Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers

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The Indian side also sought to know what action Pakistan has taken on the information provided about the elements behind the February 2007 blast on cross-border Samjhauta Express.
"Information on issues of mutual concern, including the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, was exchanged," said a joint press statement issued after the special meeting of the JATM.
The Indian side was led by Vivek Katju, Special Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs while the Pakistani delegation was headed by Aizaz Ahmed Choudhry, Additional Secretary in Foreign Ministry.
During the day-long meeting, the Indian side provided communication intercepts and other information to prove that ISI and other elements based in Pakistan were involved in the massive attack at the embassy, sources said.
India has said it has the "cleanest" evidence about involvement of ISI in the suicide attack on the embassy in which a Brigadier-rank Defence Attache and a senior IFS [Indian Foreign Service] officer were among the four Indians killed.
Besides India, Afghanistan and the US have also asserted that there was clinching evidence to prove ISI linkage.
Afghan authorities have held some people who have reportedly talked about ISI's link to the attack in which the embassy complex suffered severe damage.
India, which has maintained that an atmosphere free from violence is a must for the dialogue process to continue, had been angered by the attack and said that the future of dialogue had been "affected" by it.
At the meeting, the Pakistani side promised to convey the information about Kabul attack provided by India to the departments concerned and get back, the sources said.
"The meeting was held in a positive, constructive and forward-looking atmosphere," the joint statement said.
The JATM meeting was held as a consequence of discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in New York on September 24 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Pakistan has insisted that ISI was not involved in the attack on the embassy.
However, when the Prime Minister took up the issue with his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Colombo on the sidelines of SAARC summit in August, the latter promised to hold an "independent investigation" in this regard.
At the JATM meet, the Indian side is believed to have enquired about that investigation.
American intelligence agencies have directly linked the suicide attack on the Indian embassy to ISI and indicated that it might have been authorised by the top officials as those involved in assisting militants were "not renegades".
The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack on 7 July. The US has already shared this information with India.
US officials believe the Embassy attack was carried out by members of a network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani who is based in Pakistan.
Afghan authorities have already said there was convincing evidence about ISI's involvement in the Kabul Embassy attack.
On the February 2007 Samjhauta Express blast, the Pakistani side informed India that the information provided by New Delhi was wrong.
The Pakistani side indicated that it was not happy with the investigations carried out by India.
With regard to New Delhi's demand that Islamabad take action against Lashker-i-Toiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad, the Pakistani side said it had done so and cited measures taken against these terror groups, including a ban on them, the sources said.
Pakistan, in turn, alleged elements in India were behind militancy in Baluchistan and Federally Administered Territories (FATA) and gave "information" in this regard.
Aizaz told reporters that the attitude of Indian side was positive and it promised to act on information provided by Pakistan.

[Description of Source: New Delhi PTI News Agency in English ]

US Air Raid Said To Kill Taliban-Pakistan Field Leader, Family Members, Guards
GMP20081027693001 Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic 0508 GMT 27 Oct 08
[For assistance with multimedia elements, contact OSC at 1-800-205-8615 or oscinfo@rccb.osis.gov.]
Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic at 0508 GMT on 27 October carries the following announcer-read report: "Quoting sources close to the famous Afghan leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, wanted by the United States, Al-Jazirah's correspondent in Islamabad has said that Umar Khan -- a Taliban-Pakistan field leader-- was killed during a US raid on the Shakai region of the South Waziristan Province last night. The sources added that the raid's death toll amounted to 15 people including eight women and children, members of Umar Khan's family, and seven of Umar Khan's guards.
"Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani criticized US air raids on Pakistan's tribal areas, saying that they harm the so-called war on terror and weaken the government's position."
At 0510 GMT, the channel's anchorwoman interviews its Islamabad bureau chief, Ahmad Zaydan, live via satellite from Islamabad for an update on news related to the death of Umar Khan.
Zaydan says: "Sources close to the Afghan leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the most prominent Taliban-Afghanistan leaders who has carried out frequent attacks against the US forces in southern Afghanistan, has said to Al-Jazirah that US air raids on the Shakai region yesterday targeted a house occupied by Umar Khan, who is affiliated with the Jalaluddin Haqqani group, and who is also active in the Afghan provinces of Paktia and Paktika. Jalaluddin Haqqani sources have told Al-Jazirah that 15 people were killed during the air raid, including the well-known Afghan leader, Umar Khan, and seven members of his family, including his wife and children and eight of his guards [figures as heard]."
He adds: "Western diplomatic sources told Al-Jazirah in Islamabad that Western embassies in Islamabad have received envelopes containing a white powder. These countries are members of NATO in Afghanistan. The envelopes contained a letter saying that the threat was a result of these countries'participation in the military operations taking place inside Afghanistan. The sources added that 16 additional envelopes were seized at the Afghan Central Post Office."

