osmani, had earlier been killed in Helmand.
Amid the demoralization, the entire Taliban leadership left Helmand, Urzgan, Zabul and Kandahar and sat idle in Satellite Town in Quetta, Pakistan, for several weeks.
Finally, in June, Taliban leader Mullah Omar outlined new guidelines, which included: No members of the central military command would work in southwestern Afghanistan. Group commanders would be given control of specific districts and be allowed to develop their own strategy. This strategy would be passed on only to the Taliban-appointed "governor" of the area, who in turn would relay it to the Taliban's central command council. From these various inputs, the council would develop a broader strategy for particular regions. The Taliban would discourage personality cults like Dadullah's, as the death of a "hero" demoralized his followe rs. Four spokesmen were appointed to decentralize the Taliban's media-information wing. Each spokesman would look after only a specific zone so that in case of his arrest, only information about that zone could be leaked. They also have all been given the same name, at present it is Qari Yousuf Ahmedi.
This "unschooled" program produced results within weeks as the Taliban gained new ground in Helmand and Urzgan through widespread grassroots support, and Jalaluddin Haqqani's commanders gained prominence.
Where does Pakistan stand?
Pakistan's stance throughout the "war on terror" has been problematical, especially with regards to the Taliban, whom its intelligence agency had long nurtured. Certainly Islamabad distanced itself from the Taliban after their fall in 2001, and has periodically cracked down on them in Pakistan, but sections in the military, intelligence agencies and general public remain sympathetic.
But once the peace jirga concludes this weekend, a war has to be fought: the US is simply running out of patience.
Pakistan has said it is committed to such a battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda elements on its soil. Interestingly, though, of late the military establishment has activated its anti-American segment in the ruling coalition.
First, the secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Mushahid Hussain Syed, called for a crushing response in the event of any US attack in Pakistan. Then retired Major Tanveer Hussain Syed, secretary for the parliamentary committee on defense, said ties with the US should be severed and the Taliban should be promoted in Afghanistan. Minister of Religious Affairs Ejaz ul-Haq weighed in by calling for a review of Pakistan-US relations and the country's participation in the "war on terror".
One can dismiss this as rhetoric. Washington might consider, though, that Pakistan has changed horses in midstream many times before.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online WWW-Text in English - - Hong Kong-based online newspaper with a Bangkok branch office focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe. Successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors as of Feb 2006, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region. Root URL on filing date: http://www.atimes.com]

Pakistan: Taliban Leader Snubs Jirga; Says No Talks Until US Troops Withdraw
SAP20070813005033 Islamabad Khabrain in Urdu 13 Aug 07 pp 1, 11
[Report by Kamal Azfar: "No talks until withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan: Taliban commander"]
Islamabad - The Taliban have refused to hold dialog with the jirga [assembly of elders] unless foreign forces withdrawal from Afghanistan and announced to continue their struggle to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan with an enforcement of an Islamic system there. While talking to Khabrain on Sunday evening [ 12 August] at the conclusion of four-day Pakistan-Afghanistan peace jirga in Kabul, the former central minister for borders and tribal affairs and the military chief of the Taliban, Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani, said peace will not be established in Afghanistan or Pakistan's Tribal Areas with the announcement of a declaration by the so-called jirga.
[He said] "We will reject every offer of dialog until the American and allied forces are not present in Afghanistan. We'll choose between enforcement of an Islamic system and martyrdom. Enforcement of an Islamic system will be the price our martyrs' blood." He said the jirga was a part of the US agenda. It has put forward a joint plan of foreign aggression in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such jirgas will not help ameliorate the lot of the Afghan nation. Poppy cultivation had ended during the Taliban era and now men of Karzai are involved in it. To a question, Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani said that we have no differences with the people of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan sided with us for a long time during the long drawn out jihad.
[He said]Pakistani rulers are responsible for the internal situation in that country and we have nothing to do with suicide attacks inside Pakistan. He said every option, including suicide attacks, is being used inside Afghanistan. The move has routed the foreign forces. To yet another question, he said that Taliban are organized and achieving successes. To another question he said that youth fighting against the foreigners in Afghanistan do not need any training at training centers. Every Afghan youth has been prepared by the war going on for the last 28 years. While replying to another question, he said Mullah Omar is leading the mujahid of the Taliban and they are in contact with him. When asked, he said they need not take shelter in Pakistan's Tribal Areas. The Pakistan Government and its policies are responsible for the deteriorating situation there and confrontation with the army.
He said the jirga meeting in Kabul was not representative of all tribes. He said the Taliban are not fighting in Iraq because they are facing war in their own motherland.

[Description of Source: Islamabad Khabrain in Urdu -- Sensationalist daily, generally opposes Pakistan People's Party. Circulation of 30,000.]

'Terrorist gang' busted in Afghan capital city
IAP20070817950002 Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English 0235 GMT 17 Aug 07

"Terrorist gang" busted in Afghan capital city

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website
Kabul, 16 August: Intelligence officials claimed busting a 'terrorist network' and arresting a ringleader during a raid in this capital city.
Addressing a news conference here on Thursday [16 August], spokesman for the National Intelligence Department Sayed Ansari said the linchpin named Muhammad Taleb was resident of Zindan village of Khak-e Jabbar district.
The alleged terrorist Muhammad Taleb, alias Jamal, was nabbed along with his seven colleagues while smuggling missiles, he said.
Other members of the gang included Sherollah, Sayfollah, Muhammad Khan, Azimollah, Abdol Sattar, Najibollah and Toti Shah. They were residents of Khak-e Jabbar, Bagrami and Dehsabz districts of Kabul, he informed.
The detainee was a commander of the Hezb-e Islami of Golboddin Hekmatyar during the era of jihad, said the spokesman.
Muhammad Taleb joined the Taleban and served as deputy chief of Bagrami district and then head of the research branch of the intelligence department, he informed.
After the overthrow of Taleban, the detainee got closer to Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajoddin Haqqani and got training in Tal area of Pakistan's Kurram Agency, he continued.
Ansari said Muhammad Taleb was assigned with importing missiles and explosives in Kabul and using it in blasts in various areas of the city.
Taleb had confessed his involvement in terrorist activities during investigations, said the spokesman, who added he had claimed responsibility for a landmine blast in Sang-e Noshta area of Kabul on an ISAF convoy.
He said the detainee was also involved in a blast near Pol-e Charkhi and an attempt on life of Nangarhar Governor Gol Agha Sherzai some time back.
Terming the dismantling of the gang a remarkable success, Ansari hoped it would reduce the ratio of suicide attacks and landmine blasts in Kabul.

[Description of Source: Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News (Internet Version-WWW) in English -- Pajhwok Afghan News, established in April 2004, provides daily news and features in Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu. Self-described as "independent," it often reports on security matters and the Taliban activities. It claims to be staffed, managed, and led entirely by Afghans. According to the site, it receives financial support from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).]

Report Claims Local Taliban in Control of Most of Waziristan
SAP20070814386027 New Delhi Political and Defence Weekly in English 03 Apr 07 - 09 Apr 07 Vol. 5, No. 27, pp 5-6
[Report by Kanchan Lakshman: "WAZIRISTAN: TALIBAN'S WAR WITHIN"]
Despite the deployment of an estimated 80,000 troops along the Afghan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the situation is far from stable in a region that is crucial to Islamabad and Washington. This was confirmed over the past two weeks, when at least 227 persons, most of them reportedly al Qaeda-linked foreign militants, were killed between March 19-31, 2007, in clashes between local tribesmen and militants in South Waziristan near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Approximately 160 persons, including 150 foreign militants, were killed in four days of clashes over March 19 to 22, between the al Qaeda-linked militants and pro-Government tribesmen in Shin Warsak village, seven kilo­meters west of Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan. Pro-Government tribesmen launched 'operations' in March 2007 targeting hideouts of the foreign militants as part of a strategy to drive them out of Waziristan. The first round of violence began on March 6 when approximately 19 people, including 12 Uzbek militants, were killed in a clash between the Wazir Zalikhel sub-tribe and foreign militants near Azam Warsak in South Waziristan.
The al Qaeda militants, numbering between 500-1000, are now effectively cor­nered in the hilly terrain, as all roads to the areas where they are holed up are controlled by Maulana Nazir, a pro-Government Taliban commander (chief of the Taliban Shura for Ahmadzai Wazir-dominated areas of South Waziristan), and his 1,500 supporters. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao dis­closed: "Fifty-four people were killed today [March 30] and two yesterday. They include 45 foreigners," adding further, "The fighting is going on...[ellipses as published] it intensified today after peace talks failed. Tribes are insisting on their demand that these people either surrender or quit the area." A Maulana Nazir supporter earlier told Associated Press that local tribesmen had killed 35 Uzbeks and lost 10 of their own men.
According to Institute for Conflict Management, throughout 2005, 285 people, including 92 civilians and 158 terrorists, were killed in Waziristan in 165 incidents. In 2006, the death toll was 590, including 109 civilians, 144 soldiers and 337 terrorists, in 248 incidents. Just in the first three months of year 2007 have seen approximately 288 people, including 37 civil­ians, eight soldiers and 243 terrorists, killed, an unambiguous indication of the state of play in Pakistan's most troubled region. Given Islamabad's understated accounts, the sup­pression of the Press and erratic reportage, the actual numbers could be much higher.
It is necessary to reiterate that the local Taliban are in effective control of most of Waziristan. The locus of current fighting is in the Azam Warsak, Shin Warsak and Kalusha areas of South Waziristan. Indications are that the violence could escalate since tribal leader Haji Sharif, on March 29, ruled out any nego­tiations with the foreign militants. Some pro­government tribal commanders have said 'operations' would continue until all foreign militants are 'expelled' from Waziristan.
The pro-Government tribesmen have, interestingly, targeted only the foreigners - mili­tants from a melange of countries, including Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Arab world. A majority of the foreign militants are reportedly from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is led by Tahir Yuldashev and his local associ­ates, including Noor Islam, Javed Zalikhel and Maulana Abdul Aziz. While not much information is available on the strategic aspects of what appears to be a vigilante campaign, military spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad claimed, "It's a success of the Government tribesmen strategy...[ellipses as published] the tribesmen are fed up with them because they and their activities adversely affect their lives and business."
The military regime believes that a vig­ilante movement by the local tribesmen could curb cross-border attacks by the militants in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government "is not intervening" in the clashes, an unnamed senior security official told AFP: "We hope this onslaught against foreign militants will help reduce cross-border activity. The foreigners were involved in this cross-border activity...[ellipses as published] This is a decisive battle for us."
There has not been any respite in the fighting despite the fact that a Jamiat Ulema-e­Islam [Fazlur Rehman faction (JUI-F)]-dominat­ed Jirga (tribal council) had mediated a truce between the two sides on March 22. Niaz Muhammad Qureshi, JUI-F information secretary for South Waziristan, stated after the cease-fire, "We are glad that the two sides con­ceded to the tribal elders and clerics' plea for silencing their guns in order to solve their issues through peaceful means." Militant leaders like Baitullah Mehsud, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of senior Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, and an unnamed Taliban 'commander' from Afghanistan reportedly reached unnamed loca­tions in South Waziristan to arrive at the deal.
Reports indicate that Maulana Nazir, commander of the pro-Taliban militants, was at one point disinclined to a truce. However, the Jirga, in which Government nominees were also present, persuaded him after lengthy discussions. Islamabad has been try­ing since 2002 to evict or neutralise the for­eign militants in Waziristan. A majority of them, wanted in their home countries, have been holed up in Waziristan for years and it is highly unlikely that they could be persuaded to leave. Sources indicate that, after the Shakai agreement in 2004 (which failed to end vio­lence and eventually collapsed when Nek Muhammad, whose 'surrender' in April 2004 was a widely publicized event, turned his back on the Army and was eventually neutralised in a targeted missile attack on June 17, 2004), not a single foreigner left the region.
The marginal reduction in their numbers since then is primarily due to the fact that many have gone 'missing in action'. Further, the local Taliban have never acknowledged that foreign elements are present in the area. Indeed, after the military regime's accord with the local Taliban in North Waziristan in September 2006, a spokesman for the militants reiterated that there were no foreigners and that Islamabad had yet to provide any proof of their presence. On September 5, 2006, Taliban leaders in North Waziristan had signed a 'peace agreement' with the Government, promising to halt cross-border movement and stop attacks on Government installations and security forces.
However, the U.S. military and NATO officials now believe that attacks have risen sharply since the deal. Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State, during a visit to Islamabad in March 2007, stated, "I think every­body recognises that, at this point, the political deal in Waziristan has not stopped the militancy." And US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on March 7 that the Taliban and al Qaeda were using Pakistan's tribal areas, particularly North Waziristan, to regroup. "I would say the Taliban and AI Qaeda have been able to use the areas around, particularly North Waziristan, to regroup and it is a problem," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. Further, the outgoing US Ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan C. Crocker, said, on March 8, that the peace deal in Waziristan, though "well written", has not been implemented.
In an interview to Khyber television channel, Crocker stated: "We asked Pakistan to ensure that the agreement would be respect­ed. I personally appreciate the points written in the agreement but unfortunately the militants haven't respected the agreement because there are some tribal areas where the Pakistan Government doesn't have full control."
When operations were launched against the Taliban-al Qaeda combine in the FATA in 2002, the Army, under enormous pres­sure from the US, was convinced that a military victory was essential. Four years down the line, it is the proponents of a violent jihad who have achieved strategic success. In more ways than one, it is a signal that the Pakistan Army has failed in its quest for a military victory. The Taliban have de facto control over most of Waziristan and, more importantly, have full free­dom of movement and activities across the region. The current round of violence is only a continuation of the manifest retreat of the state.
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