Al Qaeda’s Latest Loss

By Bruce Riedel for The Daily Beast

The reported death of Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri deals a huge hit to the terror cell, still reeling from bin Laden’s killing. Ex-CIA analyst Bruce Riedel on the impact on U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Pakistani sources are reporting the death in a drone strike this weekend of Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri. If true, it is a big setback for al Qaeda and could help ease tensions between Pakistan and the U.S. a bit.

Kashmiri is al Qaeda’s top Pakistani operative. He was born in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir on February 10, 1964. Trained in the camps of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) and then the elite Pakistani commando group, the Special Services Group (SSG), he was the darling of the Pakistani army for years. He fought in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan where he lost an eye and a finger. Then he took the war to India both in Kashmir and in New Delhi itself.

He formed his own militant group called the 313 Brigade, after the 313 fighters who joined the prophet Muhammad in an early Islamic victory. His exploits in India were legendary. He was personally decorated and thanked by the then head of Inter-services Intelligence (ISI), Mahmud Ahmad and Pakistani’s dictator, Pervez Musharraf, in 2000. But Kashmiri broke with his ISI and army friends in 2002 when Musharraf decided to give the Americans at least some help against al Qaeda.

Kashmiri took his 313 Brigade into al Qaeda’s camp and assisted in training Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and began targeting his former friends in the ISI. His teams killed at least one senior ISI officer. He was involved in an attempt to assassinate Musharraf in 2004. The United Nations credits him as a key player in the plot to murder former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

The Pakistani American David Headley, who has confessed to plotting the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, says Kashmiri was his key contact in al Qaeda. The two worked on a plot to attack a Danish newspaper office in Copenhagen in 2009. That was foiled when the FBI arrested Headley, but Kashmiri continued planning to carry out Mumbai-style attacks in Europe. Another was foiled in Denmark at the end of 2010. Kashmiri would have played an important role in helping al Qaeda recover from bin Laden’s demise. He had key connections inside the Pakistani syndicate of terror groups.

Just last week one of Pakistan’s best investigative reporters Syed Salam Shahzad was murdered after finishing a new book on al Qaeda in Pakistan. According to excerpts published in India and Pakistan, Shahzad had evidence Kashmiri may have been the real brains behind the Mumbai plot and hoped it would precipitate an Indo-Pakistani war that al Qaeda could exploit.

This is not the first time Kashmiri has been reported killed by a drone attack; he has reappeared after claims of his demise. But if this time he is dead, it is a significant setback for al Qaeda just a month after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden. Kashmiri would have played an important role in helping al Qaeda recover from bin Laden’s demise. He had key connections inside the Pakistani syndicate of terror groups with both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, and with al Qaeda operatives in Europe and fund raisers in the Persian Gulf. And he had penetrations deep inside the Pakistani army and ISI.

So both Washington and Islamabad will be glad to see him gone. Kashmiri’s demise won’t solve all the problems in the tortured American relationship with Pakistan by any means but it will help.

Of course, if Kashmiri is not dead and reappears yet again unscathed, it will only add to his credentials. Bin Laden benefited enormously from surviving the cruise missile attack that targeted him in 1998. Recriminations could damage the Pakistani-American relationship further. Nonetheless those are risks worth taking. In either case we will know soon. Al Qaeda is quick to eulogize its martyrs. If Kashmiri’s dead, they will say so.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Good Riddance!!!

Afridi Asks Zardari For Help

As Reported by The AFP

Former captain Shahid Afridi appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari for help on Wednesday after his central contract was suspended when he announced his retirement from international cricket. “I have appealed to the president to intervene urgently, also deal with other issues and save the game from getting into more crises,” Afridi told AFP by telephone from Southampton.

Afridi confirmed that the England and Wales Cricket Board stopped him from playing after the PCB revoked its permission.
“The captaincy was not an issue as I have already played under senior players, but it was a matter of self respect and honour which was hurt,” said Afridi who refused to speak about the PCB sanctions.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party has already submitted an adjournment motion in the national assembly against Afridi’s punishment.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who now heads his own opposition party, said the PCB was not run professionally.
“The board is not run like an institution,” Khan told a television channel. “Afridi feels injustice is done so he has taken a decision and you don’t change four-five captains in a year.”

“Just recently everyone was praising Afridi after he led Pakistan to the semi-final of the World Cup and then suddenly this happened,” said Khan. “The board is also run on ad-hoc basis like the country,” he added.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which belongs to the coalition government headed by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, also objected to the sanctions on Afridi. “President Zardari should take notice of the biased attitude of the board,” said MQM leader Farooq Sattar. “You don’t treat national heroes like this.”