[Description of Source: Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic -- Independent Television station financed by the Qatari Government]

Pakistan: Key Aide of Taliban Leader Haqqani Said Killed in S Waziristan Strike

SAP20081028098024 Lahore Daily Times Online in English 28 Oct 08
[Report by staff reporter/Agencies: "Haqqani's commander killed in Waziristan strike"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
PESHAWAR: Muhammad Omar, a commander of Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, was among the 20 men killed in Sunday's suspected US missile strike in South Waziristan, officials said. Two lower-level commanders - Waheedullah and Nasrullah - and five Taliban from North Waziristan who had come to meet Omar also died. Omar was active in attacks on US-led and NATO troops in Afghanistan's Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. He was a cousin of Taliban commander Nek Muhammad who was killed in 2004 in the first such US missile strike. A Taliban leader told Reuters by telephone the strikes were 'very accurate'. "The missiles struck rooms where the guests were having dinner. None survived."

[Description of Source: Lahore Daily Times Online in English -- Website 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; URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk]

Asia Times: US, Pakistan Mission on Target after Killing of Al-Qaeda Leader

CPP20081029715006 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 0208 GMT 29 Oct 08
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "US, Pakistan Mission on Target"; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - Ahead of their groundbreaking meeting in Washington this week, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Hayden, and the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, will be buoyed by the killing of an al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan.
Militant sources have confirmed to Asia Times Online that Moroccan Khalid Habib, the head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, was killed last week in a missile attack by an unmanned US Predator drone in the South Waziristan tribal area. His death has not been officially confirmed by either Islamabad or Washington.
The meeting between Hayden and Pasha is significant in that under the rule of president General Pervez Musharraf up until the end of last year, the ISI - which was frequently accused of having pro-militant tendencies - was kept away from US intelligence at the top level, with Musharraf personally handling all tactical matters.
The two top spymasters are expected to discuss a policy under which Pakistan and the US will continue to aggressively go after top Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders in an attempt to weed out hardliners from the Afghan national resistance and pave the way for communication with the remaining "moderates". The killing of Khalid is a notable success under this plan.
To date this year, the US has launched 25 cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan, compared with 10 strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined. Eighteen of these attacks - most of them by drones - have occurred since August 31.
Soon after the meeting between Hayden and Pasha, General David Petraeus, the new US strategic commander for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, will visit Pakistan to finalize military plans in light of the intelligence sharing that took place in Washington.
Khalid was installed as the chief of al-Qaeda in Pakistan by Osama bin Laden after the death in January of Abu Ubaida al-Misri (Abdul Hameed) through hepatitis. Abu Ubaida had been declared Ameer-i-Khuruj (commander for a mass rebellion) after the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) operation in Islamabad last July, in which a mosque with strong ties to militants was stormed by the security forces.
Khalid's task was to continue the coordination between various militant groups for a war against US interests as well as the pro-US government in Pakistan. The initiative was behind the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto last December.
Khalid, who was listed by the CIA as the fourth-ranking person in al-Qaeda's hierarchy, was successful in consolidating ties at a regional level between al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militants, a grouping that has emerged as the neo-Taliban. These militants have absorbed al-Qaeda's ideology of global struggle, while at the same time defending al-Qaeda's and the Taliban's bases against military operations, apart from the insurgency in Afghanistan.
There is no inkling yet of who will replace Khalid, who had staunchly resisted any notion of dialogue between the Taliban and the Western coalition.
With Khalid dead, the next likely target is veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose suspected bases in North Waziristan have been targeted on several occasions. Jalaluddin is the spiritual leader of the Haqqani network and a legendary figure of the Afghan mujahideen's struggle against the Soviets during the 1980s. Several of his family and aides have been killed in the attacks, but both Jalaluddin and his son Sirajuddin remain at large, possibly even in urban areas in Pakistan.
Former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could also be on the hit list. He is a former friend of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and had been contacted by Kabul through intermediaries over the possibility of initiating dialogue with the Taliban.
However, he refuses to become involved in any back-channel discussions for peace until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan, although he did assure Karzai that once the foreigners left, he would work with his a dministration in the political mainstream.
Hekmatyar, given his past links with the Pakistani establishment, was also approached by Pakistan, but he refused point-blank to talk with President Asif Ali Zardari's administration, branding him and the Pakistani military establishment as American agents.
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]

