Blackwater/Xe cells conducting false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan

September 20, 2010

Wayne Madsen

WMR has learned from a deep background source that Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, has been conducting false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan that are later blamed on the entity called “Pakistani Taliban.”

Only recently did the US State Department designate the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, a terrorist group. The group is said by the State Department to be an off-shoot of the Afghan Taliban, which had links to “Al Qaeda” before the 9/11 attacks on the United States. TTP’s leader is Hakimullah Mehsud, said to be 30-years old and operating from Pakistan’s remote tribal region with an accomplice named Wali Ur Rehman. In essence, this new team of Mehsud and Rehman appears to be the designated replacement for Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as the new leaders of the so-called “Global Jihad” against the West.

However, it is Xe cells operating in Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and other cities and towns that have, according to our source who witnessed the U.S.-led false flag terrorist operations in Pakistan. Bombings of civilians is the favored false flag event for the Xe team and are being carried out under the orders of the CIA.

However, the source is now under threat from the FBI and CIA for revealing the nature of the false flag operations in Pakistan. If the source does not agree to cooperate with the CIA and FBI, with an offer of a salary, the threat of false criminal charges being brought for aiding and abetting terrorism looms over the source.

The Blackwater/Xe involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan have been confirmed by the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), General Hamid Gul, according to another source familiar with the current Xe covert operations. In addition, Pakistani ex-Army Chief of Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg, reportedly claimed that while serving as president, General Pervez Musharraf approved Blackwater carrying out terrorist operations in Pakistan. Blackwater has been accused of smuggling weapons and munitions into Pakistan.

Earlier this year WMR reported that “intelligence sources in Asia and Europe are reporting that the CIA contractor firm XE Services, formerly Blackwater, has been carrying out ‘false flag’ terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sinkiang region of China, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, in some cases with the assistance of Israeli Mossad and Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) personnel . . . A number of terrorist bombings in Pakistan have been blamed by Pakistani Islamic leaders on Blackwater, Mossad, and RAW. Blackwater has been accused of hiring young Pakistanis in Peshawar to carry out false flag bombings that are later blamed on the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. One such bombing took place during the Ashura procession in Karachi last month. The terrorist attacks allegedly are carried out by a secret Blackwater-XE/CIA/Joint Special Operations Command forward operating base in Karachi. The XE Services component was formerly known as Blackwater Select, yet another subsidiary in a byzantine network of shell and linked companies run by Blackwater/Xe on behalf of the CIA and the Pentagon. On December 3, 2009, the Pakistani newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt reported: ‘Vast land near the Tarbela dam has also been given to the Americans where they have established bases for their army and air forces. There, the Indian RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] and Israeli Mossad are working in collaboration with the CIA to carry out extremist activities in Pakistan.'”

The bombing of a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan last December was blamed on the TTP but may have actually involved the covert Xe/CIA program to stage false flag attacks and something went drastically wrong with the operation that resulted in the deaths of seven CIA personnel, including the Khost station chief. The TTP was also linked to the failed Times Square “bombing” last May.

Responsibility for the recent bomb attack of a pro-Palestine Shi’a rally in Quetta that killed 54 people was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, but it was actually carried out by one of the Xe covert cells in the country, acting in concert with the CIA, Israeli Mossad, and Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The ultimate goal is to destabilize Pakistan to the point where it has no choice but to allow the Western powers to secure its nuclear weapons and remove them from the country in a manner similar to the procurement by the West of South Africa’s nuclear weapons prior to the stepping down of the white minority government in the early 1990s.

WMR has been informed that any American, whether or not he or she holds a security clearance, is subject to U.S. national security prohibitions from discussing the U.S.- sponsored terrorist attacks in Pakistan. In one case, a threat was made against an individual who personally witnessed the Xe/CIA terrorist operations but is now threatened, along with family members.

Faisal Shahzad & what we should do

May 10, 2010

As expected, immense pressure is being brought to bear on Pakistan to go after the Taliban because of the apparent Faisal Shahzad connection to them. As all this is happening, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told an Indian news channel on Thursday that the organisation had no link with Shahzad. That, however, flies in the face of what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said and also conflicts with Shahzad’s own reported admission before American investigators that he had received training in Waziristan. Furthermore, the timing of the TTP denial, days after the organisation’s very own chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, suggested that the TTP was behind it and after severe pressure from the US administration on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban, is such that there may be few in western capitals who will believe it. In fact rational and sensible Pakistanis who know the history of the Taliban and how they were created may also have doubts on this denial.

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. to give spy drone technology to Pakistan

January 25, 2010

By Andrew Lebovich and Katherine Tiedemann

Busy trip

Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued his swing through Pakistan yesterday, meeting with Pakistani military leaders and attempting to address “misconceptions” about American policies towards the country (AFP, LAT, AJE). In an interview with Pakistani television, Gates indicated that the United States would begin supplying the Pakistani military with unarmed “Shadow” reconnaissance drones, in a bid to increase military efforts against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and allied groups (NYT, CSM, AFP, BBC, Daily Times). And the German newspaper Die Welt reported last week that they had unearthed a recent video showing Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) leader Tahir Yuldashev, who had previously been thought killed in a drone strike last summer (Die Welt – in German, Daily Times).

Gates also confirmed the presence of the security contractor Xe, formerly Blackwater, on Pakistani soil (Department of Defense). However, Gates was careful to say that any security groups operating under contract for the U.S. government would comply with strict American rules and Pakistani law.

Despite statements from Pakistani military leaders yesterday that no offensive in North Waziristan would occur for six to twelve months, Reuters reports today that Pakistani troops backed with helicopter gunships attacked a “militant hideout” near Miram Shah, the agency’s main town, while the AP writes that a handful of fighters were killed in a search-and-clearance operation nearby (Reuters, AP). And amidst reports that a group of Mehsud tribal elders had agreed to surrender militants as well as TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP has issued pamphlets warning Mehsud tribesmen not to return to South Waziristan “for their own safety.” (Dawn).

High alert

India has put a high alert on airports in the country after receiving intelligence that militants linked to al Qaeda and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group were planning to hijack an Air India or Indian Airlines flight traveling to a neighboring South Asian country (AP, AJE, CNN, BBC, AFP, WSJ, Times of India, Indian Express). Sky marshals have been deployed on certain planes, and passengers are being subjected to intense screening at least until the end of the month.

Whirlwind Washington tour

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new strategy for civilian engagement in Afghanistan yesterday, one that involves an increased, long-term civilian presence in Afghanistan beyond the nearly 1,000 civilians already there or slated to arrive in the near future (Department of State, Reuters). The plan addresses issues from agriculture development to corruption and reconciliation efforts with Taliban fighters, though some doubt whether the ambitious strategy, developed by Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Richard Holbrooke, will receive sufficient support from Congress (AFP).
Appearing with Holbrooke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband stressed the need for a revised political strategy in Afghanistan, telling the Committee that in order to defeat the Taliban, “[w]e have to make sure we are not outgunned, but we always have to make sure we are not out-governed (Independent, AP). Miliband also said ahead of next week’s conference in London on Afghanistan that he wanted to shift responsibility for security to the Afghan government and support Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to reconcile some Taliban fighters with the Afghan government in part through money and job programs, an idea Secretary Gates also supports (Telegraph, WSJ, NYT, AFP, Dawn, McClatchy, BBC). Even the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who leads one of the major insurgent factions in Afghanistan, has expressed a recent willingness to cooperate with Karzai’s government under certain conditions, though he has a long history of switching sides (WSJ).

COIN adjustments

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry has slowed the implementation of a program meant to arm and train local anti-Taliban militias, reflecting an ongoing debate between military and civilian officials over the best way to fight the Taliban in the Afghan countryside (Wash Post). Meanwhile, the Afghan government moved quickly in the wake of Monday’s deadly assault on Kabul to claim victory in the engagement, holding a news conference and a medal ceremony for some Afghan soldiers who helped subdue Taliban fighters (WSJ). Afghan officials emphasized the fact that Afghan commandos responded to the attack with little foreign assistance (Economist).

NATO will soon curtail “night raids” in Afghanistan, in an effort to reduce the hostility these operations engender among many Afghans (AP). Night raids have received more attention since top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal limited the use of air strikes and other tactics last year in an effort to reduce civilian casualties and grievances. Dexter Filkins looks at the mystery surrounding a recent night raid that killed four in Ghazni Province and sparked intense protests from Afghan civilians (NYT).

Afghanistan’s government has banned the common fertilizer ammonium nitrate, after an investigation found that it was used in a number of bombs targeting Afghan and western forces (AP). Afghan farmers have 30 days to turn in their supplies of the chemical or face punishment. And an American gunsight manufacturing company that aroused controversy this week over Bible references stamped on their equipment will voluntarily remove the markings from future sights and provide kits so troops in the field can remove them (AJE, VOA, CNN).

Pitch battles

Pakistani civilians, cricket players, and government officials alike have expressed anger that no Pakistani players were chosen in this week’s Indian Premier League auction, held this week (WSJ). While Indian officials insist that they have nothing to do with the selection of players for India’s most important cricket league, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik complained publicly about the snub, and Pakistanis protested in several cities.

STRATFOR: Anti-Pakistan and Anti-Islam Propaganda Site Run by a George Friedman

January 21, 2010

by Khurram Shaikh

STRATFOR’s chief executive officer, Dr. George Friedman, is a widely recognized international affairs expert and author of numerous books, including The Next 100 Years (Doubleday, 2009), America’s Secret War (Doubleday, 2005), and The Future of War (Crown, 1996).

Stratfor is a site run by George Friedman. It is a relentless propaganda machine against Pakistan. It is managed and controlled by a Dr.George Friedman, a Jewish American. It has published stories, which are basically against Pakistan’s nuclear program and support propaganda out of India. It has a very high sounding name, as if it is an independent Think Tank, which it is NOT. It reflects biased views and zionist thinking. An example such an article is shown below:

Washington, January 12, 2010
US think-tank hints at ISI hand in CIA attack

The suicide strike on the key U.S. intelligence base in Afghanistan had hallmarks of an operation carried out by a national intelligence service, a leading U.S. think-tank has said, apparently hinting that it could be the handiwork of Pakistan’s ISI or its rogue elements.

“The hit was by all account a masterful piece of trade craft beyond the known abilities of a group like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” U.S. think-tank Stratfors said.

“The Jordanians penetration of the CIA was less like the product of an insurgency than an operation carried out by a national intelligence service. And this is the most troubling aspect for the U.S.,” the think tank said.

The speculation about a possible ISI hand in the suicide attack is being traced back to U.S. and Afghan government sources who said in the analysis of explosives used, it was found they were of standard military grade which points to the ISI.

Stratfors deduction comes even as al-Jazeera TV said the Jordanian bomber Khali Abu Mulal al-Balawi was brought to the U.S. base in Khost in eastern Afghanistan by car from across the border in Pakistan.

The agency which was one of the TV channels which beamed a footage of al-Balawi alongside Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud said the video showed “there was clearly a link between Pakistani Taliban headed by Hakimullah Mehsud and some of the al-Qaeda elements operating in Pakistan.

The Arab TV channel said, this video was expected and “everybody in the tribal border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan was told al-Balawi had recored a message before he went to his mission to blow the American Chapman base.” The channel said that the video would provide the Afghan government “more ammunition” with which to criticise their counterparts in Pakistan. “This is definitely something that is going to put more pressure on the Pakistanis in the future and will definitely make the Afghans and the Americans change their strategy as far as dealing with eastern Afghanistan.”

Stratfors, in an in depth analysis of the hit on the CIA base, said as the Jordanian bomber exited the vehicle on December 30, the security guards at the Chapman base noticed he was behaving strangely. As the guards moved towards al-Balawi screaming for him to take his hands out of his pocket, the Jordanian instead of complying detonated the suicide device he was wearing.

The explosion, Stratfors said killed the bomber, three security contractors, four CIA officers and the Jordanian intelligence official who was his handler. But the vehicle shielded other CIA officers at the scene from the blast. The CIA officers killed included the chief of base at Khost and an analyst, who was the agency’s foremost expert on al-Qaeda.

“The U.S. cannot hope to reach a satisfactory solution in Afghanistan unless it can win the intelligence war. But the damage done to CIA in this attack cannot be overestimated. At least one of the agency’s top analysts was killed. In an intelligence war, this is equivalent to a sinking of an aircraft carrier in a naval war,” Stratfors said.

Keywords: CIA, US think tank, attack, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, ISI, Pakistan, Kabul, suicide attack

Most academics and thinkers globally know the hidden agenda of Stratfor. It’s independent antecedents are highly suspect and its literature and reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. Pakistan’s ISI is a premier intelligence organization. It does not use dirty tricks like the ones mentioned in the following article redacted from Stratfor by the RSS and VHP propaganda machine as reflected by its URL( Pakistan’s ISI operates in defence of Pakistan and protection of Pakistan’s strategic assets. It has never and never will target agents from brotherly nations like Afghanistan or friends like the U.S. Stratfor’s aim is to spew out venomous propaganda as legitimate strategic reports. It feeds off many anti-Pakistan, intelligence organizations like RAW and Mossad.

CIA and ISI collaborate on many fronts in the War on Terror. Stratfor’s aim is to malign this relationship, but so far, CIA is smart enough to know where Stratfor’s ideas are emanating and germinating. The bottom line is creating a hostile environment between Pakistan and the U.S., in order to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear assets. This may be their aim or wishful thinking but facts on the ground are different. No matter what the bad intentions of the enemy, they will blow back on their faces. Evil fate for evil intentions is a trusted paradigm.

Pakistan: The South Waziristan Offensive Continues

November 26, 2009

A Pakistani army soldier guards his South Waziristan post Nov. 18 as he watches internally displaced civilians fleeing from military operations against Taliban militants


Inspector-General of the Pakistani Frontier Corps Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said Nov. 24 that South Waziristan would be split into two separate agencies. The statement comes nearly six weeks into a Pakistani military offensive to root out Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forces from their stronghold in South Waziristan, and will form part of Pakistan’s political strategy to maintain alliances with neutral tribal leaders and prevent the Taliban from re-entrenching themselves in the region.


The military offensive Rah-i-Nijat is entering its sixth week of ground operations in South Waziristan. The Pakistani army has been fighting through a section of South Waziristan home to the Mehsud tribe that was, until recently, the center of operations for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The military has employed a strategy of attacking this area from three directions: Jandola-Sararogha, Shakai-Kaniguram and Razmak-Makeen. Each axis has led to the capture of major roads and major population centers in the area – objectives that deny militants mobility and sanctuary.

The military has not completely consolidated its control over the area – militant ambushes, mortar and improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks continue. However, the military has captured and cleared the major population centers of Sararogha, Kaniguram and Makeen, and is now moving to other strategic population centers such as Ladha (where there is a fort that was taken by the TTP in 2008) and Janata, as well as clearing smaller villages outside of the larger towns.

It is important to emphasize that military operations are ongoing and that the Pakistani forces deployed to South Waziristan will be tied up there for some time. Presently, there is no withdrawal plan and the military has not indicated when operation Rah-i-Nijat will conclude. This also means that internally displace persons (IDPs) in South Waziristan will continue to be without homes for a while. However, the total IDPs resulting from Rah-i-Nijat number around 300,000 – much more manageable for the government than the nearly 2 million IDPs that resulted from Rah-i-Rast, the May 2009 military operation in the Swat Valley.

Pakistan, however, still faces many challenges, including how it can mitigate the dispersion of soldiers and prevent the TTP from simply re-establishing itself outside of South Waziristan. Even before military operations began, many of the high-level TTP commanders were believed to have fled to other areas of Pakistan, so it is key that the militant threat does not return and re-establish itself as soon as the military operations end. By the nature of non-state groups like the Taliban, leaders are elusive, so capturing or killing all of them is extremely difficult, but disrupting their bases of operations will likely weaken their power and frustrate their objectives against the Pakistani state.

In addition to the South Waziristan, the army has also paid considerable attention to the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agencies of Bajaur, Orakzai, and Khyber, where pre-existing Taliban allies remain strong and have likely attracted at least some fleeing militants from South Waziristan. Militants in Bajaur Agency continue to engage the Pakistani army, and as recently as Nov. 22, the army killed 16 militants in an operation there that was part of the larger mission of preventing the spread of militant fighters. Despite recent success against militants in Bajaur, Islamabad still faces belligerents there.

Meanwhile, in Orakzai Agency (which was the home of current TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud before he took over following Baitullah Mehsud’s death), the Pakistani air force has conducted a sustained air campaign against several militant positions and killed scores of militants. However, it is clear that the TTP and its militant allies have maintained their capability to attack the Pakistani state, as seen by the string of attacks since Rah-i-Nijat began.

Additionally, Pakistani ground forces and helicopter gunships have been patrolling Khyber Agency to protect the major route that is used to supply NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as deny militants a sanctuary from which they can strike at nearby Peshawar. Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) in collaboration with the TTP is likely responsible for recent attacks in Peshawar. Even though LI is more oriented toward organized crime and making money by smuggling goods into Afghanistan, it has an interest in allying with the TTP (which it has been in competition with) in order to resist the state’s offensive.

The Nov. 24 announcement that South Waziristan will be divided and politically administered as two separate agencies (raising the number of agencies in FATA from seven to eight) is also part of Islamabad’s strategy to maintain order in South Waziristan once the military mission there is complete. The specific geographical split is not yet clear, but it will largely divide the Mehsud and Waziri tribal areas. The Mehsud area is in the center of South Waziristan, where the TTP has its largest presence and, consequently, where the Pakistani military has launched operation Rah-i-Nijat. The Waziri tribal area (largely under the control of Taliban warlord Maulvi Nazir Ahmad) is located primarily in the west along the border with Afghanistan.

Maulvi Nazir and the Waziri tribes located along the Afghan border have cooperated with Islamabad by remaining neutral before and during the execution of Rah-i-Nijat. Nazir’s forces are more concerned with fighting Western forces in Afghanistan and have not taken up arms against Islamabad. The understanding reached between Islamabad and Nazir was an effort to divide forces in South Waziristan in order to isolate the TTP and its leadership from neighboring tribes, whose combined resistance to the Pakistani military would have frustrated their mission. Splitting South Waziristan agency in two would be a continuation of the strategy to divide control of the geographically difficult-to-govern territory in order to weaken remaining TTP elements. This also would have put the TTP’s area of operation under Islamabad’s direct control without unnecessarily impeding upon other actors in the region (like the Waziris) whom Islamabad is wary of further alienating.

Islamabad is considering several options to govern South Waziristan and FATA in general after Rah-i-Nijat. First, FATA may lose its autonomous status and become another province, which would give Islamabad more control over the area’s governance and services. Another option would be to follow the recent example of Gilgit-Baltistan in the north, which is not a new province but will now be responsible for its own regional executive, legislature and judiciary. FATA could also be incorporated into the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and its governing structures assimilated into the NWFP’s government (which is much more closely controlled than FATA). Regardless of what happens, it will be quite some time before military control on the ground can permit effective political changes that would drastically alter the way the area is governed.

The federal government is responsible for these decisions, which is itself suffering from destabilizing disputes like the one surrounding the National Reconciliation Ordinance – a highly controversial piece of legislation that granted amnesty to politicians accused of corruption and other criminal activity, many of whom are part of the current government.

But for now, the Pakistani military is still occupied with the task of securing the area and preventing the TTP from taking back what it has lost. The future success of this offensive depends upon the outcome of the political battle in Islamabad over the NRO, which will be heating up once the legislation expires on Nov. 28.


November 10, 2009

Tariq Ali

June is never a good month on the plains. It was 46ºC in Fortress Islamabad a fortnight ago. The hundreds of security guards manning roadblocks and barriers were wilting, sweat pouring down their faces as they waved cars and motorbikes through. The evening breeze brought no respite. It, too, was unpleasantly warm, and it was difficult not to sympathise with those who, defying the law, jumped into the Rawal Lake, the city’s main reservoir, in an attempt to cool down. Further south in Lahore it was even hotter, and there were demonstrations when the generator at Mangla that sporadically supplies the city with electricity collapsed completely.

As far as the political temperature goes there is never a good month in Pakistan. This is a country whose fate is no longer in its own hands. I have never known things so bad. The chief problems are the United States and its requirements, the religious extremists, the military high command, and corruption, not just on the part of President Zardari and his main rivals, but spreading well beyond them.

This is now Obama’s war. He campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. On the day he publicly expressed his sadness at the death of a young Iranian woman caught up in the repression in Tehran, US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan. The dead included women and children, whom even the BBC would find it difficult to describe as ‘militants’. Their names mean nothing to the world; their images will not be seen on TV networks. Their deaths are in a ‘good cause’.

More than two million refugees (‘internally displaced persons’ – IDPs in NGO jargon) have been driven out of the areas of the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan by the army, and from the Swat Valley both by the brutalities of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the military response to them. NGOs, knowing this is where Western cash is headed, swarm around the refugee camps like flies. Here, too, corruption is rife, despite the presence of many dedicated volunteers. One of them told me that the only organised and non-corrupt presence was that of the army, which, if true, must be a first. The same volunteer, who worked in a camp near Mardan, proudly showed me pictures of herself on General Nadeem Ahmed’s helicopter – he commands the operation to help the IDPs – while informing me that the overwhelming bulk of refugees blame the United States and the army for their plight, not the ‘terrorists’ in their various guises. Listening to her, I wondered whether Samuel Huntington’s idea of moving peasants into ‘strategic hamlets’ in South Vietnam had been the model for this operation as well: remove the people from war zones and the enemy will have no one to recruit. It’s hardly a secret here that the US is paying the army to build new cantonments in the cleansed zones on the Pak-Afghan frontier. It won’t work, but it sounds good and it’s good for the army’s cashflow. Some in Pakistan seriously believe that a few hundred TTP heads in the basket will solve their problems, and are supportive of the army while distancing themselves from the US use of drones, but the two go together. Others gaze admiringly at the ruthlessness with which the Sri Lankan army rooted out the Tamil Tigers, regardless of the collateral damage.

In May this year, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, published an assessment of the crisis in the region in the Huffington Post. Ignored by the White House, since he was challenging most of the assumptions on which the escalation of the war was based, Fuller was speaking for many in the intelligence community in his own country as well as in Europe. It’s not often that I can agree with a recently retired CIA man, but not only did Fuller say that Obama was ‘pressing down the same path of failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush’ and that military force would not win the day, he also explained to readers of the Huffington Post that the Taliban are all ethnic Pashtuns, that the Pashtuns ‘are among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalised and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader’ and ‘in the end probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist’. ‘It is a fantasy,’ he said, ‘to think of ever sealing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.’ And I don’t imagine he is the only retired CIA man to refer back to the days when Cambodia was invaded ‘to save Vietnam’.

I left Islamabad on 1 July, a day before the Independence Day party held by the US ambassador, Anne Patterson. Probably the most heavily guarded event in the global social calendar, this is the modern equivalent of the viceroy’s garden parties in old New Delhi. The leaders of the political, military and economic elite jostle with each other and with favoured journalists for the attention of the ambassador. Observers note that Patterson spent more time talking to X from Baluchistan than to Y from Peshawar. Might this mean that the frontline is going to be shifted to Baluchistan? Less important guests peer over heads and shoulders to see who else is present so that they can determine the pecking order of flattery.

Patterson can be disarmingly frank. Earlier this year, she offered a mid-term assessment to a visiting Euro-intelligence chief. While Musharraf had been unreliable, saying one thing in Washington and doing its opposite back home, Zardari was perfect: ‘He does everything we ask.’ What is disturbing here is not Patterson’s candour, but her total lack of judgment. Zardari may be a willing creature of Washington, but the intense hatred for him in Pakistan is not confined to his political opponents. He is despised principally because of his venality. He has carried on from where he left off as minister of investment in his late wife’s second government. Within weeks of occupying President’s House, his minions were ringing the country’s top businessmen, demanding a share of their profits.

Take the case of Mr X, who owns one of the country’s largest banks. He got a call. Apparently the president wanted to know why his bank had sacked a PPP member soon after Benazir Bhutto’s fall in the late 1990s. X said he would find out and let them know. It emerged that the sacked clerk had been caught with his fingers literally in the till. President’s House was informed. The explanation was rejected. The banker was told that the clerk had been victimised for political reasons. The man had to be reinstated and his salary over the last 18 years paid in full together with the interest due. The PPP had also to be compensated and would expect a cheque (the sum was specified) soon. Where the president leads, his retainers follow. Many members of the cabinet and their progeny are busy milking businessmen and foreign companies. ‘If they can do it, so can we’ is a widely expressed view in Karachi, the country’s largest city. Muggings, burglaries, murders, many of them part of protection rackets linked to politicians, have made it the Naples of the East.

There is also a widespread feeling that the methods used to manoeuvre Zardari into the presidency after Benazir’s assassination were immoral. A documentary shown on the first anniversary of her death on the privately owned GEO TV raised a number of serious questions regarding her security and asked why the man responsible for organising her protection drove away when her car was held up. When she was hit, he was nowhere to be seen. This man, Rehman Malik, an old Zardari crony and one of the family’s principal contacts with Western intelligence agencies when it was in exile, is currently the interior minister.

For several months now, wild and unsubstantiated rumours linking Zardari to his wife’s death have swept the country. A woman I know who was once very close to Benazir is convinced that there is some truth in them and is much irritated by my scepticism. She provided me with an account, which, if true, would require Asifa Zardari, the couple’s younger daughter, to give evidence in court against her father. The same story has been repeated to me by many others, none of them paranoid or given to thoughts of conspiracy. Stranger things have happened in the country, but I remain unconvinced. What is interesting is not that these tales circulate, but the number of people who believe them – which indicates how the widower is generally regarded.

These rumours came into the open at the end of June, when the head of the Bhutto clan, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, chairman of the Sind National Front, publicly accused Zardari at a press conference, alleging that ‘the killer of Murtaza Bhutto had also murdered Benazir . . . Now I am his target. A hefty amount has been paid to mercenaries to kill me.’ (Zardari is generally regarded as having ordered his brother-in-law Murtaza’s death. Shoaib Suddle, the police chief in Karachi, who organised the operation that led to Murtaza Bhutto’s death, has now been promoted and is head of the Intelligence Bureau.) Mumtaz Bhutto demanded an inquiry into Benazir’s assassination and pooh-poohed attempts by Washington and its local satraps to blame the crime on the TTP leader, Baitullah Mahsud. Bhutto predicted that Zardari and his cronies would soon be convicted of corruption or forced to flee the country, but this is wishful thinking, and assumes a great deal, including a shift in US policies.

Mahsud and his followers are specialists in sawing off heads, flogging women and kidnapping people. Grisly videos of informers having their throats cut are circulated by the TTP as a deterrent. Yet, only a few months ago, Mahsud could be seen at wedding receptions and press conferences. Today he has the distinction of being the first Pakistani with a price on his head. The US announced a $5 million reward, to which the Pakistan government added a miserly $600,000, for his capture dead or alive. Head money has also been offered for Mahsud’s junior commanders: $182,000 for Faqir Mohammed in Bajaur and $122,000 each for three others, much less than the Indian Premier League offers Pakistani cricketers. While welcoming back the Pakistan cricket team after their triumph in the Twenty20 championship this summer, the country’s token prime minister, Yousaf Gilani, insisted that we must follow the example of our cricket team and defeat the terrorists.

The refugees from the Swat Valley, where the TTP have committed serial atrocities, tell a different story from the Pashtuns displaced by US drones, bomber jets and Pakistani army forays in South Waziristan, near the Afghan frontier. They say they were abandoned for years by the government and left to the mercy of armed fanatics. This is true. And if you ask why the Pakistani state tolerated armed groups that openly challenged its monopoly of violence, the answer is straightforward. These groups were regarded in Islamabad as auxiliaries in the coming battle for Afghanistan. The decision to crush the leadership of the TTP was taken under heavy US pressure, which is why Mahsud and his deputy in Swat, Maulana Fazlollah, regard the assault on their positions as treachery.

Fazlollah’s reign of terror antagonised most Pakistanis, including those hostile to the US presence in the region. The public flogging of a Swati woman, captured on video and then shown on TV, generated real anger. For once the TTP was put on the defensive and publicly dissociated itself from the flogging. Making use of this display of weakness the government wheeled one of the country’s top religious scholars, Dr Sarfraz Naeemi Al-Azhari, in front of the cameras to declare the TTP an ‘anti-Islamic’ organisation, since Islamic tradition forbids suicide and by extension suicide bombings – for that reason often known as ‘martyrdom operations’. On 12 June, the TTP despatched a suicide bomber to take care of Al-Azhari. Both men were ‘martyred’. Earlier, the government had bribed, cajoled and bullied one of Mahsud’s lieutenants, Qari Zainuddin, to break with his leader and denounce him in public. Qari did as he was asked, though the eventual denunciation was characteristically bizarre. He accused Mahsud of being a triple agent and claimed he was working for India, America and Israel, as well as other enemies of Pakistan. That is why, Zainuddin said, he was targeting the Pakistan army and its security services. Some actually believed this nonsense and it irritated Mahsud. On 23 June, one of Qari Zainuddin’s bodyguards shot him dead. There will almost certainly be more of this in the coming months.

Meanwhile Mahsud’s parents have been picked up by the police and are in ‘protective custody’ – in other words, being used as hostages. On the day this was announced, Owais Ghani, the beleaguered governor of the North-West Frontier Province, warned on TV that if the US-Nato leaders don’t develop an exit strategy soon, the indiscriminate repression of Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line will lead to an uprising against the foreign troops. Mahsud wasn’t the only problem, in other words. The following day Pakistan air-force chiefs were paraded on TV with the Chinese (‘our all-weather friends’) government company that is building JF-17 Thunder aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Might some of these be ready in time to track down Mahsud, something that US surveillance and reconnaissance missions have so far failed to do?

The TTP is a product of the recent Afghan wars, Russian, indigenous and American, its thinking a poisonous combination of traditional tribal patriarchy and Wahhabi prescriptions. It has been severely criticised by the Afghan groups fighting Nato for not participating in that struggle. Capturing and killing its leaders may make people feel better, but it will solve very little. The bulk of TTP supporters will simply melt away and regroup to fight another day. Attempts to destroy them will lead to even more civilian casualties. Many of Mahsud’s supporters are now leaving Swat and linking up with other Pashtun groups in Waziristan to fight the Pakistan army. There are reports that a new organisation uniting the previously competing mujahedin groups has been formed. Gul Bahadur, considered a pro-government Pashtun commander because he signed a truce agreement in February 2008, has reneged on the deal and joined the opposition. This new group claimed responsibility for the ambush of a military convoy on 28 June that led to the death of 15 soldiers in response to air-strikes carried out on villages the week before, in which a number of civilians were killed – their names were not released.

The longer the war continues, the greater the possibility of serious cracks within the army. Not at the level of the high command, but among majors and captains, as well as among the soldiers they command, who are far from happy with the tasks assigned to them. Religious divines have been found to pronounce that a soldier killed in fighting the TTP is a martyr and will go to heaven, but the potential martyrs know that most mullahs believe they will go to hell. Quite a few, no doubt, think they’re already there.

Pakistan: The South Waziristan Migration

October 15, 2009

By Scott Stewart

Pakistan has been a busy place over the past few weeks. The Pakistani armed forces have been conducting raids and airstrikes against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other foreign Islamist fighters in Bajaur Agency, a district inside Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), while wrapping up their preparations for a major military offensive into South Waziristan. The United States has conducted several successful missile attacks targeting militants hiding in areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Threatened by these developments – especially the actions of the Pakistani military – the TTP and its allies have struck back. They have used larger, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in attacks close to their bases in the Pakistani badlands to conduct mass-casualty attacks against soft targets in Peshawar and the Swat Valley. They have also used small arms and small suicide devices farther from their bases to attack targets in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the respective seats of Pakistan’s military and civilian power.

Initially, we considered devoting this week’s Security and Intelligence Report to discussing the tactical details of the Oct. 10 attack against the Pakistani army headquarters. But after taking a closer look at that attack, and the bigger mosaic it occurred within, we decided to focus instead on something that has not received much attention in the media – namely, how the coming Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan is going to have a heavy impact on the militants currently living and training there. In fact, we can expect the Pakistani offensive to cause a large displacement of militants. Of course, many of the militants who are forced to flee from South Waziristan, the epicenter of Pakistan’s insurgency, will likely land in areas not too far away – like Balochistan – but at least some of the militants who will be flushed out of South Waziristan will land in places far from Pakistan’s FATA and North-West Frontier Province.

The Coming Offensive

The Pakistani military has been preparing for the coming offensive into South Waziristan for months. They have positioned two divisions with some 28,000 troops for the attack, and this force will be augmented by paramilitary forces and local tribal militias loyal to Islamabad. As seen by the Pakistani offensives in Swat and Bajaur earlier this year, the TTP and its foreign allies are no match for the Pakistani military when it turns its full resources to address the problem.

The Pakistanis previously attempted a halfhearted offensive in South Waziristan in March of 2004 that only lasted 12 days before they fell back and reached a “negotiated peace settlement” with the militant leaders in the area. A negotiated peace settlement is a diplomatic way of saying that the Pakistanis attempted to pay off Pakistani Taliban leaders like Nek Mohammed to hand over the foreign militants in South Waziristan and stop behaving badly. The large cash settlements given to the militants did little to ensure peace and instead allowed the Taliban leaders to buy more weapons, pay their troops and essentially solidify their control in their areas of operation. The Taliban resumed their militant activities shortly after receiving their payments (though the most prominent leader, Nek Mohammed, was killed in a U.S. missile strike in June 2004).

This time, the South Waziristan offensive will be far different than it was in 2004. Not only do the Pakistanis have more than four times as many army troops committed to it, but the Pakistani military has learned that if it uses its huge airpower advantage and massed artillery, it can quickly rout any serious TTP resistance. In Bajaur, the Pakistanis used airstrikes and artillery to literally level positions (and even some towns) where the Taliban had tried to dig in and make a stand. Additionally, in January 2008, the Pakistani army conducted a successful offensive in South Waziristan called “Operation Zal Zala” (Earthquake) that made excellent progress and resulted in the loss of only eight soldiers in four days of intense fighting. This offensive was stopped only because Baitullah Mehsud and his confederates sued for peace – a truce that they quickly violated.

The lessons of past military operations and broken truces in South Waziristan, when combined with the recent TTP strikes against targets like the army headquarters, have served to steel the will of the government (and particularly the military). Pakistani government sources tell STRATFOR that they have the intent and the ability to “close the case for good.” This means that there should be no negotiated settlement with the TTP this time.

Of course, we are not the only people who can anticipate this happening. The TTP and others like the al Qaeda core leadership know all too well what happened in Bajaur and Swat. They have also been watching the Pakistani military prepare for the South Waziristan offensive for months now. The TTP leadership realizes that if they attempt to stand and fight the Pakistani military toe-to-toe they will be cut to shreds. Because of this, we believe that the TTP will adopt a strategy similar to that used by the Taliban in the face of overwhelming U.S. airpower following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, or that of the Iraqi military following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Rather than fight in set-piece conventional battles to the bitter end and be destroyed, after some initial resistance the TTP’s fighters will seek to melt away into the population and then conduct insurgent and terrorist strikes against the Pakistani military, both in the tribal regions and in Pakistan’s core regions. This is also the approach the TTP leadership took to the Pakistani offensive in Swat and Bajaur. They made noises about standing and fighting in places like Mingora. In the end, however, they melted away in the face of the military’s offensive and most of the militants escaped.

Contrary to popular perception, the area along the Afghan-Pakistani border is fairly heavily populated. The terrain is extremely rugged, but there are millions of Pakistanis living in the FATA, and many of them are extremely conservative and hostile toward the Pakistani government. This hostile human terrain poses perhaps a more significant obstacle to the Pakistani military’s operations to root out jihadists than the physical terrain. Accurate and current population numbers are hard to obtain, but the government of Pakistan estimated the population of South Waziristan to be nearly 500,000 in 1998, although it is believed to be much larger than that today. There are also an estimated 1.7 million Afghan refugees living on the Pakistani side of the border. This human terrain should enable many of the TTP’s Pashtun fighters to melt into the landscape and live to fight another day. Indeed, the militants are already heavily embedded in the population of South Waziristan, and the TTP and its rivals have controlled much of the area for several years now.

We have seen reports that up to 200,000 people have already fled areas of South Waziristan in anticipation of the coming military operation, and it is highly likely that some TTP fighters and foreign militants have used this flow of displaced people as camouflage to leave the region just as they did in Swat and Bajaur. Whether the coming offensive is as successful in destroying the TTP as our sources assure us it will be, the military action will undoubtedly force even more militants to leave South Waziristan.

The Camps

In the wake of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the many militant training camps run by al Qaeda and other organizations in Afghanistan were destroyed. Many of the foreign jihadists who were at these camps fled to Pakistan with the Taliban, though others fled to Iran, Iraq or elsewhere. This migration shifted the focus of jihadist training efforts to Pakistan, and South Waziristan in particular. Quite simply, there are thousands of foreign jihadists who have traveled to Pakistan to receive paramilitary training at these camps to fight in Afghanistan. A smaller number of the trainees have received advanced training in terrorist tradecraft, such as bombmaking, in the camps.

Due to the presence of these transplanted training installations, South Waziristan is “jihadist central,” with jihadists of all stripes based in the area. This confluence will complicate Islamabad’s attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” Taliban elements. Both the good Taliban aligned with Islamabad that carry out their operations in Afghanistan and the bad Taliban fighting against Islamabad are based in South Waziristan, and telling the difference between the two factions on the battlefield will be difficult – though undoubtedly elements of Pakistani intelligence will attempt to help their Taliban friends (like the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar’s network) avoid being caught up in the coming confrontation.

There are literally thousands of Arab, Uzbek, Uighur, Chechen, African and European militants currently located in the Pakistani badlands, and a good number of them are in South Waziristan. Many of these foreigners are either teaching at or enrolled in the jihadist training camps. These foreigners are going to find it far harder to hide from the Pakistani military by seeking refuge in Afghan refugee camps or small tribal villages than their Pashtun brethren.

Some of these foreigners will attempt to find shelter in North Waziristan, or perhaps in more heavily – and more heterogeneously – populated areas like Quetta (Mullah Omar’s refuge) or Peshawar. Others may try to duck into the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, but there is a good chance that many of these foreign militants will be forced to leave the Pakistan-Afghanistan area to return home or seek refuge elsewhere.

This exodus will have mixed results. On one hand it will serve to weaken the international jihadist movement by retarding its ability to train new jihadists until replacement camps can be established elsewhere, perhaps by expanding existing facilities in Yemen or Africa. On the other hand, it will force hundreds of people trained in terrorist tradecraft to find a new place to live – and operate. In some ways, this migration could mirror what happened after the number of foreign jihadist began to be dramatically reduced in Iraq – except then, many of the foreigners could be redirected to Pakistan for training and Afghanistan to fight. There is no comparable second theater now to attract these foreign fighters. This means that many of them may end up returning home to join insurgent movements in smaller theaters, such as Chechnya, Somalia, Algeria and Central Asia.

Those with the ability and means could travel to other countries where they can use their training to organize militant cells for terrorist attacks in much the same way the foreign fighters who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and left after the fall of the Soviet-backed government there went on to fight in places like Bosnia and Chechnya and formed the nucleus of al Qaeda and the current international jihadist movement.

The Next Generation

There is a big qualitative difference between the current crop of international fighters in South Waziristan and those who fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. During the earlier conflict, the foreigners were tolerated, but in general they were not seen by their Afghan counterparts as being particularly valiant or effective (though the Afghans did appreciate the cash and logistical help they provided). In many engagements the foreigners were kept out of harm’s way and saw very little intense combat, while in some cases the foreign fighters were essentially used as cannon fodder.

The perception of the foreigners began to change during the 1990s, and units of foreigners acquitted themselves well as they fought alongside Taliban units against the Northern Alliance. Also, following the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the foreign jihadists have proved themselves to be very effective at conducting terrorist attacks and operating in hostile territory.

In fact, over the past several years, we have witnessed a marked change in the ways the Afghan Taliban fight. They have abandoned some of their traditional armed assault tactics and have begun to employ al Qaeda-influenced roadside IED attacks and suicide bombings – attacks the Afghan fighters had previously considered “unmanly.” It is no mere coincidence that the number of suicide attacks and roadside IED attacks in Afghanistan increased dramatically after al Qaeda began to withdraw its forces from Iraq. There is also a direct correlation between the IED technology developed and used in Iraq and that now being employed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

All this experience in designing and manufacturing IEDs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan means that the jihadist bombmakers of today are more highly skilled than ever, and they have been sharing their experience with foreign students at training camps in places like South Waziristan. Furthermore, the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has provided a great laboratory in which jihadists can perfect their terrorist tradecraft. A form of “tactical Darwinism” has occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan as coalition firepower has weeded out most of the inept jihadist operatives. Only the strong and cunning have survived, leaving a core of hardened, competent militants. These survivors have created new tactics and have learned to manufacture new types of highly effective IEDs – technology that has already shown up in places like Algeria and Somalia. They have been permitted to impart the knowledge they have gained to another generation of young aspiring militants through training camps in places like South Waziristan.

As these foreign militants scatter to the four winds, they will be taking their skills with them. Judging from past waves of jihadist fighters, they will probably be found participating in future plots in many different parts of the world. And also judging from past cases, they will likely not participate in these plots alone.

As we have discussed in the past, the obvious weakness of the many grassroots jihadist cells that have been uncovered is their lack of terrorist tradecraft. They have the intent to do harm but not the ability, and many times the grassroots cells end up finding a government informant as they seek help acquiring weapons or constructing IEDs. When these inept “Kramer terrorists” manage to get linked up with a trained terrorist operative, they can cause considerable damage.

The possibility of these militants conducting attacks or bringing much-needed capability to grassroots cells means that the South Waziristan migration, which has almost certainly already begun, will give counterterrorism officials from Boston to Beijing something to worry about for the foreseeable future.


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