Sports Minister Shaukatullah Khan lashed out at PCB chairman Ijaz Butt over the “injustice” and said he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who heads the sports committee in the upper house of parliament, demanded Butt’s sacking.
“A change in the PCB is imperative,” said Qureshi. “Butt has not allowed any captain to settle so it will be better to sack him.”

The 31-year-old all-rounder, dumped as one-day captain following a row with coach Waqar Younis last month, quit international cricket in protest at his treatment by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In response, the PCB suspended his central contract and revoked all his no-objection certificates, meaning he will not be officially permitted to play overseas.

The move will stop him from playing for Hampshire in England’s Twenty20 league and in next month’s Sri Lankan Premier League.
Afridi said that he came to know about his removal from the team’s captaincy through media and the board did not bother to inform him about that decision.

Soldier cited for holding off up to 30 Taliban by himself

As reported by CNN

Britain’s newest hero is a Nepali.

Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday awarded Britain’s second-highest award for bravery, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, to Acting Sgt. Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

While stationed as a lone sentry at a checkpoint in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on September 17, Pun fended off an attack by up to 30 Taliban fighters.

“There were many Taliban around me,” Pun said in an interview with British Forces News. “I thought they are definitely going to kill me. … I thought before they kill me I have to kill some of them.”

During the 15-minute battle, Pun fired more than 400 rounds of ammunition, detonated 17 grenades and a mine and even threw his gun tripod at a Taliban fighter climbing toward his position, according to British Forces News.

“He was just about to climb up there and I hit (him) with my tripod and he fell down again,” Pun told British Forces News.

Pun’s actions saved the lives of three fellow soldiers at the checkpoint and were the “bravest seen in his battalion over two hard tours in Afghanistan,” according to his medal citation.

Pun was not wounded in the firefight.

“That he survived unscathed is simply incredible,” his medal citation says. “Throughout Dip’s actions he was under almost constant intense fire. Dip’s courage and gallantry were simply astonishing.”

Pun, 31, joined the British military in 2000 and also has served in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Like other Gurkhas, Pun is from Nepal. The Gurkhas were incorporated into British forces after their fighting skill impressed the opposition British during the Nepal Wars of 1814 to 1816. As part of the peace treaty ending that conflict, Gurkhas were admitted into East India Company’s army and then into the British military.

Gurkhas recruited solely in Nepal remain Nepalese citizens during their service. Gurkha unit officers are British.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Congratulations to Sgt. Dipprasad Pun for his amazing feat of bravery and determination in his battle with the Taliban. We salute him for his gallantry and wish there were thousands more like him in the allied forces fighting the Taliban menace. If that were the case, these barbarians would be already defeated.

Pakistani Journalists Defiant at Reporter’s Burial

As Reported by The Associated Press

A Pakistani reporter who investigated terrorism and was found slain after telling a rights activist he’d been threatened by intelligence agents was buried Wednesday. Fellow journalists vowed his killing would not silence them.

Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote for the Asia Times Online and other publications. He delved into topics that were often sensitive in Pakistan, where journalists face threats from insurgents as well as a security establishment that operates largely outside the law.

“We will not shut our voices down,” said Azhar Abbas, a prominent Pakistani journalist. “The journalist community is united on this. We will not stop ”

Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010, with at least eight killed in the line of duty, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Six died in suicide attacks, the group said in a report late last year.

Despite the dangers, the media establishment in Pakistan has expanded rapidly over the past decade, and reporters here operate with tremendous freedom compared with many other developing countries.

In recent weeks, the media have carried unusually scathing coverage about the security establishment after it was caught unawares by the May 2 U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a garrison city in Pakistan’s northwest.

Shahzad’s death could heighten the criticism, though commentators are being careful about how they discuss the alleged link to spy agencies.

After disappearing Sunday from Islamabad, Shahzad’s body was found dozens of miles outside the capital on Tuesday, bearing signs of torture, police said. His death drew numerous condemnations, including from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The 40-year-old was buried in his hometown, Karachi, as hundreds of friends, relatives, political figures and fellow journalists mourned.

Sindh province Information Minister Sharjeel Memon called the killing a “cowardly act” and promised that those responsible would be brought to justice. But it’s unclear how much the weak civilian government can do if, as some suspect, Pakistani security agencies played a role.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, called the allegations “absurd.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the record.

However, Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had told him that he feared Pakistani intelligence agents were after him.

The agencies pressured him to reveal his sources in October after he wrote a story about Pakistan allegedly freeing a detained Afghan Taliban commander, according to an email Shahzad sent Hasan. Hasan said Shahzad was still worried in recent weeks, but kept up his reporting.