AFP: Officials Say At Least 32 Militants Killed in Pakistan Missile Strikes

JPP20081031158001 Hong Kong AFP in English 1836 GMT 31 Oct 08
ISLAMABAD, Nov 1, 2008 (AFP) - Suspected US missiles struck two deadly blows Friday killing 32 mainly Al-Qaeda operatives and injuring a key Taliban commander in a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border, officials said.
The two strikes within a few hours were the latest in series of attacks that have raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad.
In the first attack two missiles hit a pick-up truck and a house west of Mir Ali, a town in the troubled North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, killing 20 mainly Arab militants, officials said.
They told AFP the strike targeted an Al-Qaeda financial coordinator known as Abu Akasa Al-Iraqi and that there were unconfirmed local reports that he was among the dead.
Two further missiles fired by a suspected US drone at a militant hideout near Wana, the main town in neighbouring South Waziristan, killed 12 suspected rebels soon after, a senior security official said.
They included "foreigners", the official said -- using the term by which security services refer to Al-Qaeda operatives.
Officials said top Taliban commander Mullah Nazir was wounded in the strike.
"Nazir sustained injuries and was rushed to a hospital by Taliban. We are not sure about the seriousness of injuries to him" a top security official told AFP. "In the two strikes the majority of those killed were Al-Qaeda operatives and some Taliban local commanders."
Local administration official Mowaz Khan also confirmed Nazir, who leads the Pakistani Taliban faction accused by the United States of sending fighters across the border, was wounded in the attack.
The attacks came just two days after Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror", summoned Washington's ambassador to Islamabad to deliver a strong protest over a number of similar strikes.
"Some 20 militants were killed in the attack and most were Arabs. It was a successful strike," another security official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to the first attack.
Local residents said the strike hit the house of a Pakistani tribesman named Amanullah Dawar. It was not immediately clear whether the house or the vehicle, a pick-up truck, was blown up first, officials said.
Officials in North Waziristan said al-Iraqi was believed killed but added that they were still seeking confirmation.
He was known locally as Abdullah and officials said that while he was not part of the top Al-Qaeda hierarchy he played an important role as a financial "lynchpin".
Friday's attacks were the 17th and 18th such strikes in the past 10 weeks, according to an AFP tally. All have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in neighbouring Afghanistan.
A strike on Sunday killed senior Taliban commander Haji Omar Khan, a lieutenant of veteran Afghan Taliban chieftain and former anti-Soviet fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani.
The attacks have sharply raised tensions between Washington and nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Pakistan's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it called in US envoy Anne Patterson over the strikes.
"It was underscored to the ambassador that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the missile attacks which resulted in the loss of precious lives and property," the ministry said in a statement.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has promised zero tolerance against violations of his country's sovereignty. The attacks have also become an election issue in the US presidential campaign.
A New York Times report last month said Pakistan's national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani made an unannounced visit to top White House officials after a strike in early September to voice his anger in person.
The attack on September 3 led to civilian casualties.

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

Suspected Taleban commander arrested in Afghan east
IAP20081103950115 Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News in English 1500 GMT 03 Nov 08

Suspected Taleban commander arrested in Afghan east

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website
Kabul: Security officials in Logar Province on Monday [3 November] informed arresting an alleged commander of militant group led by Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Nasir Ahmad, commander of a special campaign unit in Charkh District of Logar Province told Pajhwok Afghan News they arrested the local commander he introduced as Mawlawi Mirwais in Garm-Aab area of the district last night [2 November].
The militant official was arrested during a raid on his house, he added, the arrested did not resist.
The arrested was a resident of the area and was currently in custody with NATO-led forces in this province.
He termed Mirwais as important commander of Mawlawi Haqqani wing who was busy in anti government activities in the area since last three years.
Security organs in the province were trying to arrest the rebel commander since long ago, and finally they succeeded last night, he added.
The commander was involved in setting ablaze Charkh District building, he blamed.
However Brig-Gen Ghulam Mustafa Muhsini, police chief of the province expressed unawareness about the incident. Meanwhile there is no comment from the Taleban militants on the recent episode.

[Description of Source: Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News in English Independent Afghan news agency]

Asia Times: 'US Division Doesn't Add Up'
CPP20081104715001 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 1037 GMT 03 Nov 08
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "US Division Doesn't Add Up"; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - General David Petraeus, who took over last Friday as the new head of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) with overall responsibility for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has arrived in Pakistan with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher to push his plans in the South Asian theater of the "war on terror".
This involves the dual task of government-led reconciliation with Taliban insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the leveraging of diplomatic and economic initiatives with the countries influential in the war.
Petraeus' arrival on Sunday coincided with two events. One was a US Predator drone strike which killed 25 people, including possibly an Arab commander, Abu Akash, in the North Waziristan tribal area in Pakistan. At the same time, militants and Pakistan, on Islamabad's initiative, agreed on a peace formula under which Pakistan has stopped military operations in the tribal areas and the militants have assured they will not unleash a "winter offensive" in Pakistan. (See A long, hot winter for Pakistan Asia Times Online, October 11, 2008.)
Pakistan has already slowed operations in Bajaur Agency and shelved plans for operations in North Waziristan. All the same, the militants welcomed the month of November with unprecedented attacks, which, according to the militants, are a part of a carrot-and-stick game.
On Friday, a suicide attack on a police office in Mardan, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), killed four policemen. These were followed by three more suicide attacks at different locations and a rocket attack at Peshawar airport in NWFP that killed several security personnel.
Tackling al-Qaeda
Petraeus is credited with saving the United States from defeat in Iraq through his initiative to engage the indigenous tribal resistance especially the Sunnis, and getting them to turn against foreigners, that is al-Qaeda.
If the same is planned for South Asia, it is sure to fail as al-Qaeda's traditions in the region are different from those in Iraq: al-Qaeda was a new phenomenon in Iraq, while it has been in South Asia for several decades.
After September 11, 2001, and the invasion of Afghanistan that year, al-Qaeda became even closer to the local tribes who became a part of the Afghan resistance.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, a large number of al-Qaeda and Arab groups (not all Arab groups were al-Qaeda) based in Afghanistan went to Iraq, leaving behind a small group of Arabs.
Most of them were trainers, like Iraqi Abu Akash, or ideologues like Abu Waleed Ansari, a Jordanian-Palestinian. Neither Ansari nor Abu Akash was directly linked with the hardcore of al-Qaeda. Ansari was more of cleric than a commander and he gave sermons to youths in North Waziristan to fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Abu Akash established a maaskar (training center) in North Waziristan at which he prepared youths for guerrilla battle.
Through this process, a new Arabic-speaking tribal Pashtun generation was raised. Now, at a time when numerically al-Qaeda and Arab warriors in South Asia are insignificant, this breed of tribal Pashtuns has become the vanguard of al-Qaeda's cause.
One could call them the neo-Taliban, and in most instances they have taken over the leadership of the Taliban. Veteran mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani was once close to the Pakistani establishment and he had a pure tribal mindset. But his sons Sirajuddin and Nasiruddin, who speak Arabic, lean towards Arabs and their cause.
Qari Ziaur Rahman is another case in point in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Arabic-speaking commander of Pashtun ethnicity is closer to Arabs and there is no chance of him siding with the establishment in either country.
There is no official word on whether Abu Akash has been killed, but even if he is dead he will have left a strong legacy.
Abu Akash (or Abu Akasha as his comrades call him) is not a veteran of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s as he is in his mid-30s. He is an expert in explosives and guns and after arriving in North Waziristan he tapped Uzbeks and Tajiks of Central Asian origin to act as trainers.
He also used his young trainees to control traffic in North Waziristan. This was a simple drill but some local tribes did not like it and in 2007 he was expelled to the Shawal region that spans the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But he returned within a few months and blended even further into tribal society, so much so that he could speak the local dialects of Urdu and Pashtun and at one point Pakistani intelligence reported that they suspected Abu Akash was Punjabi, not Arab.
Abu Akash and his likes will make it very difficult for Petraeus to divide and defeat the resistance, as in Iraq.
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]

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