War on Terror has destabilized Pakistan

War on Terror has destabilized Pakistan

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01 Apr 2009, 22:53 #1

Pakistani militant poses growing threat to US
By KATHY GANNON and SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press Writers
6:36 pm EDT Wed 01 Apr 2009

ISLAMABAD – The son of a poor potato farmer who once worked as a fitness instructor has grown into one of the most powerful militant leaders along the Pakistan-Afghan border, his rise fueled by alliances with al-Qaida and fellow Pakistani militants.

A day after Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud threatened to attack the White House, a U.S. drone fired two missiles at the alleged hide-out of one of his commanders Wednesday in a remote area of northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing 14 people, intelligence and local officials said.

Mehsud is now seen as posing one of the greatest threats to President Barack Obama's push to stem Pakistan's slide toward instability and turn around the war in Afghanistan, analysts and officials said.

For years, the U.S. had considered him a lesser threat than some of the other Pakistani Taliban, their Afghan counterparts and al-Qaida, because most of his attacks were focused inside Pakistan, not against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials said the U.S. has changed its view in recent months as Mehsud's power has grown and concerns mounted that increasing violence in Pakistan could destabilize the nuclear-armed ally.

"Mehsud poses a very real threat to stability and security in Pakistan and Afghanistan," said Eric Rosenbach, a terrorism expert at Harvard's Kennedy School.

The FBI said it was not aware of any imminent or specific threat to Washington, and Mehsud has not carried out any attacks outside the region. Even so, Pakistani officials said the U.S. has stepped up strikes targeting the Pakistani Taliban leader and his supporters in recent weeks.

The State Department authorized a reward of up to $5 million for Mehsud on March 25, the same day a suspected U.S. missile strike killed eight militants near his hometown in South Waziristan.

Mehsud, who is in his 30s, has so far escaped unscathed and has said he will step up attacks in Pakistan if the U.S. does not stop missile strikes along the Afghan border. He said Tuesday that his group carried out a deadly attack on a police academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in retaliation for the drone strikes. That attack Monday left at least 12 people dead, including seven policemen.

Mehsud claimed responsibility for the Lahore attack and threatened Washington in a flurry of phone calls to various media outlets, but he usually relies on his spokesmen to handle the press, possibly for fear of being tracked.

Mehsud rarely travels outside his territory in South Waziristan, a vast area made inhospitable by rugged mountains. His tribesmen, foot soldiers and guards blanket the area making assaults or ambushes almost certain to fail.

But, until recently, Mehsud had been virtually ignored as a target of U.S. drone missiles that have struck the tribal regions with increasing regularity.

Pakistan has publicly criticized the U.S. missile attacks, saying they violate the country's sovereignty and kill innocent civilians.

Privately, the Pakistani government tried to convince the U.S. for months to target Mehsud, meeting resistance from American officials who felt other militants in the border region were more of a threat, said a former senior Pakistani government official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

That perception has changed in the past few months, as Mehsud has strengthened his ties to al-Qaida and consolidated his power among fellow Pakistani militants, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said.

"I think they have now endorsed our view of him as a threat," Abbas said. "In the past, they weren't willing to consider him part of the threat."

Abbas said Mehsud draws his strength from a reservoir of suicide bombers trained in his territory and recruited by his allies, the majority of which are said to come from the violent Lashkar-e-Janghvi group based in Pakistan's Punjab province where Sunday's attack was carried out. Mehsud has bragged of having 3,000 would-be suicide bombers at his disposal.

Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani military officer and former frontier official, said Mehsud's strength significantly increased over the last six-to-eight months when al-Qaida started dealing directly with him rather than through the Afghan militant leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Mehsud signed a peace deal with Pakistan's army in September 2006 in which he promised to deny shelter to foreign al-Qaida fighters in exchange for an end to military operations in the region and compensation for tribesman killed by the military. The deal eventually collapsed and U.S. officials complained Mehsud used the respite to regroup, rearm and allow al-Qaida to re-establish its presence.

"A realist knows that you sometimes need to talk to bad guys to advance your interests," Rosenbach said. "But Mehsud has repeatedly violated past agreements with the Pakistani government and proven that he's not a reliable negotiating partner."

U.S. intelligence has said al-Qaida has set up its operational headquarters in Mehsud's South Waziristan stronghold and the neighboring North Waziristan tribal area, both on the border with Afghanistan. Obama said last week that al-Qaida was plotting attacks against the U.S. and other countries from its sanctuaries in Pakistan near the Afghan border.

"When he (Mehsud) talks of attacking the United States and London he is talking for al-Qaida," Shah said.

Mehsud has no record of attacking targets abroad, although he is suspected of being behind a 10-man cell arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 for plotting suicide attacks in Spain. Pakistan's former government and the CIA have named him as the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He has denied a role.

Mehsud further consolidated his power in February when he signed an agreement with his rivals in the area, Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan. The alliance made it easier for al-Qaida to operate in the area because Nazir had previously allied with the Pakistani government to fight Uzbeks partnered with the international terrorist group.

The Feb. 22 communique, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, announced the creation of the Shura-e-Ittehad-ul-Mujahedeen, or Council of United Holy Warriors, and said "we must all unite" against Obama and the U.S.

The communique also declared war on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and their supporters, saying "we have agreed for the salvation of our religion to destroy all the infidels."

"Now Mehsud is more dangerous," said Mohammed Amir Rana, an expert on Pakistani militant groups at the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. "Everyone now considers him the most influential Pakistani militant leader."

___

Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar and Carley Petesch in New York contributed to this report.
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
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Only after the last fish has been caught,
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02 Apr 2009, 09:33 #2

Afghan-Pakistan situation dire; more troops may be needed

Top defense officials told Congress Wednesday the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is "increasingly dire" and said that President Barack Obama may have to send another 10,000 troops beyond the 22,000 he's announced since taking office.
Afghan-Pakistan situation dire; more troops may be needed
Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2009

By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is "increasingly dire," top defense officials told Congress Wednesday, and they said that President Barack Obama may have to send another 10,000 troops beyond the 21,500 he's announced since taking office.

Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration hasn't yet developed benchmarks to measure progress, but she predicted high human and financial costs for the U.S. in the campaign against Islamic militants in the two countries.

Adding to the bleak picture, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, expressed doubts about the reliability of Pakistani security forces in supporting the U.S. effort to curb the spread of Islamic extremism in South Asia.

Petraeus conceded that the Pakistanis have betrayed America's trust in the past. He said, however, that the U.S. must show its commitment to the region, saying: "It is important the U.S. be seen as a reliable ally." He said the military may need to send 10,000 more troops than the number Obama already has announced, and a decision must be made in the fall.

Although the administration has identified Pakistan, where al Qaida's top leaders are thought to be hiding, as key to its strategy, that strategy consists largely of encouraging the Pakistanis to take more aggressive action against the militants, which they've been loathe to do.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said they doubted that Pakistan can be trusted to thwart Taliban and al Qaida activity in the border region with Afghanistan.

"I remain skeptical that Pakistan has the will or capability to secure their border," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee's chairman, during the three hour hearing.

Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, also testified and called the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan "increasingly dire."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he feared that the administration is incrementally increasing its presence in the region instead of making a blunt change of strategy. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who votes with the Democrats, asked if the U.S. plan for Afghanistan would better secure the U.S.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked, "How will we know if we're winning?"

The administration said it's still working out benchmarks. But Flournoy said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will be complete when "the Afghans and Pakistanis have both the capability and the will to deal with the remaining threat themselves."

The U.S. wants to double the Afghan security forces to 134,000 troops and 82,000 policemen. Flournoy called it part of an "integrated counterinsurgency strategy," but she conceded "there will be higher human costs and higher financial costs to this effort."

To succeed, the administration's strategy not only must quell increased violence in Afghanistan, but also address the rampant corruption of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed regime and the growing Islamic militancy in neighboring, nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is a source of supplies, shelter and training for Afghan militants.

Beside more forces, the new strategy calls for a "surge" of hundreds diplomats and civilian specialists to help run elections and fight corruption and narcotics trafficking. It also calls for tripling economic aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year over five years.

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

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Pakistani police fight off attackers at training center

Obama's Afghanistan plan offers few solutions for Pakistan

At least 50 die in suicide bombing of Pakistani mosque
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02 Apr 2009, 09:36 #3

Gen. Jesus Patraeus can't save Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.

Petraeus Warns About Militants’ Threat to Pakistan
The New York Times

April 2, 2009
Petraeus Warns About Militants’ Threat to Pakistan
By ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander for Iraq and Afghanistan, warned a Senate panel on Wednesday that militant extremists in Pakistan “could literally take down their state” if left unchallenged, as he and two other top officials presented a grim picture of growing dangers in the region.

Michele A. Flournoy, a top Defense Department official, told the panel that there would be “higher human costs” for the United States in Afghanistan this year, while the chief of the military’s Special Operations commandos, Adm. Eric T. Olson, called the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan “increasingly dire.”

The trio testified jointly before occasionally skeptical members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had their first chance to question in public some of the officials who helped formulate President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was announced at the White House last week.

The panel pressed the officials on two major issues: how the Obama administration will measure progress in the region and whether Pakistan and its spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, can be trusted. Mr. Obama has promised more aid to Pakistan and called on its leaders to crack down on Al Qaeda and other militant groups that operate within its borders.

Under sharp questioning from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, Ms. Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy, acknowledged the administration’s concerns about a wing of the ISI, which American intelligence officials say is providing money and military assistance to the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.

“I think ISI is a — or parts of ISI — are certainly a problem to be dealt with,” Ms. Flournoy said.

Mr. McCain, an early proponent of the buildup of American forces in Iraq, also questioned whether the United States now had enough troops in Afghanistan. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, has asked for 30,000 more American troops, and Mr. Obama has so far committed about 21,000 of those. The president will make a decision this fall on whether 10,000 or so more troops will be sent.

“I think it would be far, far better to announce that we will have the additional 10,000 troops dispatched and they will clearly be needed,” Mr. McCain told Ms. Flournoy. He added: “It’s a big country. We know that was a vital element to our success in Iraq. To dribble out these decisions, I think, can create an impression of incrementalism.”

Ms. Flournoy did not react immediately to Mr. McCain’s comment, but much later in the hearing she said that “I would never have used the phrase incrementalism” to describe what she called a “very strong commitment” of American troops that are to increase to 68,000 from 38,000 by the end of this year.

Senators on the panel expressed some impatience with the Obama administration’s failure so far to articulate benchmarks for judging progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although Ms. Flournoy promised that they would be ready soon.

“How does this end?” asked Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, echoing comments that General Petraeus once made when he was the commander in Iraq.

Ms. Flournoy responded that “a key point of defining success is when both the Afghans and the Pakistanis have both the capability and the will to deal with the remaining threat themselves.”

General Petraeus said that he would “echo” Ms. Flournoy and that “the task will be for them to shoulder the responsibilities of their own security.”

The general also said that the government was doing a “deep dive” of investigation into claims made Tuesday by the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, that his group was planning an attack on Washington. American intelligence officials were dismissive of Mr. Mehsud’s claim, but General Petraeus told the panel that “any time there is any threat that could be against the homeland, I think you have to take it seriously.”

He added, “Obviously everyone is quite riveted on analyzing that and seeing what further we can find out about that.”
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02 Apr 2009, 16:57 #4

Senators Press Petraeus on Deepening Ties to Pakistan
By Spencer Ackerman 4/1/09

Obama administration wants Pakistan to cooperate in plans to confront growing violence in the region.
Senators Press Petraeus on Deepening Ties to Pakistan
Some Lawmakers on Armed Services Committee Called Pakistani Government Unreliable on al-Qaeda

By Spencer Ackerman [The Washington Independent] 4/1/09

Pakistan emerged as a target of Capitol Hill criticism on Wednesday as key Obama administration officials explained their new strategy to confront growing extremist activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The strategy’s call for deepening U.S. ties to the Pakistani government and military concerned some lawmakers. While no senator on the Armed Services Committee voiced opposition to the strategy, released Friday, several worried aloud to Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, that the Pakistanis were unreliable allies against al-Qaeda and its “syndicate” of extremism. Some wondered if the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency were still supporting elements of the Taliban — the Afghan Taliban were the creation of the ISI in the 1990s — and feared that additional aid and other mechanisms of cooperation that the administration is pledging to deliver to Pakistan will be misdirected or even benefit U.S. enemies.

“We have a new democratic government, [along with] parts of the military, that wants to deal with the extremist threat,” Flournoy told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “Part of our challenge is to empower them.” Petraeus added that the administration’s entire strategy for Pakistan depended on Pakistan “embracing the idea that the biggest threat to their country is the internal extremist threat rather than the threat to the east,” referring to Pakistan’s historical enemy, India.

In the seven years since al-Qaeda’s leadership and the heads of the Afghan Taliban ensconced themselves in the tribal areas of western Pakistan following the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, they have expanded and deepened their hold on portions of the country, which U.S. intelligence has assessed for two years is a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda to plan attacks on the United States and to destabilize the region. Additionally, a new indigenous Pakistani Taliban has arisen during that period and has launched numerous attacks against the Pakistani governments of Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his successor, President Asif Ali Zardari, including the capture of the Swat Valley 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad. The Pakistani military has been beaten in outright battles with the insurgents, and for years has worked out occasional ceasefires with them, which have been violated repeatedly. Flournoy, speaking specifically about Swat, said flatly that such deals were not in the U.S. interest.

In response, Flournoy and Petraeus testified, the Obama administration would launch a mentorship program with the Pakistani military to train some of its forces in counterinsurgency techniques, which Petraeus called a “counterinsurgency fund.” (Administration officials from President Obama on down have said that the U.S. combat troops will not enter Pakistani territory.) The program would “help develop those capabilities that truly” prove relevant to the fight against insurgents in western Pakistan, Petraeus said, with Flournoy calling it “absolutely critical to the success of this strategy.” It is unclear how many U.S. trainers will go to Pakistan, for what duration and at what cost.

The Obama administration is still developing benchmarks for judging the success or failure of its strategy — an incompleteness denounced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — and Petraeus endorsed the idea of judging Pakistan by “their commitment to this threat that could literally take down their state.” He said that he had discussed reports of ISI complicity with the Taliban in his recent discussions with its chief, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and would continue to do so. “There are accusations, frankly, some when you dig into them seem to be more ambiguous than on the surface but some of them are not,” Petraeus said, referring to alleged ISI-Taliban cooperation.

Flournoy conceded to Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) that the U.S.’s ability to secure Pakistan’s unambiguous cooperation against al-Qaeda was “an open question.” But she said the U.S.’s interest in not allowing western Pakistan to be a staging ground for attacks against the U.S. or a destabilizing force in the region meant “we need to test the proposition” through “a substantive offer of assistance and a committment to work with them.”

A major component of that offer is a forthcoming bill sponsored by the Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) will introduce a bill in the coming days that will grant $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years and condition U.S. aid to the Pakistani military on its efficacy in combating extremism in the western tribal areas.

“The purpose is to change a transactional, tactical, short-term relationship, which is the way Pakistan has seen the relationship, into a deeper, more committed, more long-lasting relationship that does not have to be dependent on who’s in power in Washington and who’s in power in Islamabad,” said Frederick Jones, spokesman for the committee. It is unclear when the bill will be introduced — which could come as early as today, though Jones was unsure — but the upcoming congressional recess and the pace of Senate business makes it unlikely to pass before late April at the earliest. Petraeus said the Kerry-Lugar bill was “of enormous importance” to the administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.

The widely-respected general has emerged as a key player in Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy for the Obama administration, appearing as both salesman and public face of the war — reminiscent of his role for the Bush administration during the troop surge in Iraq, which he commanded. In his testimony, Petraeus was careful to grant credit to Gen. David McKiernan, the ground commander in Afghanistan. But Petraeus also spoke of the numerous roles he will be playing to support the strategy, along with Amb. Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, whom Petraeus called his “diplomatic wingman.”

Over the weekend, Petraeus attended a bull session of top military leaders at the behest of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to discuss how best to support what the administration calls its “Af-Pak” strategy.” He plans to meet with the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, in the next few days. And Petraeus said he and Holbrooke would convene an “on-site” discussion in Washington in the next several weeks with both civilians and military leaders scheduled to deploy to the region in order to gain “real synergy” between their efforts.
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
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Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then, will you realize that money cannot be
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03 Apr 2009, 10:25 #5

US, NATO supplies attacked in Pakistan
By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Writer
4:36 am EDT Fri 03 Apr 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Militants using guns and petrol bombs attacked a terminal in northwest Pakistan on Friday holding supplies bound for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, damaging five shipping containers, said police.

International troops in Afghanistan transport up to 75 percent of their supplies via routes through Pakistan, but frequent attacks have forced the U.S. military to explore alternate paths. Reliable supply routes will become even more crucial as the U.S. deploys thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan this year.

Militants attacked the terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar city before dawn Friday, torching five shipping containers before escaping, said police official Jarod Khan.

"The terrorists first opened fire and then threw petrol bombs," he said.

Suspected Taliban militants have repeatedly struck transport depots near Peshawar in recent months, destroying scores of military vehicles, while attacks on the road through the Khyber Pass to the Afghan border have repeatedly forced its temporary closure.

U.S. and NATO officials insist the attacks have little impact on their operations, but are looking at ways to bring more supplies into Afghanistan through Central Asia — a key goal as the U.S. prepares to send 21,000 additional troops to the country this year to fight Taliban militants and train Afghan security forces.

The U.S. is expected to sign a formal agreement Friday for a new major supply route into Afghanistan, U.S. defense officials said.

While defense officials would not name the country, several Central Asian nations have recently told the U.S. they would allow cargo to transit their borders, including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Thursday that the military has found "decent alternatives" for the safe shipment of nonlethal goods, including three northern routes that weave through Uzbekistan.

Petraeus said about 1 percent of the roughly 3,600 containers that have moved through the Khyber Pass, which links Peshawar with Kabul, were damaged or destroyed before they reached the Afghan border because of the attacks and other mishaps.
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
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03 Apr 2009, 21:39 #6

The Rise and Rise of the Neo-Taliban

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

"The next thing that is going to happen is the breaking up of the Swat peace deal and the opening up of a war theater. This will shatter the entire American plans in the region and Pakistan will be left with no choice but to surrender to the will of the mujahideen."
The Rise and Rise of the Neo-Taliban
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

April 03, 2009 "Asia Times" -- -KARACHI - With the number of international soldiers in Afghanistan at an all-time high, they are prepared for their toughest season yet of fighting the Taliban-led insurgency that has grown beyond recognition in the past seven-plus years.

This year, though, the 70,000 troops - 38,000 of them American - face a new and ominous challenge in the form of the neo-Taliban, a new generation of Pakistani, Afghan, al-Qaeda and Kashmiri fighters who have adopted al-Qaeda's ideology, and who plan new tactics, according to Asia Times Online investigations.

The neo-Taliban's efforts will complement the traditional guerrilla war of the Kandahari clan in southwestern Afghanistan and suicide operations in and around Kabul and in southeastern Afghanistan.

Over the years, the coalition forces have adopted specific tactics to deal with the insurgency, as Jeffrey Young explains in an essay for the US-based counter-terrorism group Chameleon Associates, "In Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots, the US military has been confronted by guerrilla - so-called 'asymmetrical' - warfare. Instead of confronting regular armies, American troops now typically face insurgents and terrorists who fight with whatever they have. The Pentagon has responded by putting greater emphasis on preparing US forces to fight the same way."

The paper, citing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates adds, "The record of the past quarter-century is clear: the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Israelis in Lebanon, the United States in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Smaller, irregular forces - insurgents, guerrillas, terrorists - will find ways, as they always have, to frustrate and neutralize the advantages of larger, regular militaries. And even nation-states will try to exploit our perceived vulnerabilities in an asymmetric way."