Just last week, Shahzad wrote a story about alleged al-Qaida infiltration of the navy. The report came after a 17-hour insurgent siege of a naval base in Pakistan’s south added to the recent humiliations suffered by security agencies.

Within days, Shahzad vanished, and his wife contacted Hasan as her husband had instructed in case he disappeared.

In a statement, Clinton said Shahzad’s reporting “brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability,” and said the U.S. supports the “Pakistani government’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.”

U.S., Pakistan, Through Thick and Thin

By Gerald F Seib for The Wall Street Journal

One diplomat long involved in the tempestuous U.S.-Pakistan relationship likens it to a Catholic marriage: There may be problems, but divorce isn’t an option.

And so it is that, almost a month after U.S. Navy SEALs entered Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, the two troubled partners find themselves not in divorce court but in an awkward but unmistakable process of reconciliation.

Signs of healing are popping up. Despite its anger and embarrassment at being left in the dark about the bin Laden raid, Pakistan’s intelligence service has begun cooperating again on a series of sensitive matters. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen have just held the obligatory kiss-and-make-up talks in Pakistan, which U.S. officials describe as blunt but useful in moving forward.

And despite widespread anger in Congress over Pakistan’s harboring, either willfully or unknowingly, the world’s leading terrorist, Obama administration officials seem to be squelching the desire to extract revenge by cutting Pakistan’s aid.

There remains the danger of a rupture, and there still could be long-term damage. Street-level anger on both sides means the relationship can’t stand too many more shocks just now.

In particular, it seems likely that one result of the trauma will be a scaling back of the drone wars—America’s use of armed drones to launch strikes inside Pakistan to attack operatives of the Taliban movement fighting U.S. forces next door in Afghanistan.

The drones likely will continue to be used against top Taliban leaders when found, but less often against lower-priority targets, and probably under new and clearer rules of cooperation with the Pakistanis, say those familiar with the effort.

Still, the reality is that the two countries don’t have much choice but to move on. Regardless of how much love is flowing at any moment, they simply need each other.

The American war against al Qaeda globally and against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan simply can’t be won without the cooperation of Pakistan. Much as Americans are infuriated by the way elements of Pakistan’s government and intelligence service hedge their bets by playing both sides in the struggle against extremism, there’s no doubt that Pakistani intelligence has been crucial in the fight.

For its part, Pakistan has, in its fit of pique over the bin Laden raid, made its best show of playing the China card to demonstrate to the U.S. that Pakistanis can find good, powerful friends in Beijing if Americans don’t treat them better. By coincidence, this has been proclaimed, officially by the two countries, the year of China-Pakistan friendship, which is a useful card for Pakistan to play right now.

But Pakistan’s post-raid overture showed the limits of the China option as much as anything else. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a four-day trip to China soon after the bin Laden operation, and came away with a Chinese pledge to speed up delivery of some previously promised fighter jets.

Mr. Gilani’s other takeaway from his visit promptly proved dubious. His defense minister announced that Pakistan had invited China to take over management of a big Pakistani port at Gwadar, and to build a new naval base there. In response, the Chinese said, essentially, “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” Whatever was discussed, it appears to be less than originally advertised.

Pakistanis as well as Americans know China has its limits as an alternative big-power friend for Islamabad. American aid can’t easily be replaced, and China doesn’t tend to dole out assistance easily. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the top market for Pakistani exports, while China ranks fifth. China’s big textile industry actually is a key international competitor to Pakistan’s own textile sector.

Ultimately, the Chinese are less likely to be helpful to Pakistan in the war against extremism than will the U.S. China tends to use partnerships abroad to solve its problems, not to help friends solve theirs.

In the meantime, real and meaningful steps have resumed in the U.S.-Pakistani intelligence relationship. Pakistan has allowed American officials to speak with the bin Laden wives found in his compound. It has returned the tail section of a U.S. helicopter lost in the raid; there was stealth technology embedded in it—technology the U.S. feared an angry Pakistan might instead share with China.

And Pakistan has agreed to allow American officials into the bin Laden compound to search for more intelligence on al Qaeda operations run from there.

The U.S. now seeks more help in fighting the Taliban inside Pakistan, and there will be a three-way American-Afghan-Pakistani meeting to discuss Afghanistan next month.

All isn’t bliss between Washington and Islamabad—not by a long shot—but those aren’t the actions of partners headed their separate ways.

