Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers

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CPP20080825715003 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 0952 GMT 22 Aug 08
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "Militants Ready for Pakistan's War"; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - 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.
In the wake of Pervez Musharraf, who retired as president on Monday after flip-flopping on the country's approach to militancy for many years, the American-sponsored coalition of the willing in Islamabad appears ready for all-out war at any cost.
Ironically, this uncharacteristically clear Pakistani policy emerges as the political quagmire in the capital deepens. Former premier Nawaz Sharif has threatened to pull his Pakistan Muslim League out of the ruling coalition if judges sacked by Musharraf last year are not reinstated. He set a deadline for next Wednesday. The other main coalition partners, the Pakistan People's Party, the Awami National Party and the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam, said they would put the matter to parliament for debate, a proposal Sharif is not keen on.
Who do they intend to fight?
The government's approach will be different from that adopted by Musharraf when he signed onto the "war on terror" in 2001, officials in Pakistan's top strategic circles tell Asia Times Online.
Then, Musharraf, who was also chief of army staff, acted as he saw fit, often not to the liking of Washington, which often accused Islamabad of dragging its feet in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militancy.
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.
Channels have also been established for the US Embassy in Islamabad to coordinate with the Pakistani government. As a sign of the renewed goodwill, the US Embassy has announced US$50,000 as immediate aid relief for the people displaced from Bajaur. Other financial packages are expected to follow.
Up until 2007, under Musharraf, Pakistan made a clear distinction between the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Takfiris (those who believe non-practicing Muslims are infidels) among al-Qaeda and criminal gangs who became a part of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
The Taliban were viewed as a phenomenon spanning the southwestern Pashtun lands from Pakistan's Balochistan province to Afghanistan's provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Urzgan and Zabul. This is the heartland of the Taliban in which leader Mullah Omar and majority of his shura (council) live.
They have never troubled Pakistan and have not tried to impose sharia law or interfere in Shi'ite-Sunni feuds or meddle with the thousands of Hindus living in the border town of Chaman. These are the "real" Taliban and the core of the resistance fighting against the foreign occupation of Afghanistan.
Pakistan has never conducted any military operations against the Taliban in Balochistan - one NATO's main complaints.
In NWFP, the problem was more complex. There are Taliban such as Jalaluddin Haqqani steering the insurgency in Afghanistan, and Pakistan has never tried to target his outfit, despite repeated NATO requests.
Top al-Qaeda leaders also live here and in the tribal regions on the border with Afghanistan. They are not specifically anti-Pakistan and there was until 2007 a tacit agreement with the Pakistani security forces that they would be left alone. American intelligence was given a free hand to arrest them - al-Qaeda members had to look after themselves, with Pakistan acting more like a referee.
However, the Takfiris, who include aging Egyptian Sheikh Essa's group, are a different story. Pakistan has made a clear distinction with them, including Uzbeks under the command of Qari Tahir Farooq (Tahir Yaldeshiv) and has gone after them with its proxies in the tribal areas. The same went for Pakistani criminal groups such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, who joined the Takfiri camp, or camps under Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud, who is very close to the Takfiris.
Pakistan's relations with the Pakistani Taliban have depended on which leader they followed. If they were part of Mullah Omar's or Jalaluddin Haqqani's groups, they were left alone; if they were part of the Takfiri groups, the treatment was different.
In essence, this was Pakistan's war, and it fought it on its own terms, which was only partially beneficial to NATO. Under the new leadership, Pakistan's participation in the "war on terror" will be more for the benefit of NATO.
This could come at a very high cost. Those militants who were previously left alone will now be targets. In turn, they will conduct operations against Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden does not have the resources he had in 1989, when he tried to finance Nawaz Sharif to dethrone Benazir Bhutto's government (See The pawns who pay as powers play Asia Times Online, June 2, 2005). But his people certainly have ties within the security forces to allow them to launch operations like the failed one in the mid-1990s against Bhutto's government.
Last year, Bin Laden appointed an Amir of Khuruj (Revolt) for Pakistan, but he died of illness early this year. He has been replaced by Khalid Habib, a Moroccan, and he is now on standby for orders.
Thursday's attack at Wah is a portend of what lies in store for the country. That attack, although claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, was carried out by Pakistani criminal gangs with religious orientations and allied with the Takfiris.
Al-Qaeda has executed high-profile attacks, such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last December and the one on Bagram base in Kabul during US Vice President Dick Cheney's 2007 visit.
Should the Pakistani government really commit to its all-out war on militants, it will feel more of such wrath.
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 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. URL: http://www.atimes.com]

Over 20 feared killed in US attack in Pakistan tribal area

SAP20080908950012 Karachi Geo TV website in English 08 Sep 08

Text of report by leading private Pakistani satellite TV channel Geo News website on 8 September

Miranshah [North Waziristan]: Over 20 people reportedly killed and several injured during missile attack by US drones near Miranshah in North Waziristan on Monday [8 September].
Sources said that the US drones fired ten guided missiles at a house and madarssah [seminary] of son of Afghan commander Jalaluddin Haqqani in Danday Darpakhel area near Miranshah.
More than 20 people have been killed and dozens injured reportedly in the attack. Women and children are also included among the killed and injured.
The injured have been shifted to Miranshah headquarter hospital and other nearby hospitals.

[Description of Source: Karachi Geo TV website in English ]

Pakistan: Three killed in Waziristan in Attack Allegedly by 'US Spy Planes'

SAP20080908027001 Karachi Dawn News in English 0600 GMT 08 Sep 08
At least three people have been killed and 15 injured, including women and children, as missiles hit a madrassa in the Dandi Darpakhel area of North Waziristan. Sources say 6-7 missiles were fired by a US spy plane on a madrassa in the area. Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani's residence and madrassa are also located in Dandi Darpakhel area which could be a target of the missile attack. The dead and the injured are being shifted to a nearby hospital. A steep surge is being witnessed in cross-border strikes in Waziristan by the coalition forces based in Afghanistan. Such attacks have claimed several civilian lives in the past few days.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn News in English -- Pakistan's first 24-hour English language TV channel owned by the Dawn Group of Newspapers.]

AFP: Officials Say Suspected US Missile Strike Kills 21 in Pakistan
JPP20080908147008 Hong Kong AFP in English 1446 GMT 08 Sep 08

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, Sept 8, 2008 (AFP) - At least 21 people including women and children were killed Monday in a missile strike by suspected US drones on a Pakistan tribal town near the Afghan border, officials told AFP.

The drones fired several missiles that hit a house near a madrassa or Islamic seminary in North Waziristan, the officials said, in the fourth such strike in the rugged tribal region in almost a week.
"Seven civilians and 14 militants have died in the missile strike," an intelligence official said, hours after the 11am (0500 GMT) strike.
Women and children were among the dead, as well as the militants, including nine "foreigners" believed to be of Arab origin.
A security official told AFP that more than 25 people had been wounded.
"The latest casualties include an important Arab militant identified as just Hamza and two other Arabs identified as Musa and Qasim," the official said but was unable to give full names immediately.
Some of the injured are in critical condition, hospital officials said.
Foreigner is a term used by Pakistan authorities for Al Qaeda [Al-Qa'ida] militants.
The drones were apparently targeting the house or the madrassa established by former Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani during the 1978-88 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, residents said.
Haqqani, who was a close aid to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, has not been seen since the fall of the hardline regime in Afghanistan in 2001.
Residents said two pilotless aircraft circled over Dande Darpakhel, three kilometres (about two miles) north of the region's main town of Miranshah, before at least one drone fired several missiles.
On Friday, three children and two women were killed in the same region during a suspected strike by a pilotless aircraft.
At least five militants were also killed the day before when a missile fired from an unmanned plane hit a house in the North Waziristan village of Mohammad Khel, officials said.
The latest strike follows Pakistani claims that US-led forces based in Afghanistan killed 15 people in a border village in neighbouring South Waziristan district last week.
That attack was condemned by Pakistan's parliament and the foreign minister who issued a tough statement calling the incident "shameful" and stating that only women and children had been targeted.
Around 3,000 Pakistani tribesmen chanted "Allahu akbar" and "death to America" in Wana, the district's main town, after Friday prayers to protest against that raid, which involved helicopter gunships and ground troops.
BOTh the US-led coalition and the separate NATO-led security force operating in Afghanistan have said they have no knowledge of the incident.
South Waziristan is a known haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not have missile-equipped drones.
US and Afghan officials say Pakistan's tribal areas are a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked into the rugged terrain after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

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

Pakistan: Attack on Haqqani Seminary Said Killed Al-Qai'da Leader; Family Denies
SAP20080910101001 Islamabad The News Online in English 10 Sep 08
[Report by Mushtaq Yusufzai: "Three more US attack victims succumb to injuries"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
PESHAWAR: Amid reports of the death of al-Qaeda Pakistan chapter leader Abu Haris, three more people, who were critically injured in the Monday air strikes carried out by the CIA-operated drone on the house of veteran Afghan Taliban commander, Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani at Danday Darpakhel village near Miramshah, succumbed to injuries Tuesday.
Also, tribal as well as family sources of the Afghan commander denied reports that al-Qaeda Pakistan chapter commander Abu Haris was among several other foreigners killed in the air attack on one of Haqqani's houses at Danday Darpakhel village near Miramshah.
According to the sources, 22 people, mostly women and children belonging to the Haqqani family and some Afghan guests were killed. They said 25 people; belonging to the Haqqani family reportedly sustained critical injuries when a US drone fired six hellfire missiles on their house.
The wounded were shifted to various hospitals in Miramshah where three of them succumbed to injuries. Residents of Danday Darpakhel village said the incident occurred in the morning and some of the bodies were retrieved later in the evening due to lack of proper equipment.
They said a portion of the two-storey cemented house of Afghan commander, which was reserved for male guests, was razed to the ground. The villagers and tribal militants who rushed to the spot to take part in rescue work faced trouble with recovering the bodies and injured as some of them were lying under the heavy rubble of the collapsed roof of the building.
The dead were laid to rest later in the evening near Miramshah as it took time to the fasting villagers to dig over two dozens graves within a short time of time. According to family sources of the Afghan commander, the dead included elder sister of Jalaluddin Haqqani, his three daughters-in-law, grandsons, granddaughters and some girls of the villagers who would come there for learning the holy Qura'an and other Islamic teachings.
The family sources also admitted that some of the guests who had come from Afghanistan also died in the attack. The family, however, denied reports that senior al-Qaeda commander with a name of Abu Haris and a few others including Qasim, Musa were killed in the attack on their house.
There were reports that US forces were targeting Sirajuddin Haqqani, the 28-year old son of Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who according to his family, along with other male members of the family was staying in Afghanistan.
However, the sources said one of Haqqani's several young sons, Yahya Haqqani, was seriously injured in the attack and was admitted to a hospital. "Besides several women, the family has lost over a dozen small children in the attack," remarked sources close to the Haqqani family, adding that several other children were still battling for life.
Meanwhile, despite repeated protests by Pakistan, US drone again on Tuesday morning violated Pakistan's airspace and flew over several villages of North Waziristan Agency. The angry tribal militants of Hamzoni village near Miramshah were seen firing shots from their heavy machine guns on the CIA-operated unmanned air vehicle (UAV) but as usual they missed the drone because of its rapidly changing positions.

[Description of Source: Islamabad The News Online in English -- Website of the widely read, influential English daily, member of the Jang publishing group. Neutral editorial policy, good coverage of domestic and international issues. Hardcopy circulation estimated at 55,000; URL: http://www.thenews.com.pk]

Asia Times: 'Secrets of Taliban's Success'
CPP20080911715001 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 1053 GMT 10 Sep 08
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "Secrets of the Taliban's Success"; headline as provided by source]
Kandahar has traditionally been the city of Afghan royalty, warlords and the center of resistance movements against the British and Russia. It was also the spiritual heartland of the student militia, the Taliban, that emerged in the 1990s to combat the vicious civil war that was tearing the country apart.
The Taliban took over Kabul in 1996 and opened the country to al-Qaeda's training camps, while Osama bin Laden settled in Kandahar. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan a few months later, the Taliban agreed to lose their government but, in the tradition of the Afghan code of honor of Pashtunwali , they refused to hand over their most wanted guests to the Americans.
Seven years after 9/11, the resurgent Taliban movement is exclusively led by Kandahari clans, which still boast of their sacrifices for the Islamic brotherhood in the name of Pashtunwali , but they maintain that the Taliban have never harbored - and never will - an aggressive agenda towards the world community.
In a interview with Asia Times Online, Mullah Abdul Jalil, a pioneer of the Taliban movement in Kandahar, elaborated. "There is a lot of rhetoric out of anger and frustration against the West because of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) oppression of the Afghan people, but the Taliban leadership still strictly abides by its code of conduct for the resistance against foreign occupation forces in our country," said Jalil, who served as deputy foreign minister and foreign minister during the Taliban regime (1996-2001).
"Our code of conduct is documented in the Asasi Qanoon (Basic Law of Afghanistan). Under article 103, it is mentioned that we don't want any disruptions in any country of the world. The Taliban are only a national resistance movement against foreign occupation forces in Afghanistan," said Jalil.
Jalil, 49, hails from Kandahar and attended an Islamic seminary in Quetta, Pakistan, but did not finish his studies because of the emergence of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Jalil is a thin, down-to-earth man, his hair and beard already snow white, which he ascribes to the years of turmoil he has witnessed in his country. He has never been a military commander, but has always been a part of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's closest inner circle and he is still proud to be one of his close confidants.
Along with the Taliban's foreign minister in 2001, Mullah Abdul Wakeel Muttawakil, Jalil was not comfortable with al-Qaeda being in the country, but when questioned on the matter he initially evaded answering with a smile, saying only that "it is unnecessary to open up controversies".
However, he did then elaborate, "Arabs are different from the Taliban. If today they boost attacks on Western targets, they do so independently. We have nothing to do with their claims. We have always limited our battle to that against NATO and although we could work in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, China or Iran, we never had any role in these areas.
"Afghanistan has always been a poor country and has never had the capacity to be aggressive against anybody, nor will it do so in the future. This is exactly what Mullah Omar told the Chinese ambassador during the last days of our government in Afghanistan. Even if we provided a place for the people of Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang province in China) because they migrated to Afghanistan, we did not fuel their (separatist Uyghur) movement from Afghanistan," Jalil insisted.
Jalil's comments did not ring true. Several Taliban commanders, including the slain Mullah Dadullah and Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, besides scores of al-Qaeda members, have maintained that the only way to win the Afghan war against NATO is to attack Western targets in Europe and America. I cited some of their statements to Jalil and asked, "Are they lying, or are you?"
"Nobody is lying. There are issues here to understand. First, there were people like Mu llah Dadullah (a senior military commander killed by NATO in 2007). He was emotional and often engaged in rhetoric - many times - different from Taliban policies, so much so that on several occasions he was warned by the Taliban leadership about his statements to the media.
"Second, it is necessary to understand that there is a sea of difference between the people who call themselves the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban (led by Mehsud) and the Taliban. We have nothing to do with them. In fact, we oppose the policies they adhere to against the Pakistani security forces.
"We individually speak to all groups, whether they are Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Arabs, Uzbeks or whosoever, telling them not to create violence in Pakistan, especially in the name of the Taliban. But although we don't have any control over them, we don't allow such groups to come into our areas. None of these is involved with us in fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan," Jalil said.
Warming to the subject, Jalil continued, "Nobody has the right to explain any war strategy on our behalf. Our strategy is decided by Mullah Bradar alone. He is the deputy of Mullah Omar and the present chief of military operations. Last year we laid down a policy of a guerrilla war. We cannot afford any mass uprising or face-to-face war, it would only cause a lot of unnecessary casualties."
"But don't you think that in this long process of a guerrilla war, especially as the Taliban don't have the latest weaponry, it would make the Afghan population sick and tired of the Taliban-led resistance?" I asked.
Jalil responded quickly, "Not at all. The Taliban emerged from Kandahar, which has a special dynamic in Afghanistan, and they have never accepted foreign occupation. The Taliban still draws its military leaders from Kandahar, and look at the history of Kandahar... when I say Kandahar I don't mean the present divisions, it means the entire regions of Helmand, Urzgan and Zabul... it has always produced the best military leaders.
"The Taliban are not a stand-alone entity. Ninety percent of the present resistance in Kandahar survives because of the masses. They provide shelter to us in their homes, feed us and provide money for us to go back and fight against the foreign forces, and they never mind if in the course of this they suffer casualties because of aerial bombardments," Jalil said. (At least 540 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far this year, a sharp increase over last year's total of 321.)
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