Neo-Taliban call new shots
Veteran Kashmiri guerrilla commander Maulana Ilyas Kashmiri is the mastermind of the neo-Taliban's new strategy, which was used with considerable success against Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir until fighting eased there a few years ago.

Ilyas Kashmir was once a hero figure of the Kashmiri separatist movement, but he fell from official grace when Islamabad, under pressure from the United States, wound down operations in Kashmir and diverted its attention to the Pakistani tribal areas to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Ilyas Kashmir was arrested by the military on concocted charges of plotting to murder then-president General Pervez Musharraf in 2003. After being released he left Kashmir, abandoning the jihad there, and settled in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan.

At the height of the Kashmir troubles in the late 1990s, there were close to 800,000 Indian troops in Kashmir, which made it difficult for Pakistani militants operating there to implement traditional guerrilla tactics. Instead, in the first phase, they avoided any direct clashes with the military and hit soft targets. These included the killing or abduction of politicians and foreign tourists, hostage-taking, attacks on isolated police checkpoints and police stations, jail breaks, and the like. The first objective was to cause maximum chaos.

Legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap used similar tactics against the Americans during the Vietnam War. The difference now is that the neo-Taliban plan devised by Ilyas Kashmir will go a step further by undertaking big clashes with troops once military operations are diverted by the chaos that has been caused.

The neo-Taliban plan to spread this chaos across Pakistan, Afghanistan and India though kidnappings and attacks on high-profile people. At the same time, the Taliban's Haqqani network will carry out suicide bombing missions in Kabul and southeastern Afghanistan and the Kandahari clan will try to capture towns and villages in southwestern Afghanistan. The idea is that once the enemy's regular troops are sufficiently diverted, their convoys and bases will be attacked.

The Arab and former Kashmiri fighters that make up the bulk of the neo-Taliban have in the past years fought in Afghanistan under the command and strategy of the Taliban, but they have now effectively peeled off into a separate entity.

The key man in this is the anti-Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan), based in the South Waziristan tribal area - the same man who claimed responsibility for the attack on a police training center in Lahore on Monday.

He provides base camps for fighters and also raises money. It is estimated that in the past six months in the southern port city of Karachi alone, he has generated at least 250 million rupees (US$3.1 million) through various operations. These include extortion of fuel contractors for coalition troops in Afghanistan and ransom money from kidnappings and threats. The proceeds have been used to launch new guerrilla camps in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Echoes from the Swat Valley
In February, Islamabad and militants in the Swat Valley agreed on a peace deal to end two years of fighting; one of the stipulations was that sharia law be introduced in the area.

Commenting on the accord, a senior Pakistani militant told Asia Times Online, "The peace deal was a good gesture towards the Taliban. But it was then realized that it was a maneuver on the part of the Pakistan army. They withdrew their troops from Swat and mobilized them in the tribal areas. A sizeable number of troops were posted in Khyber Agency to provide protection to the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] supply convoys, while other troops were beefed up in North Waziristan and in South Waziristan.

"At the same time, [US Predator] drone attacks were carried out on Baitullah's native town of Makeen in South Waziristan. But, before Pakistan could strike the mujahideen into oblivion, we struck first, all around North-West Frontier Province. The war is on," the militant said.

This was confirmed by the inspector-general of North-West Frontier Province, who said this week that over the past week or so the situation in the province had deteriorated rapidly, with kidnappings and other acts of terror on the rise.

The militant continued, "The next thing that is going to happen is the breaking up of the Swat peace deal and the opening up of a war theater. This will shatter the entire American plans in the region and Pakistan will be left with no choice but to surrender to the will of the mujahideen."

Just hours later, on Wednesday morning, it was reported that up to 70 Taliban had stormed the home of a former federal minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q - a major breech of the peace agreement.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
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Only then, will you realize that money cannot be
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04 Apr 2009, 11:14 #7

Suicide car bomber attacks checkpoint in Pakistan
By MOHAMMAD RASOOL DAWAR, Associated Press Writer
6:48 am EDT Sat 04 Apr 2009

MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan – A suicide car bomber attacked a security checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, wounding at least three soldiers in a volatile area near the Afghan border where a suspected U.S. drone missile strike killed 13 people, officials said.

The attacker rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint at the entrance of army headquarters in North Waziristan and detonated his explosives, said Mohammad Azhar, a local government official.

The attack wounded three soldiers, according to a military official who said troops disrupted the attack in the town of Miran Shah by opening fire on the vehicle, causing it to explode before it reached the checkpoint. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The discrepancy between the two accounts could not immediately be explained.

North Waziristan is believed to be an important base for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who have been staging cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

A suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles at an alleged militant hide-out Saturday in North Waziristan, killing 13 people, intelligence officials and residents said.

The dead and injured included local and foreign militants, but women and children were also killed in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

A local tribal elder, Dilawar Khan, confirmed that 13 people were killed in the strike, saying the owner's family was among the dead. He said he did not know the identities of the other people killed or whether there were militants staying at the home, in Data Khel village very close to the Afghan border.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The U.S. is suspected of carrying out more than three dozen such strikes over the past year in Pakistan near the Afghan border. Pakistan says the drone strikes violate the country's sovereignty, kill innocent civilians and generate sympathy for the militants. But the U.S. believes the attacks are an effective tool to combat militants in the region.

President Barack Obama has said he will step up the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants in its territory by making aid to the country conditional on the government's anti-terrorism efforts. Pakistan has said it is committed to the fight, but many Western officials suspect the country's military intelligence agency of maintaining links with militant groups.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his country's commitment to fighting Islamic militants in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an influential former prime minister who was hanged by a military regime on charges widely seen as politically motivated.

"People around the world say that our country will disintegrate. Some say that fundamentalists will rule the country," Zardari told thousands of people who assembled Saturday morning at the slain politician's tomb in southern Sindh province.

"But we will not let it happen as long as we are alive," he said.

Bhutto was the father of Zardari's late wife, Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated by militants at the end of 2007 not long after returning to the country from exile to run in national elections. Pakistan and the U.S. have blamed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for Benazir Bhutto's death and scores of other attacks in Pakistan.

Earlier this week, Mehsud claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police academy in the eastern city of Lahore that left at least 12 people dead, including seven policeman. He warned that his group would carry out more attacks in the country unless the U.S. stops drone attacks against militants on the Afghan border.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a warning Friday saying the Pakistani government has information indicating potential suicide bombers and weapons have been smuggled into the country. It said U.S. government personnel have been warned to avoid hotels in the southern city of Karachi and to restrict their movement around cities.

Mehsud also threatened on Tuesday to attack the White House, although the FBI said he had made similar threats previously and there was no indication of anything imminent. The U.S. has offered a reward of up to $5 million for Mehsud's arrest.

A day after Mehsud made his threat, a suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles at the alleged hide-out of one of his commanders in a remote area of the Orakzai tribal region near the Afghan border, killing 14 people, intelligence and local officials said.

The strike was believed to be the first in Orakzai, a sign the U.S. is expanding its attack zone.

Some 700 people in Orakzai protested U.S. missile strikes Saturday, blocking a main road in the region for two hours and chanting anti-American slogans, said a local resident, Azeem Khan.

___

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Husnain Khan in Parachinar and Ashraf Khan in Garhi Khuda Bux contributed to this report.
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04 Apr 2009, 11:55 #8

13 Killed as US Drone Hits Pakistan Civilians
AntiWar.com News

Foreign Militants Were in Home at the Time

Posted April 3, 2009

US drones launched a missile attack against a home in North Waziristan on Saturday morning, killing at least 13 and wounding at least eight others. Officials say that civilians were among the casualties caused by the two missiles. One intelligence official said that foreign militants were staying in the home at the time of the attack.

That attack occurred in the Datta Khel area, at around 3 AM. It was the latest in a growing number of attacks launched by the Obama Administration over the past two months.

The attacks have largely centered around followers of TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud, and Mehsud says the terror attack in Lahore earlier this week was retaliation for the US attacks. Mehsud has also threatened to launch “an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world.”
Related Stories

    * March 31, 2009 -- TTP Leader: Lahore Was Retaliation for Drone Strikes, Eyes US Targets
    * March 30, 2009 -- Pakistan Points Finger at TTP in Lahore Attack
    * March 25, 2009 -- US Drone Strike Kills Eight in South Waziristan

compiled by Jason Ditz
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04 Apr 2009, 14:09 #9

Top Story
Floggings, stonings could begin in Pakistan's scenic Swat valley
By Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

A hundred miles northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, the Swat valley offers a chilling vision of what much of the country could become.
Floggings, stonings could begin in Pakistan's scenic Swat valley
Posted on Friday, April 3, 2009

By Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

MINGORA, Pakistan — A hundred miles northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, the Swat valley offers a chilling vision of what much of the country could become.

Where tourists once frolicked, extremists are laying the groundwork for religious courts to dispense brutal punishments under their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

The leader of the group, Sufi Mohammad, said penalties including flogging, chopping off hands and stoning to death must be available to Swat's Islamic courts.

Floggings are the proper punishment for sexual intercourse between unmarried people, drinking alcohol and slander, Mohammad said. Thieves should have their hands chopped off, except for poor people who steal to feed themselves. The punishment for adultery is death by stoning.

"These punishments are prescribed in Islam. No one can stop that. It is God's law," said Mohammad, sitting on the floor in his makeshift headquarters in Mingora, the regional capital. Mohammad, the head of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariaht-e-Mohammadi, or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, spoke in a rare interview with McClatchy.

An aide, Ameer Izzat, hurriedly added that tough criteria must be met for such sentences. For adultery, there must be four witnesses who saw the act of penetration, he said.

Swat, once known for its orchards and mountain streams, is the first region in mainstream Pakistan to be taken over by extremists. A leader of the Swat Taliban told McClatchy that Swat is a test case and the Taliban want Islamic law, or Shariah, introduced throughout the country.

Mohammad, who speaks softly and looks deceptively like a genial old uncle, with a flowing white beard and thick spectacles, reached his position when the Pakistani army capitulated in February after a two-year military assault on the former tourist destination by extremist Taliban.

In exchange for peace, the government agreed in talks with Mohammad to institute Shariah.

All that it takes to introduce the new system is for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to sign off on it. Zardari has hesitated, however, possibly under pressure from Western countries, which have been highly critical of the deal.

Mohammad said time was running out for Pakistan to implement the deal. He warned that if the promised new courts aren't fully operational soon, he'll abandon Swat. That would leave the area once more to the marauding Taliban, who announced a cease-fire in response to Mohammad's deal with the authorities.

"Our responsibility is to maintain the peace. When the demand (for Shariah) is met, the Taliban will put down their weapons. We will see to that. But if the government doesn't agree to implement the deal, we will just go," said Mohammad, speaking in Pashto, the regional language. "Then I don't know what will happen."

Mohammad has renounced violence and appears to have influence over the Swat chapter of the Taliban, which his son-in-law, Mullah Fazlullah, heads.

Despite the "peace deal," the Taliban are far from quiet. This week in Swat, they forcibly occupied the house of a member of parliament and overran an emerald mine. If Mohammad left, however, the Taliban almost certainly would start full-scale fighting again.

The government is gambling that Shariah will split the Islamists, bringing the "reconcilable" Taliban on board while isolating the hard-core. However, Mohammad is a former jihadist who led thousands of young Pakistani men into battle against the invading U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan after 9-11, and his loyalties are unclear.

"I would not say we're heading for normality, but this is the first peace we've had here for two years," said Khushhal Khan, a senior administration official in Mingora. "This place was a war zone."

The Taliban had banned girls' education in Swat and prohibited women from shopping. Since the peace deal, those schools are open again and shops have taken down signs that barred women, but residents have few illusions about who's won.

"Ninety percent of the people of Swat wanted the militants to be defeated by the Pakistan forces, just eliminated. But that was wishful thinking," said Zia-ud-Din Yusufzai, the headmaster of a private school in Mingora, who thinks, as many Swatis do, that the Pakistani army was unwilling to fight the Taliban.

"For us, a doubtful peace is far better than a doubtful war, where the parties were not known, their aims were not known," he said. "Swat has been assigned to the militants."

Masked Taliban gunmen are no longer on the streets of Mingora. Residents no longer wake up to find their neighbors hanging from poles in the squares of the city. The bazaar is bustling once more, though with few women. The atmosphere is edgy, however.

The Swat peace deal required the Taliban only to stop displaying their weapons, not to disarm or surrender. Some of the men in the Mingora market and elsewhere in Swat are bound to be Taliban, carrying hidden guns. They've just melted back into the population. Kidnapping for ransom is on the rise, and few people venture out after dark.

At Mingora's courts, there is chaos. The new Islamic judges are sitting but aren't yet authorized to hand down sentences, pending a presidential signature on the peace deal, and procedures haven't yet been worked out. Litigants mob the courts, shouting, jostling, pushing. There's little paperwork, and no lawyers are involved.

Aftab Alam, the president of the Swat lawyers association, said that the creaking colonial-era legal system needed to be speeded up, not replaced.

"They (the Taliban) want to establish a complete autonomous state. That's the real agenda," Alam said. "A utopian empire, a Taliban empire. Sometimes utopias become real."

The Swat Taliban are waiting on the sidelines. Their spokesman and key commander, Muslim Khan, said by telephone from an undisclosed location that his group would see to it that Shariah was implemented, "whether the government likes it or not, 100 percent."

Khan added: "Swat is a test case. After this, it (Shariah) should be brought in, in the whole of Pakistan. How can we have British law here? It is the task of the Taliban to make them agree. It is our right. Ninety-five percent of the population is Muslim."

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

Pakistani warlord threatens to launch attack on Washington

Pakistani police fight off attackers at training center

Pakistan military endorses another Taliban truce - with a difference

Militants' sudden unity threatens Obama's Afghanistan strategy

Pakistani government makes deal with Islamic militants
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04 Apr 2009, 16:46 #10

Suicide bomber kills 6 troops in Pakistani capital
AP 11:57 am EDT Sat 04 Apr 2009

ISLAMABAD – Officials say a suicide attacker has blown himself up inside a base housing paramilitary troops in the heart of the Pakistani capital. Six soldiers have been killed and several more wounded.

Senior police official Bin Yamin says the bomber sneaked into the compound under cover of dark and detonated his explosives inside a large tent.

He says another five members of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary were wounded in Saturday's blast.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Police say an explosion near a police building in the Pakistani capital has injured at least two people.

Police official Mohammed Shoaib says the cause of Saturday evening's blast is not immediately clear. Television footage showed rescuers carrying one police officer and another man toward waiting ambulances.
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05 Apr 2009, 11:07 #11

Suicide bomber kills 22 in Pakistan Shiite mosque
By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
6:18 am EDT Sun 05 Apr 2009

ISLAMABAD – A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shiite mosque south of the Pakistani capital on Sunday, killing 22 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Pakistan has been plagued by rising violence outside the dangerous Afghan border region, including a suicide bombing in Islamabad on Saturday that killed eight paramilitary personnel and a deadly commando-style attack against a police academy last week in Lahore.

The suicide bomber set off his explosives Sunday at the entrance to a mosque in Chakwal city in Punjab province, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Islamabad, during a religious congregation, said Nadim Hasan Asif, a top security official in Punjab. He said the blast killed 22 people and injured more than 30.

"The suspected man was stopped at the entrance and pushed himself in and exploded," Asif said.

Chaudhry Nasrullah, the top health official in Chakwal, confirmed that 22 people were killed and that more than 50 were injured, a dozen of them critically. He appealed to the government to send helicopters to evacuate the most seriously wounded.

Farid Ali, who left the mosque just before the attack occurred, said he felt the blast on his back and looked back and saw smoke and dust.

"I saw several people lying dead," he told Express News TV. "There was blood everywhere."

Local television footage showed pools of blood on the road in front of the mosque. Torn clothes and a pair of shoes also littered the ground. Police investigators were shown collecting evidence, not far from a car and four motorcycles that were damaged by the blast.

A policeman with both his legs bandaged and another wounded man whose shirt was stained with blood were shown on hospital beds crying in pain. A woman standing in the emergency ward of the hospital wailed, "Oh my God. Oh my God."

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack, saying it was masterminded by people who are against the state and want to give Islam a bad name.

Most of the militant attacks in Pakistan take place in the area near the Afghan border, where Taliban and al-Qaida militants have established bases and often strike U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Late last month, a suicide bomber blew up in a packed mosque near the Afghan border at the climax of a Friday prayer service, killing 48 people and wounding scores more in the worst attack to hit Pakistan this year.

But militants have also stepped up attacks in Pakistan's interior.

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claimed credit for a deadly attack on a police academy in Punjab's capital, Lahore, last week that left 12 people dead, including seven police. He vowed to carry out more attacks unless the U.S. stopped drone missile strikes against militants near the Afghan border.

The drone attacks have continued, and a Mehsud deputy warned last week that militants would soon strike in Islamabad.

A suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary base in Islamabad on Saturday, killing eight members of the security force and wounding four others. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the second in the capital in two weeks.

It was also unclear who carried out Sunday's attack on the mosque in Chakwal. The country has a history of sectarian attacks mostly carried out by Sunni militants against Shiites.

___

Associated Press writer Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.
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05 Apr 2009, 11:38 #12

Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones
From The Sunday Times of London
April 5, 2009

Daud Khattakin and Christina Lamb

AMERICAN drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.

The dead and injured included foreign militants, but women and children were also killed when two missiles hit a house in the village of Data Khel, near the Afghan border, according to local officials.

As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.

Kacha Garhi is one of 11 tented camps across Pakistan’s frontier province once used by Afghan refugees and now inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis made homeless in their own land.

So far 546,000 have registered as internally displaced people (IDPs) according to figures provided by Rabia Ali, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Maqbool Shah Roghani, administrator for IDPs at the Commission for Afghan Refugees.

The commissioner’s office says there are thousands more unregistered people who have taken refuge with relatives and friends or who are in rented accommodation.

Jamil Amjad, the commissioner in charge of the refugees, says the government is running short of resources to feed and shelter such large numbers. A fortnight ago two refugees were killed and six injured in clashes with police during protests over shortages of water, food and tents.

On the road outside Kacha Garhi camp, eight-year-old Zafarullah and his little brother are among a number of children begging for coins and scraps. “I want to go back to my village and school,” he said.

With the attacks increasing, refugees have little hope of returning home and conditions in the camps will worsen as summer approaches and the temperatures soar.

Many have terrible stories. Baksha Zeb lost everything when his village, Anayat Kalay in Bajaur, was demolished by Pakistani forces. His eight-year-old son is a kidney patient needing dialysis and he has been left with no means to pay.

“Our houses have been flattened, our cattle killed and our farms and crops destroyed,” he complained. “There is not a single structure in my village still standing. There is no way we can go back.”

He sold his taxi to pay for food for his family and treatment for his son but the money has almost run out. “God bestowed me with a son after 15 years of marriage,” he said. “Now I have no job and I don’t know how we will survive.”

Pakistani forces say they have killed 1,500 militants since launching antiTaliban operations in Bajaur in August. Locals who fled claim that only civilians were killed.

Zeb said he saw dozens of his friends and relatives killed. Villagers were forced to leave bodies unburied as they fled.

Pakistani officials say drone attacks have been stepped up since President Barack Obama took office in Washington, killing at least 81 people. A suicide attacker blew himself up inside a paramilitary base in Islamabad, killing six soldiers and wounding five yesterday.
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05 Apr 2009, 17:24 #13

Taliban threaten 2 attacks per week in Pakistan
By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
1:10 pm EDT Sun 05 Apr 2009

ISLAMABAD – A suicide bombing at a crowded Shiite mosque south of Pakistan's capital killed 22 people Sunday, the latest evidence of how security in the U.S.-allied nation is crumbling well beyond the Afghan border region where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters thrive.

The violence came as a senior Pakistani Taliban commander said his group was behind a deadly suicide bombing Saturday night in Islamabad and promised two more attacks per week in the country if the U.S. does not stop missile strikes on Pakistani territory.

Sunday's suicide bomber set off his explosives at the entrance to a mosque in Chakwal city in Punjab province, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Islamabad, said Nadeem Hasan Asif, a top security official in the province. The blast killed 22 and wounded dozens, he said.

A little-known group believed linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed it had staged the attack. Pakistan also has a history of sectarian violence, often involving Sunni extremists targeting minority Shiite Muslims.

TV footage showed pools of blood in front of the mosque. Torn clothes and shoes littered the ground, while at least one car and four motorcycles were damaged. A policeman with bandaged legs and a wounded man wearing a bloodstained shirt were shown on hospital beds crying in pain. A woman standing in the emergency ward of the hospital wailed, "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

Farid Ali said he was leaving the mosque when he felt the blast on his back.

"I saw several people lying dead," he told Express News TV. "There was blood everywhere."

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and directed authorities to "bring the perpetrators to justice." Such statements from the premier have become a matter of routine in Pakistan, where extremists seem bent on wreaking havoc.

Most of the militant attacks in Pakistan occur in the northwest, where the Taliban and al-Qaida have strongholds from which they plan strikes on U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. Still, all of the country's major cities have experienced assaults.

About a week ago, gunmen raided a police academy on the outskirts of Lahore, a vibrant city in the east near the Indian border, killing at least 12 people in a commando-style attack that prompted an eight-hour standoff with security forces.

Late last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a packed mosque near the Afghan border at the climax of a Friday prayer service, killing 48 people and wounding scores more in the worst attack to hit Pakistan this year.

Some militant groups that are historically sectarian are believed to have forged ties with the Pakistani Taliban, themselves followers of a harsh brand of Sunni Islam.

A man who goes by the name Umar Farooq and says he speaks for the shadowy militant organization Fedayeen al-Islam told The Associated Press via telephone that the group had staged Sunday's attack on the mosque as part of a "campaign against infidels."

He also warned the U.S. to stop its drone-fired missile strikes on militant targets in Pakistan's northwest.

Little is known of the group, but it is believed linked to the Pakistani Taliban.

In the past it has said it was behind other attacks, including the bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel and last week's attack on the police academy in Lahore, but officials have never named it as a primary suspect.

Ignoring official Pakistani protests, the U.S. has escalated its campaign of missile strikes since August of last year.

Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud — who also claimed responsibility for the attack on the police academy — has vowed more assaults unless the U.S. shelves the drone-fired missiles.

His deputy Hakimullah Mehsud told AP the Pakistani Taliban carried out Saturday's suicide attack against the paramilitary camp in Islamabad. He, too, cited the missile strikes, and promised that the group would carry out two suicide attacks per week in Pakistan.

He also said Pakistani troops should withdraw from parts of the northwest.

"We have shown enough restraint," Hakimullah Mehsud said. "Previously, we were striking once in three months, but from now onward we will go for at least two suicide attacks a week."

___

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.
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05 Apr 2009, 21:02 #14

3 Suicide Attacks in 24 Hours in Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH 3:36 PM ET

A suicide bomb at a Shiite mosque killed at least 26 people in another sign that the Taliban are overwhelming security.
3 Suicide Attacks in 24 Hours in Pakistan
The New York Times

April 6, 2009
3 Suicide Attacks in 24 Hours in Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to a crowded Shiite mosque just south of the capital on Sunday, killing at least 26 people. It was the third suicide attack in Pakistan in 24 hours, in a sign that the Pakistani Taliban are overwhelming the nation’s security forces.

The assault south of the capital, Islamabad, appeared to be carefully crafted. It took place in Chakwal, a town that historically has had strong ties to the Pakistani Army, and in a Shiite mosque, which have come under increasing attack by the Pakistani Taliban.

The bombing occurred about 12 hours after a suicide bomber struck in an upper-class neighborhood of Islamabad on Saturday night, killing eight paramilitary security officers assigned to guard foreign diplomats and wealthy residents. On Saturday morning, a suicide bomber drove his vehicle into a group of civilians on the side of the road in Miram Shah, in North Waziristan, killing at least eight people, including schoolchildren.

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Hakimullah Mehsud, a powerful deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, said the Taliban were responsible for the suicide attacks in Islamabad and Chakwal.

He said the Islamabad bombing was in retaliation for an attack against him by an American pilotless aircraft, known as a drone, on April 1 in Orakzai, southwest of Peshawar in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The attack killed at least 10 people, American intelligence officials said.

Speaking hurriedly on a land line from Orakzai, Mr. Mehsud said the Pakistani Taliban planned to carry out two bombings a week within Pakistan in what he called “revenge” against Pakistan for the American missile strikes.


He did not specify whether the attacks would be by suicide bombers or in commando-style assaults, a technique used against a police training school in Lahore last week, in which 8 police officers were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Baitullah Mehsud took responsibility for that attack and said it was in response to American missile strikes.

American military officials have said the missile strikes have killed nearly a dozen top operatives from Al Qaeda based in safe havens within the tribal areas.

The strikes, which have intensified since President Asif Ali Zardari took office in September, are among the most effective instruments in the United States arsenal against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, American officials have said.

Senior Pakistani officials have routinely protested that the drone attacks represent an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty, although the government has quietly assented to the strikes.

Hakimullah Mehsud said the attack in Chakwal on Sunday morning was carried out by a group known as the Fidayeen-e-Islam, part of the broad alliance known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban. The Fidayeen-e-Islam is believed to be led by Qari Hussain, the chief technician and motivator of Taliban suicide bombers, and is based in South Waziristan, according to Taliban experts.

Mr. Mehsud said he would release a video showing that the recent attacks were being conducted by “Pakistanis and Muslims,” and not by foreigners, as the Pakistani government has asserted.

In Sunday’s attack, a witness at the Shiite mosque told Pakistani television that the suicide bomber had been stopped at the door, but that he pushed himself forward and then detonated the explosives strapped to his body.

Separately, John Solecki, an American working for the United Nations who was abducted more than two months ago, was found on the side of a road near Quetta just before midnight Saturday, a United Nations spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, said.

The abductors called the United Nations headquarters in Islamabad shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday, and said, “ ‘John has been released, go and pick up your man,’ ” Ms. Pagonis said.

It was the call the United Nations had been waiting for since his disappearance, and the only direct communication with his kidnappers, a group that called itself the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, she said. After reports from the abductors that Mr. Solecki was very sick, the United Nations team that picked him up was “enormously relieved to see he was not critically ill,” she said.

She declined to say where Mr. Solecki was on Sunday; The Associated Press reported he had left Pakistan for the United States.
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06 Apr 2009, 13:41 #15

News Analysis
Time Is Short as U.S. Presses a Reluctant Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ

In seeking an alliance with Pakistan against militants, America is courting a Muslim nation whose military is fixated on India.
Time Is Short as U.S. Presses a Reluctant Pakistan
The New York Times

April 6, 2009
News Analysis
Time Is Short as U.S. Presses a Reluctant Pakistan
By JANE PERLEZ

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Obama’s strategy of offering Pakistan a partnership to defeat the insurgency here calls for a virtual remaking of this nation’s institutions and even of the national psyche, an ambitious agenda that Pakistan’s politicians and people appear unprepared to take up.

Officially, Pakistan’s government welcomed Mr. Obama’s strategy, with its hefty infusions of American money, hailing it as a “positive change.” But as the Obama administration tries to bring Pakistanis to its side, large parts of the public, the political class and the military have brushed off the plan, rebuffing the idea that the threat from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which Washington calls a common enemy, is so urgent.

Some, including the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the president, Asif Ali Zardari, may be coming around. But for the military, at least, India remains priority No. 1, as it has for the 61 years of Pakistan’s existence.

How to shift that focus in time for Pakistan to defeat a fast-expanding Islamic insurgency that threatens to devour the country is the challenge facing Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to the region, as they arrive in Pakistan for talks early this week.

Strengthening Pakistan’s weak civilian institutions, updating political parties rooted in feudal loyalties and recasting a military fixated on yesterday’s enemy, and stuck in the traditions of conventional warfare, are generational challenges. But Pakistan may not have the luxury of the long term to meet them.

Some analysts here and in Washington are already putting forward apocalyptic timetables for the country. “We are running out of time to help Pakistan change its present course toward increasing economic and political instability, and even ultimate failure,” said a recent report by a task force of the Atlantic Council that was led by former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The report, released in February, gave the Pakistani government 6 to 12 months before things went from bad to dangerous.

A specialist in guerrilla warfare, David Kilcullen, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when General Petraeus was the American commander in Iraq, offered a more dire assessment. Pakistan could be facing internal collapse within six months, he said.

General Petraeus, in Congressional testimony last week, called the insurgency one that could “take down” the country, which is home to Qaeda militants and has nuclear arms.

Even before the insurgency has been fully engaged, however, many Pakistanis have concluded that reaching an accommodation with the militants is preferable to fighting them. Some, including mid-ranking soldiers, choose to see the militants not as the enemy, but as fellow Muslims who are deserving of greater sympathy than are the American aims.

It is problematic whether the backing of Mr. Zardari, and the Obama’s administration’s promise of $1.5 billion in aid for each of the next five years, can change the mood in the country, said a former interior minister, Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, who visited Washington last fall to meet with some of the people who are now officials in the Obama administration.

Fighting the insurgency is commonly seen in Pakistan as an American cause, not a Pakistani one, he said.

There are questions, too, of whether the Obama offer of nearly $3 billion in counterinsurgency aid can quickly convert the Pakistani military from a force trained to fight India on the plains of Punjab into an outfit that can conquer the mountains of the tribal areas, where the militants operate.

“After such a long time of being with the Americans, the country has been through such stress and strain and nothing good has come of it,” Mr. Sherpao said. “A cross-section of people is dead set against the Americans. Another section is not happy but not vocal. About 1 to 2 percent would say this policy of America should continue.”

The distrust has been heightened by charges from American officials, including General Petraeus and Mr. Holbrooke, that Pakistan’s spy agency is still supporting the Islamic militants who pour over the border to fight American troops in Afghanistan.

A former director general of the agency Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Javed Ashraf, said the American opinions — long held but now publicly stated — did not augur well. A spokesman for the Pakistani military called them “baseless” and part of a “malicious campaign.”

“You can’t start a successful operation with a trust deficit,” General Ashraf said. “Pakistan is an ally. But then you say we are linked with the Taliban. The serving army people will say, ‘To hell with them if this is what we are going to get after laying down more than 1,500 lives.’ ” That is the number of soldiers the Pakistani Army says have been killed fighting the militants in the tribal areas.

The lack of trust was evident, military analysts said, in the American refusal to consider a request from the Pakistani military that it operate the remotely piloted aircraft the C.I.A. has been using to hit the militants in the tribal areas.

Although those Predator drones have been successful in killing top Qaeda operatives, a factor acknowledged privately by Pakistani officials, the attacks continued to be criticized even as the new Pakistani-American partnership was supposed to be taking root.

“Predator strikes are not a strategy — not even part of a strategy,” a former army chief of staff and ambassador to Washington, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, said in a front-page article in the newspaper The Nation. “They are tactical actions to ratchet up body counts.”

The Americans have been stingy on even the more basic tools for guerrilla warfare, like helicopter gunships and night-vision goggles, which Pakistan has requested for the past three years, Pakistani military officials say. There are still doubts that Washington will deliver such equipment speedily, they say.

Then there is India. Its growing presence in Afghanistan — the building of roads; the opening since 2001 of two consulates in two cities close to Pakistan — makes Pakistan believe it is being encircled, said Ishaq Khan Khakwani, a former senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party.

Pakistanis complain that even though Mr. Obama, during his European trip, called for dialogue between India and Pakistan, his plans fail to address this major strategic concern.

“The United States has to get India to back off in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Khakwani, who is sympathetic to the American position. “Then Pakistan will see Indian interference is diminished and that will give confidence to Pakistan.”

The deep questioning about why the Pakistani Army should fight the Taliban reaches well down into the ranks of the soldiers and their families. Dissent on that goal has become increasingly prevalent among rank-and-file soldiers, and even in the officer corps, said Riffat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University here who also lectures to soldiers at the National Defense University.

There have been at least a half-dozen reported courts-martial of soldiers who refused to fight, and the real number was probably larger, Professor Hussain said.

In Jhelum, a town 100 miles south of Islamabad and a place with a proud military history, one village had shown in the boldest terms the anger about the military fighting Muslims on Pakistani soil, said Enver Baig, a former senator with the Pakistan Peoples Party, who considers himself a pro-American politician.

When the body of a soldier killed in the tribal areas was taken home to his family last year, the father refused to accept his son’s coffin, Mr. Baig said.

Instead, the father took off his shoe and used it to slap the army officer who had escorted the body.

A month later, when another soldier’s body was delivered to the same village, the army left the body on the village outskirts, Mr. Baig said.
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then, will you realize that money cannot be
eaten!!!
(Cree Indian Prophecy)
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