Gaddafi Stadium Name Must Go

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

It has been over three months since the Arab Spring arrived on Libyan shores. The Libyan Civil War started there in February of 2011 after Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt begrudgingly relinquished power in the neighboring North African nations. At first it had appeared that Mubarak would resort to thuggery and despotic abuse of his powers. But due to the brave people in Tharir Square in Cairo, he eventually was forced out by the Egyptian army and under American pressure once the Obama administration calibrated their stance to not support a long time ally in Mubarak and instead follow the popular opinion of the people of Egypt against his autocratic rule.

Unfortunately for the people of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi is not ready to step down from over 40 years at the helm of Libyan society. His army brutally quashed a rebellion against his rule and when it appeared that many thousands more would be killed by his troops, the US and NATO forces intervened and bombed Libyan government forces. The standoff between the Libya forces of Gaddafi and the US and NATO bombings have left Libyans in the middle as their nation continues to suffer several months into the fighting.

A brutal dictator like that who cares more about holding onto power than the fate of his nation does not deserve any honors. Instead he deserves to be tried for murdering many innocent people and if found guilty he should be hanged.

Therefore it is a shame that in Pakistan, one of the country’s most important stadium continues to bare the name of the Butcher of Tripoli. Yes, Gaddafi stadium in Lahore, a venue for many Pakistan Cricket Board sanctioned domestic and international cricket matches, is named after the Libyan dictator.

The stadium was built in 1959 and was originally named Lahore Stadium. However it was renamed in 1974 to Gaddafi stadium in honor of the Libyan ruler who had given a speech in favor of Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic States Conference (OIC). The stadium also houses the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

But now, as Qaddafi continues to kill his own people in the most brutal of ways, it is time that Pakistan’s Cricket Board changes the name of the country’s premier stadium back to Lahore stadium since honoring this man responsible for indiscriminately killing his fellow citizens unnecessarily further looks negatively upon Pakistan.

A country that already has a grave public relations image problem can surely give itself a break by doing something as simple as changing the name of this stadium. Afterall, what does it say of Pakistan if it continues to honor a man like Gaddafi? Do Pakistanis not care that this man is responsible for killing thousands of his own people?

It is time to put pressure on the Pakistan Cricket Board and on the government to immediately change the name of the stadium. I know that Pakistan has many other problems inside this fractured and unstable nation to think that changing the name of Gaddafi stadium can fix all that ails the country. Nay, it is merely a drop in the bucket. There are countless other problems facing the country that are too many and too complex to list here. But one easy fix the country can do to help improve its image is to change the name of this stadium.

There is absolutely no reason that the stadium should be associated with a lunatic such as Qaddafi. The name should never have been changed to begin with no matter what support he gave to Pakistan’s nuclear aspirations. He has never been a good or stable leader. In fact, the man is thought to have been directly responsible for numerous acts of terrorism in the 1970’s and ’80’s including the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. And this was BEFORE he started killing his own people in order to quash a rebellion against his rule!

In light of the many recent embarrassments for the nation such as Osama Bin Laden’s hiding in their country, the continued imprisonment of Asia Bibi, the killings of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistanis must decide whether or not they want to join the community of nations or become a pariah state much like North Korea, Libya and Iran. Changing the name of the stadium is a small step, but it is indeed a step in the right direction.

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

India and Pakistan Discuss Demilitarisation of Siachen

As Reported by The Economic Times

India and Pakistan today discussed demilitarisation of Siachen, a mountainous region where borderline is not demarcated, in a “constructive framework”, picking up the threads of the issue after a gap of three years.

The issue came up for discussion during the 12th round of two-day Defence Secretary level talks between the two sides.

“The talks were held in a constructive framework. Both sides apprised each other of their perception about the Siachen issue and also discussed the surrounding issues,” Defence Ministry officials said.

Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar led the Indian delegation at the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Lt General (Retd) Syed Ather Ali.

The decision to resume the talks between the two countries was taken last year during the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu when they decided to take forward the dialogue process.

While the Pakistani delegation has two civilian officials and four military officers, the Indian side includes Special Secretary R K Mathur, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt General A M Verma and Surveyor General S Subha Rao.

The Pakistani Defence Secretary met Defence Minister A K Antony in the afternoon for over 20 minutes.

The two sides may come up with a joint statement tomorrow after the talks, the officials said.

Pakistan has been asking for demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier and raised the issue of climate change there due to presence of troops from both sides and its effects on the environment.

Siachen, with an area of over 2500 sq km, the world’s highest militarised zone, has been a long pending issue between India and Pakistan over differences on the location of the 110-km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which passes through the Soltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier.

%d bloggers like this: