Archive for the ‘Tribal Areas’ Category

Pakistan Closes NATO Supply Line to U.S., Afghanistan

December 30, 2008

Pakistani security forces launched an operation against Taliban militants in the nation’s tribal region along the border with Afghanistan on Tuesday, shutting down NATO supply routes, Pakistani military sources said.

Eight people — two suspected Taliban militants and six civilians — died in the operation in the Khyber Agency that involved military helicopter gunships, according to Pakistani intelligence sources. The fighting was taking place near the town of Jamrud.

The Khyber Pass, a key transit link for NATO and U.S. military supplies from Pakistan to Afghanistan, has been closed as a result of the operation, said Tariq Hayat, Khyber’s political agent. He said he didn’t know when it would reopen.



Ibrahim Shinwari

Pakistan suspended supplies going to foreign forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday as security forces launched an offensive against militants in the Khyber Pass region, a government official said.

Militants have launched a string of attacks in recent months aimed at choking off supplies trucked to foreign forces in landlocked Afghanistan through northwest Pakistan from the port of Karachi.

Khyber’s top administrator, Tariq Hayat, told reporters that a curfew had been imposed and the main road leading to the Afghan border had been sealed.

“Supplies to NATO forces will remain suspended until we clear the area of militants and outlaws who have gone out of control,” he said.

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Pakistan: Taliban Says It Will Close, Destroy All Girls’ Schools

December 26, 2008

The Taleban have ordered the closure of all girls’ schools in the war-ravaged Swat district and warned parents and teachers of dire consequences if the ban is flouted.

In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered.


“Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society,” Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Teachers said that they had little choice but to comply. The Taleban have destroyed more than 125 girls’ schools in the area in the past year. Swat, once a relatively liberal area and a popular tourist destination, has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan’s Islamic militancy, which fashions itself on the conservative Taleban movement in Afghanistan.

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 Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani: No Question of War With India

Democratic Pakistan Limps On

India, Pakistan Hysteria and Jaundiced Eye: Distrust, Discontent Since Mumbai Has Not Abated

Democratic Pakistan Limps On

December 25, 2008

Pakistan returned to civilian rule shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto a year ago, but the nascent democracy is now caught in a web of crises that is threatening its future, analysts say.

The government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, came to power with significant public support, but many say he has not lived up to the promises made by their slain leader before her death in a suicide attack.

“He seems to have lost some of the popular goodwill because the government appears to be ineffective in addressing the problems that have hit the common people most,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

By Rana Jawad

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan returned to civilian ... 
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan returned to civilian rule shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto a year ago, but the nascent democracy is now caught in a web of crises that is threatening its future, analysts say.(AFP/File/Sezayi Erken)

Pakistan’s troubles have worsened in the past 12 months with more than 50 suicide attacks killing civilians, severe economic woes for the government, and high food prices and regular power shortages hitting ordinary families hard.

At the same time, militancy in the lawless tribal areas and simmering tensions with India have been accompanied by political infighting between the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its former coalition partner.

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Pakistan: Outsiders Need Not Speculate on Terror, Mumbai: “Irresponsible”

December 21, 2008

Pakistan’s foreign minister said it will be “irresponsible” to speculate on the Mumbai attacks before the probe result. He added that Pakistan has the capability to defend itself.  But the Indian foreign minister said Pakistan should be making arrests….


From the Times of India

“We do not want aggression or war and we want peace. But if war is imposed on us, we have the capability and right to defend ourselves,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Multan in reply to a question about the tensions between India and Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s defence and security is complete. Pakistan’s government and armed forces are alert. We have every right to defend the country,” he added.

Pakistani fighter jets on Sunday attacked suspected Taliban ... 
Pakistani fighter jets on Sunday attacked suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda positions in a lawless tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, killing four militants.(AFP/File/Aamir Qureshi)

Noting that it was in the interest of both Pakistan and India to defuse tensions instead of escalating the situation, Qureshi reiterated Islamabad’s offer to cooperate with New Delhi to probe the terrorist attacks on India’s financial hub that killed over 180 people.

“We are ready for cooperation because this is in our interests. We have only one policy how to defend Pakistan’s interests,” he said, adding that Pakistan condemned terrorism across the world.

“It is easy to talk emotionally, but at this time, the whole region needs to act with wisdom and not passion.”

India To Pakistan: “Military Option Still On The Table”

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Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee speaks at a business ... 
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee speaks at a business meeting in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata December 21, 2008. Mukherjee said Pakistan had enough evidence to take action against suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen. “We have evidence like the satellite phone conversations, which were intercepted,” Mukherjee told reporters in the east Indian city of Kolkata during a visit on Sunday.

India terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the new Al Qaeda?

December 21, 2008

U. S. intelligence was caught off-guard by Lashkar-e-Taiba‘s “highly sophisticated” Mumbai terror strikes last month, which top spies now consider the debut of a new “brand name” to rival Al Qaeda.

The Islamist group was formed with Pakistani government help decades ago, but U.S. officials admit underestimating Lashkar’s shift from waging a minor conflict in the Kashmir region to threatening Westerners and Jews.

By James Gordon Meek
New York Daily News
“There is real concern over the fact LeT has raised its profile,” a U.S. counterterror official told the Daily News. “A lot of people are watching closely now to see if they’re plotting new attacks.”

The group is as mainstream in Pakistan as its ally Hamas is in the Palestinian territories.

Before the mayhem that began Nov. 26, no Lashkar camps in Pakistan’s tribal areas had been targeted during an intense CIA offensive in the fall, a senior intelligence official confirmed.

The agency has used unmanned drones to fire missiles at Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives directing the insurgency in Afghanistan. Lashkar cross-trains with the two terror groups.

But U.S. counterterror efforts are now getting beefed up, sources said.

“Assume that the intelligence community has new targets it previously hoped would be only distractions, of which LeT is one,” a third U.S. official told The News.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Lashkar – which once focused on the India-Pakistan fight over Kashmir – hit a “new threshold” of terror by killing Americans, Brits and Jews.

Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm., ... 
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seen, during a press conference at a
U.S base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008.
(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

“They specifically targeted a Jewish center that was off the main drag,” Mullen recently told reporters. “It raises this outfit to a much higher level than where it was before.”

Brooklyn Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, were slain there, leaving their baby, Moshe, an orphan.

Many also were surprised by what one internal U.S. government document called “hit and run” tactics that killed scores of Indians and six Americans.

Mullen said the 10 thugs “in a highly sophisticated manner [held] at bay an entire city.”

They had been trained by military pros in small arms and close combat for a year near Kashmir – though evidence isn’t a slam dunk that Pakistani spies aided them, sources said. The killers used satellite GPS units and phones and Google Earth to plan and execute the attacks.

Ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer declared it “a superb operation.”

Americans and Jews now face greater danger from Lashkar overseas, officials said.

“There are a lot of tourists in South Asia, and there’s really not a lot we can do,” Scheuer said.

“The question,” said another intelligence official, “is whether Mumbai is a ‘one-off’ or if such operations could be sustained.”

Taliban kill two US ‘spies’ in Pakistan

December 21, 2008

Taliban militants have killed two Afghan men in Pakistan‘s troubled tribal belt, accusing them of spying for US forces operating across the border, officials said Sunday.

The executions were the latest in a string of similar killings in the rugged frontier region, a haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents intent on destabilising both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The militants dumped the bodies of the men, brothers from the neighbouring Afghan province of Khost, in the village of Shiratala in the troubled North Waziristan tribal district.


“Both men were shot dead,” a security official told AFP.

“They were spies. They had been spying for US forces,” said a note found near the bodies early Sunday, according to officials.

Militants have killed dozens of local tribesmen and Afghan nationals on charges of spying, mainly for the Pakistani government or US forces operating in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s lawless tribal region has been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels sought refuge in the area after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.

Terrorists in Pakistan planning over 20 attacks on Britain

December 14, 2008

More than twenty serious terrorist plots to stage attacks in Britain are being planned in Pakistan, Gordon Brown said.

By James Kirkup
The Telegraph (UK)
The Prime Minister named Pakistan as a haven for terrorists planning attacks in Britain, revealing that around three quarters of the most advanced plots monitored by MI5 are have Pakistani links.

Officials say that the Security Service is aware of around 30 serious plots at any given moment, suggesting that at least 21 of them are tied to Pakistani groups.

On a visit to Islamabad, the Prime Minister delived a blunt demand to President Ali Asif Zardari to improve his goverment’s work to prevent al-Qaeda and other groups operating in the lawless area that borders Afghanistan.

“The time has come for action not words,” Mr Brown told Mr Zardari.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (right) welcomes ... 
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (right) welcomes Gordon Brown upon his arrival at the prime minister’s house in Islamabad. Brown pledged Sunday to help Pakistan “break the chain of terror” after holding talks with President Asif Ali Zardari on security in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.(AFP/Farooq Naeem)

At a press conference, Mr Brown revealed that he had told Mr Zardari that “three quarters of the most serious plots investigated by the British authorities have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan”.

Many known terrorists including Mohammed Siddique Khan, ringleader of the 7/7 bombings, are known to have trained at al-Qaeda inspired camps in the Pakistani border areas.

In a private meeting Mr Brown told Mr Zardari he must do more to close those camps.

Mr Brown told reporters: “We must break the chain of terrorism that links the mountains of Afghanistan to the streets of Britain.”

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Pakistan: Offensive Near Afghanistan Only “Limited Success”

December 14, 2008

From atop a craggy hillock, the silver-haired Lt. Col. Javed Baloch gestures toward a small black opening in a sandstone outcropping. It’s the mouth of a cave.

Two minutes later a powerful explosion rattles the hillock, and a massive plume of grayish-white smoke rushes skyward.

Cave by cave, the Pakistani army is trying to blow up the underground labyrinth running from tribal areas toward the border with Afghanistan to keep militants away.

This is the front line of Pakistan’s battle against militants on its own soil. The three-month-old offensive is the country’s most aggressive effort to date, countering U.S. and Afghan charges that it is not doing enough to root out Taliban and al-Qaida fighters who crisscross the border. It is also the Pakistani military’s first foray into the Bajur region, where militants are dug in and have in places set up a parallel administration.

By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer

Pakistani Taliban militants seen here in Mamouzai in November, ... 
Pakistani Taliban militants seen here in Mamouzai in November, 2008.(AFP/File/Tariq Mahmood)

An Associated Press team traveled with the Pakistani military deep into a tribal area late last month, almost to the Afghan border. The operation shows the army can put pressure on militants and even wrest some territory back from them, but it may never be able to drive them out from a rugged area of nooks and crannies. More militants are already sneaking in from Afghanistan as reinforcements, and U.S. troops in Afghanistan have installed 68 motion sensors along the border to try to detect them.

The battle is for Bajur, a key base and transit route for Arab and other foreign militants headed for Afghanistan. Here a CIA drone once targeted al-Qaida’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, without success.

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The Aimless War: Why Are We in Afghanistan?

December 11, 2008

“Things have gotten a bit hairy,” admitted British Lieut. Colonel Graeme Armour as we sat in a dusty, bunkered NATO fortress just outside the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, a deadly piece of turf along Afghanistan‘s southern border with Pakistan. A day earlier, two Danish soldiers had been killed and two Brits seriously wounded by roadside bombs. The casualties were coming almost daily now.

And then there were the daily frustrations of Armour’s job: training Afghan police officers. Almost all the recruits were illiterate. “They’ve had no experience at learning,” Armour said. “You sit them in a room and try to teach them about police procedures – they start gabbing and knocking about. You talk to them about the rights of women, and they just laugh.” A week earlier, five Afghan police officers trained by Armour were murdered in their beds while defending a nearby checkpoint – possibly by other police officers. Their weapons and ammunition were stolen. “We’re not sure of the motivation,” Armour said. “They may have gone to join the Taliban or sold the guns in the market.”

By Joe Klein
Time Magazine

A US soldier is covered in dust close to Afghanistan's border ... 
A US soldier is covered in dust close to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has arrived in Afghanistan, where the United States is looking to increase its military presence to fight a mounting insurgency.(AFP/File/David Furst)

The war in Afghanistan – the war that President-elect Barack Obama pledged to fight and win – has become an aimless absurdity. It began with a specific target. Afghanistan was where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda lived, harbored by the Islamic extremist Taliban government. But the enemy escaped into Pakistan, and for the past seven years, Afghanistan has been a slow bleed against an array of mostly indigenous narco-jihadi-tribal guerrilla forces that we continue to call the “Taliban.” These ragtag bands are funded by opium profits and led by assorted religious extremists and druglords, many of whom have safe havens in Pakistan.

In some ways, Helmand province – which I visited with the German general Egon Ramms, commander of NATO‘s Allied Joint Force Command – is a perfect metaphor for the broader war. The soldiers from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force are doing what they can against difficult odds. The language and tactics of counter-insurgency warfare are universal here: secure the population, help them build their communities. There are occasional victories: the Taliban leader of Musa Qala, in northern Helmand, switched sides and has become an effective local governor. But the incremental successes are reversible – schools are burned by the Taliban, police officers are murdered – because of a monstrous structural problem that defines the current struggle in Afghanistan.

The British troops in Helmand are fighting with both hands tied behind their backs. They cannot go after the leadership of the Taliban – still led by the reclusive Mullah Omar – which operates openly in the Pakistani city of Quetta, just across the border….

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Pakistan Moves to Curb Group Linked to Attacks

December 10, 2008

Pakistani authorities widened their efforts to curb militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, the one suspected of conducting the Mumbai attacks, raiding some of their properties and arresting about 20 members, security officials said Tuesday.

ByJane Perlez 
The New York Times
The Pakistani defense minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, on Tuesday told an Indian television channel, CNN-IBN, that Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of another militant group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, had been placed under house arrest.

In this undated picture, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder and head ... 
In this undated picture, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder and head of Pakistan based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba attends a meeting in Islamabad. Pakistan said Tuesday it would not hand over suspects in the Mumbai terror strikes to India and warned that while it wanted peace with its neighbour, it was ready for war if New Delhi decided to attack.(AFP/File/Saeed Khan)

Bush administration officials publicly praised the steps, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, demanded during their visits to the region last week.

“These are good and important steps and could potentially serve the cause of preventing further attacks,” a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters in Washington. “That’s the last thing that either side needs.”

But questions remained about how far the Pakistani government would rein in the groups, which have functioned as an arm of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services for two decades. Details of exactly what the government had actually done so far remained unclear.

Pakistan said Tuesday that it had arrested Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the operational leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, during a raid on Sunday on a camp outside Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani-controlled region of Kashmir. Mr. Lakhvi has been described as the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.

But a senior American official said there was no independent proof of his capture, and it was not clear whether the Lashkar members the Pakistanis said they had rounded up Monday at offices and camps were fighters or senior commanders.

American counterterrorism officials in Washington privately struck a skeptical tone, saying that they wanted to see proof that Mr. Lakhvi was actually in custody and that the arrests and raids actually represented a firm commitment by the government to crack down on the groups.

“In the past when they’ve promised to move against these guys, they’d pick up one or two of them and then several months later, they’d release them,” said a senior American official who has dealt with Pakistani authorities for several years.

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