Posts Tagged ‘ attacks ’

Taliban 201- The Rise of The Pakistani Taliban

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Peshawar, Pakistan- Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, using  powerful bombs and rocket launchers in a sophisticated and daring attack killing 8 people, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 48 people elsewhere in the Swat valley. The attacks came as the United States has increased its airstrikes on targets both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nearly decade long war waged against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan since 9-11 has created safe areas inside Pakistan for these militants to regroup and band with Pakistani militants sympathetic to their cause. Often, the militants on the Pakistani side and the Afghani Taliban share the Pashtun tribal and ethnic links among the border areas of both countries.

The US bombing of Afghanistan since late 2001 had pushed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants to the mountains near the border with Pakistan. With help from sympathetic militant tribal warriors from the Pakistani side, the Taliban were able to dig in and have been able to fight the American forces for nearly a decade now. The onslaught by US and NATO forces continues in Afghanistan, but now for most of last year and certainly this year, the war has shifted to the streets and cities of Pakistan.

Now, much like Afghanistan, Pakistan too is a country that finds itself engulfed in the flames of religious extremism at the hands of determined and highly disciplined thugs. It used to be back during the Soviet-Afghan War, the only place perhaps not entirely safe inside Pakistan was Peshawar. Now, not one city or town of Pakistan has been spared from the violence by the Taliban. Back then, Peshawar was a city where attacks would happen frequently and often. During the 1980’s, the city became a haven for both jihadi militants fighting against the godless system of communism, and a base for spies as both the United States and Saudi Arabia funded a mujahedeen guerrilla war to defeat the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. President Reagan and General Zia of Pakistan used the fervor of religion to incite able bodied boys and men of Afghanistan and their distant cousins from the border area in Pakistan, along with thousands of volunteer Muslim fighters from across the Arab and Muslim world, to come and fight the Soviet Red Army. It was seen as a duty to come defend a Muslim land from occupation by a regime that would not allow the worship of Allah as communism discourages religion and encourages a sectarian society.

That strategy by General Zia ul Haq to promote the fight against the Russians as a holy war or jihad was brilliant at first. It mobilized not just every Muslim male in Afghanistan to stand and fight for his faith and their way of life, while also defending the country from invaders, but it also garnered the sympathy and enlistment of thousands upon thousands of Pakistani and Arab Muslim fighters to join the cause of these mujahedeen, as one who engages in jihad is called. The riling up of religious fervor and militant Islam was deemed necessary by both Reagan and Zia at the time as they sought to defeat the communists at all costs from succeeding in Afghanistan. It would not seem likely at the time, that this very same entity would become enemy number one of both the US and Pakistan a decade later.

It was monumental, it was historic,” retired Pakistani general Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI military spy agency from 1987-1989, said of Reagan’s role in defeating the Soviets. “We were receiving arms and logistics from the CIA, we were partners in this struggle,” Gul said, estimating the CIA spent up to $7bn in supplying arms and logistics to Islamic fighters or “jihadis.” “The jihadis he supported. It was their resistance against the forces of occupation and repression – that’s what jihad is – that Reagan identified himself with,” Gul said. “His greatest achievement was that he stood behind the Islamic world when it was arrayed against the Soviet empire.”

Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari Rivzi stated that “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban took shape later on, but they grew from this period of jihadism against the Soviets and with the initial help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia along with the military and economic assistance from the United States to fight the Soviets during the ‘80’s. Rizvi sees the roots of the militancy that now ravages Pakistan and Afghanistan as having its beginnings from this period of war against the Soviets army.

That war with the Russians lasted almost 10 years. By the time the USSR pulled out all its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had been completely destroyed. What was left of any government or authority of any sort was now held in the hands of a few militias and various warriors who commanded thousands of tribal and other ethnic fighters under them. These militias immediately started warring amongst themselves for more and more control of the country. The already weak, nonexistent central government of Afghanistan, post Soviet pullout was not able to cope and quickly capitulated. During the power vacuum that resulted, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, realized the chance to wield power inside Afghanistan and threw its support behind a religious student movement based out of Kandahar. The ISI had previously assisted the cause to fight the Soviets by helping gather and organize radical Muslims from around the world to come and assist the Afghani mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets and had therefore developed good contacts with various religious groups including the young Taliban students and the fast growing movement.

The Afghani population initially welcomed the Taliban as they represented fairness and a rule of law over the notorious corruption, brutality and constant infighting of the warlord militias. Soon, with popular citizen support, along with Pakistan’s help, the Taliban became the dominant group within the country and soon held the seat of power in Kabul. Its leader Mullah Omar, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and when the US forces came to Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden, he gave the Al Qaeda leader refuge and in essence, became a fugitive of the US in the process for harboring America’s Most Wanted.

Fast forward to nearly nine years later as the war in Afghanistan continues against the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda responsible for the 9-11 attacks. However, the Taliban have grown and laid roots inside Pakistan also now as the nearly decade long war at the border with Afghanistan has ratcheted up sympathy by locals Pakistani Pashtun tribes for their brethren being bombed by both Pakistani and American forces. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan known as the Pakistani Taliban formed soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Pakistani army’s offensive at the tribal areas near the border to combat the militants. The Pakistani Taliban led by the recently killed Baitullah Mehsud, has been largely responsible for hundreds of attacks in all major cities of Pakistan including Monday’s bombing of the American consulate in Peshawar.

The war in Afghanistan by the US against the Taliban that harbored and sheltered Bin Laden and the 9-11 killers of Al Qaeda is much the same as the war between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley and the North West Frontier Province as well as in various cities of the country. This war has been brought home to the citizens of Pakistan. Over the last few months, bomb blasts in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and various other cities have now personalized this conflict for the average Pakistani as no longer a battle or skirmish at the border far away in the northwest of Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan.

No, the nearly daily attacks all over the country by the militants on government installations, public institutions like universities, factories and residential areas as well as markets and restaurants has made the country much less safer than at any time in its 63 year history. Many Pakistanis now are beginning to realize that the Taliban, operating with impunity all over Pakistan, pose a much bigger threat to the sovereignty and republic of Pakistan than any threat from anywhere else, including from that eternal archrival to the east, India. It is now well understood by both partners in this fight that only a sustained and vigorous fight taken to the militants inside both countries by the US and Pakistan over a long period of time can hope to defeat this disease known as the Taliban.

For an earlier report titled Taliban 101- Origins and History, Please click on this link:

https://pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/taliban-101-origins-and-history/

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension

By Peter Spiegel and Matthew Rosenberg for The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

Pakistani Rangers (L) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform the daily retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Border at Wagah on December 26, 2009. The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.

The U.S. has invested heavily in its own relations with Pakistan in recent months, agreeing to a $7.5 billion aid package and sending top military and diplomatic officials to Islamabad on repeated visits. The public embrace, which reached a high point last month in high-profile talks in Washington, reflects the Obama administration’s belief that Pakistan must be convinced to change its strategic calculus and take a more assertive stance against militants based in its western tribal regions over the course of the next year in order to turn the tide in Afghanistan.

A debate continues within the administration over how hard to push India, which has long resisted outside intervention in the conflict with its neighbor. The Pentagon, in particular, has sought more pressure on New Delhi, according to U.S. and Indian officials. Current and former U.S. officials said the discussion in Washington over how to approach India has intensified as Pakistan ratchets up requests that the U.S. intercede in a series of continuing disputes.

Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as providing “strategic depth”—essentially, a buffer zone—in a potential conflict with India. Some U.S. officials believe Islamabad will remain reluctant to wholeheartedly fight the Islamic militants based on its Afghan border unless the sense of threat from India is reduced.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken the political risk of pursuing peace talks with Pakistan, but faces significant domestic opposition to any additional outreach without Pakistani moves to further clamp down on Islamic militants who have targeted India.

U.S. and Indian officials say the Obama administration has so far made few concrete demands of New Delhi. According to U.S. officials, the only specific request has been to discourage India from getting more involved in training the Afghan military, to ease Pakistani concerns about getting squeezed by India on two borders.

“This is an administration that’s deeply divided about the wisdom of leaning on India to solve U.S. problems with Pakistan,” said Ashley Tellis, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has discussed the issue with senior officials in the U.S. and India. “There are still important constituencies within the administration that have not given up hope that India represents the answer.”

India has long resisted outside involvement in its differences with Pakistan, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir. But, according to a U.S. government official, a 56-page dossier presented by the Pakistani government to the Obama administration ahead of high-level talks in Washington last month contained a litany of accusations against the Indian government, and suggestions the U.S. intercede on Pakistan’s behalf.

The official said the document alleges that India has never accepted Pakistan’s sovereignty as an independent state, and accuses India of diverting water from the Indus River and fomenting separatism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled that Washington isn’t interested in mediating on water issues, which are covered by a bilateral treaty.

The White House declined to comment on Mr. Obama’s directive or on the debate within the administration over India policy. The directive to top foreign-policy and national-security officials was summarized in a memo written by National Security Adviser James Jones at the end of the White House’s three-month review of Afghan war policy in December.

An Indian government official said the U.S.’s increasing attention to Pakistani concerns hasn’t hurt bilateral relations overall. “Our relationship is mature—of course we have disagreements, but we’re trying not to have knee-jerk reactions,” the Indian official said.

According to U.S. and Indian officials, the Pentagon has emerged in internal Obama administration debates as an active lobbyist for more pressure on India, with some officials already informally pressing Indian officials to take Pakistan’s concerns more seriously. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. government’s prime interlocutor with the powerful head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has been among the more vocal advocates of a greater Indian role, according to a U.S. military official, encouraging New Delhi to be more “transparent” about its activities along the countries’ shared border and to cooperate more with Pakistan.

In interviews, U.S. military officials were circumspect about what specific moves they would like to see from New Delhi. But according to people who have discussed India policy with Pentagon officials, the ideas discussed in internal debates include reducing the number of Indian troops in Kashmir or pulling back forces along the border.

“They say, ‘The Pakistanis have this perception and you have to deal with the perception’,” said one foreign diplomat who has discussed India’s role with Pentagon officials. An Indian defense ministry spokesman said his country’s army has already moved about 30,000 troops out of Kashmir in recent years.

The State Department has resisted such moves to pressure India, according to current and former U.S. officials, insisting they could backfire. These officials have argued that the most recent promising peace effort—secret reconciliation talks several years ago between Indian Prime Minster Singh and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf—occurred without U.S. involvement.

Progress, For a Price, in Pakistan

By Doyle McManus for The Los Angeles Times

In 2001, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, President George W. Bush gave Pakistan’s then-leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a choice: He was either with us or against us. Musharraf chose to become an ally, but the question ever since has been whether that shotgun marriage can mature into a healthy adult relationship. At times, the prospect has seemed far from reach.

The world’s second-most-populous Muslim country is caught in a brutal internal struggle between extremism and moderation. Most of its people tell pollsters they don’t like the United States and wish we’d go away. The tribesmen of its western frontier shelter Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the United States can’t forget how, in the 1980s, Pakistan built nuclear weapons — and then later exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

But in recent months, there has been progress in the relationship. Military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has increased significantly. Pakistan has allowed the CIA to increase its missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have arrested several Taliban leaders and allowed U.S. intelligence officers to question them. And now Pakistan is offering to increase its own military operations in North Waziristan, the presumed lair of Bin Laden. All that cooperation came at a price, of course: a flood of U.S. military and economic aid.

And last week, the Pakistanis came to Washington to press for more. The academic criticism of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is that it is “transactional” — nothing more than a series of bargains between buyers and sellers who don’t trust each other much. That’s still mostly true. Pakistan’s delegation arrived with a 56-page shopping list covering everything from military equipment to education and cultural exchanges. And one Pakistani official, asked during the visit whether his government was truly willing to act against the havens that allow the Taliban to maintain bases in Pakistan, replied frankly: “Yes — but at a price.”

After a series of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan’s ebullient foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, declared: “I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.” But he used the future tense. In the meantime, there are things to work out. Pakistan is clearly worried about what happens when the United States begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.

Although Obama administration officials have tried to reassure Pakistan that Washington’s commitment to the region is for the long haul, uncertainty remains. “Our fear is . . . that we get into a fight with these guys [the Taliban], and you walk away, and we’re still there,” a Pakistani official said. Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, spent part of his time in Washington visiting Congress with PowerPoint slides to show that Pakistan has committed more troops to its fight against insurgents than the United States has on the ground in Afghanistan, and that it has suffered almost 30,000 killed and wounded in the process.

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide. The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy. The United States told the Pakistanis that would have to wait. The memory of having to clamp sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program is still too fresh. But it was a sign of improving relations that the idea wasn’t rejected completely.

 In 2001, the United States sought a new relationship with Pakistan mostly because it was next to Afghanistan — and thus a country we would need for moving military supplies and basing drones. But that thinking has slowly evolved. In the long run, with its population of 170 million people — not to mention its cache of nuclear weapons — Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan.

“We’re engaging with Pakistan because we’re afraid of it,” says Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University. “It’s the scariest country in the region. Because of Afghanistan, it’s been treated as if it were a subsidiary issue. But Pakistan should be the primary issue.” The Americans are working hard to convince the Pakistanis that they are interested in Pakistan’s stability for its own sake, not just because it’s next door to Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are working hard to convince the Americans that they are committed to defeating the extremists in their midst. It’s not a strategic relationship yet. If it’s a partnership, it’s still a wary one. But that’s progress.

Pakistan-Born Cabdriver In Chicago Accused of Helping Al-Qaeda

By Carrie Johnson for The Washington Post

A Chicago taxi driver born in Pakistan was arrested Friday on two charges of providing material support to terrorists — allegedly attempting to funnel money to al-Qaeda and discussing an attack on a U.S. stadium.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, does not pose an imminent danger to Americans, prosecutors said. But they said Khan, 56, had claimed he knew Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistan-based extremist leader with close ties to al-Qaeda.

Kashmiri faces criminal charges in the United States for allegedly conspiring with another Chicagoan, David C. Headley, to kill employees of a Danish newspaper that published derogatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

The court papers in Khan’s case describe a March 11 phone call in which he appeared to discuss attacking an unnamed U.S. stadium in August with bombs that go “boom, boom, boom, boom.”

Authorities sent an undercover agent to meet with Khan and give him $1,000 to send to Kashmiri, the court papers said. Khan, 56, of the North Side, was then charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism in a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed Friday following his arrest, the release said. The investigation is continuing.

A Victory For Obama, From An Unlikely Quarter-Pakistan

By Fareed Zakaria for Newsweek

President Obama gets much credit for changing America’s image in the world—he was probably awarded the Nobel Prize for doing so. But if you asked even devoted fans to cite a specific foreign-policy achievement, they would probably hesitate. “It’s too soon for that,” they would say. But in fact, there is a place where Barack Obama’s foreign policy is working, and one that is crucial to U.S. national security—Pakistan.

There has been a spate of good news coming out of that complicated country, which has long promised to take action against Islamic militants but rarely done so. (The reason: Pakistan has used many of these same militants to destabilize its traditional foe, India, and to gain influence in Afghanistan.) Over the past few months, the Pakistani military has engaged in serious and successful operations in the militant havens of Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, and Bajaur. Some of these areas are badlands where no Pakistani government has been able to establish its writ, so the achievement is all the more important. The Pakistanis have also ramped up their intelligence sharing with the U.S. This latter process led to the arrest a month ago of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, among other Taliban figures.

Some caveats: most of the Taliban who have been captured are small fish, and the Pakistani military has a history of “catching and releasing” terrorists so that they can impress Americans but still maintain their ties with the militants. But there does seem to be a shift in Pakistani behavior. Why it’s taken place and how it might continue is a case study in the nature and limits of foreign-policy successes.

First, the Obama administration de-fined the problem correctly. Senior ad-ministration officials stopped referring to America’s efforts in Afghanistan and instead spoke constantly of “AfPak,” to emphasize the notion that success in Afghanistan depended on actions taken in Pakistan. This dismayed the Pakistanis but they got the message. They were on notice to show they were part of the solution, not the problem.

Second, the administration used both sticks and carrots. For his first state dinner, Obama pointedly invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—clearly not Pakistan’s first choice. Obama made clear that America would continue to pursue the special relationship forged with India under the Bush administration, including a far-reaching deal on nuclear cooperation. But at the same time, the White House insisted it wanted a deep, long-term, and positive relationship with Pakistan. Sens. John Kerry and Dick Lugar put together the largest nonmilitary package of U.S. assistance for the country ever. Aid to the Pakistani military is also growing rapidly.

Third, it put in time and effort. The administration has adopted what Central Command’s Gen. David Petraeus calls a “whole of government” approach to Pakistan. All elements of U.S. power and diplomacy have been deployed. Pakistan has received more than 25 visits by senior administration officials in the past year, all pushing the Pakistani military to deliver on commitments to fight the militants.

Finally, as always, luck and timing have played a key role. The militants in Pakistan, like those associated with Al Qaeda almost everywhere, went too far, brutally killing civilians, shutting down girls’ schools, and creating an atmosphere of medievalism. Pakistan’s public, which had tended to downplay the problem of terrorism, now saw it as “Pakistan’s war.” The Army, reading the street, felt it had to show results.

These results are still tentative. Pakistan’s military retains its obsession with India—how else to justify a vast budget in a small, poor nation? It has still not acted seriously against any of the major militant groups active against Afghanistan, India, or the United States. The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and many smaller groups all operate with impunity within Pakistan. But the Pakistani military is doing more than it has before, and that counts as success in the world of foreign policy.

Such success will endure only if the Obama administration keeps at it. There are some who believe that Pakistan has changed its basic strategy and now understands that it should cut its ties to these groups altogether. Strangely this naive view is held by the U.S. military, whose top brass have spent so many hours with their counterparts in Islamabad that they’ve gone native. It’s up to Obama and his team to remind the generals that pressing Pakistan is a lot like running on a treadmill. If you stop, you move backward, and, most likely, you fall down.

Lahore bombing is Pakistan’s bloodiest this year

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

A bombing in the eastern city of Lahore has killed at least 43 people – the fifth terrorist attack this week as extremists in Pakistan demonstrate their continued ability to strike.

The bloodiest terrorist strike in Pakistan this year was carried out by two attackers wearing suicide jackets who walked into a busy market in a high security military district and blew themselves up. The target appeared to be passing military vehicles but most of the victims were civilians. Shops in the market were ripped apart, with children crossing the road and people waiting at a bus stop among the victims. About 10 soldiers were killed and 100 injured, said the Lahore police chief, Parvaiz Rathore.

“There were about 10 to 15 seconds between the blasts. Both were suicide attacks,” a senior local government official, Sajjad Bhutta, said at the site. “The maximum preventative measures were being taken but these people find support from somewhere.” The bombers struck at 1pm, around the time of Friday prayers, in the cantonment area, home to the local army garrison and one of Lahore’s most upmarket residential districts.

Lahore is the bustling cultural hub of Pakistan and had enjoyed several weeks of relative peace. It is the capital of the eastern Punjab province, Pakistan’s most densely populated area and its political heartland. The suicide bombings were followed in the evening by three smaller blasts in a residential area across town. They caused panic but damage was reported to be minor. The authorities repeated their regular assertion that the Taliban and other extremist groups have been defeated. The provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah , said: “We broke their networks. That’s why they have not been able to strike for a considerable time.”

But it was the second bombing this week in Lahore. A car bombing on Monday at a police interrogation centre killed 14 people. Other attacks this week included a gun and grenade assault on a US Christian aid agency’s office in the north-west, killing six of its staff, all Pakistani nationals. “They (the extremists) are trying to project their power, telling the government that they are still alive,” said analyst Imtiaz Gul, author of The al-Qaida Connection. “They are still far from broken. It’s going to be a long haul.”

In 2009 that Lahore was dragged into the bloody insurgency in Pakistan, which claimed around 3,000 lives last year, with a series of spectacular attacks including a gun assault on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. The last major attack in Lahore was in December when a market was bombed, killing at least 49 people. The launch of a military offensive in South Waziristan, on the Afghan border, the base of the Pakistani Taliban, in October last year was accompanied by a vicious spate of terrorist reprisals but the country had been relatively peaceful this year.

Attacks By the Taliban Illustrate their Growing Strength in the Region

Peshawar, Pakistan- A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle packed with explosives on New Year’s Day in a crowd of people watching a volleyball tournament killing at least 75 people, wounding another 60, of which 13 are in critical condition. Police stated that they believed that the attack was directed towards anti-Taliban leaders of local groups made up of ordinary residents of the area who had recently formed armed local militias to help the government fight the Taliban. The blasts demonstrate the capabilities of the Taliban who also were responsible for the killing of seven American CIA employees at an agency base in Khost, Afghanistan the same day.

The targeting and the killing of both the anti-Taliban civilians as well as the CIA employees is an alarming start to a new year in the region as the Taliban have stepped up their efforts against American troops, Pakistani security forces, civilians and anyone else that challenges them.

Analysts believe that the Afghani Taliban has agreed to bury its differences with the Pakistani Taliban and join forces after President Obama announced plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and hunker down for the foreseeable future in a protracted conflict with the armed group. The Pakistani Taliban is an offshoot of the Afghani Taliban and is led by veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan who come from the border regions with Pakistan. Although they have always supported the fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan by supplying fighters, training and logistical aid, they have concentrated on battling the Pakistani government. Many believe that the Pakistani Taliban provides an essential rear base to for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

This new Taliban alliance has raised concerns for the US and NATO forces where generals are forecasting that the conflict will only worsen this year as Friday’s attacks are proving the grave assessment correct. The attack was not far from South Waziristan, where the Pakistan army is waging an offensive against the Pakistan Taliban. Western intelligence agencies believe that time is running out in the fight to eradicate the Taliban from Afghanistan as they are evolving, adapting and getting better organized and resilient as the nearly decade long conflict rages on.

The insurgency is organized, increasingly effective and growing more cohesive, said a senior intelligence officer with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). “The insurgent strength is enabled by the weakness of the Afghan government,” the officer told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban is funding its operations, which he estimated to cost between 100 million to 200 million dollars a year, through “Al-Qaeda, drugs and taxing the people. “Its goal is to “establish Al-Qaeda as a global entity”, ridding the region of foreign forces and establishing a caliphate, or Islamic state, and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan work together to those ends stated the officer.

It is apparent that the stepped up offensive on the security forces and civilians by both the Pakistani and the Afghani Taliban on both sides of the border is an illustration of both their strength and resolve in the fighting the government forces. Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and NATO forces must redouble their efforts and provide increased financial, military and logistical support if this formidable enemy is to be defeated, let alone eradicated from the region.

 Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

War on Terror Requires Continued Muslim Support From Friends and Family of Suspects

Detroit, USA- The attempted Christmas Day foiled terror attack proved that there are terrorists out there still very much planning and attempting to carry out attacks on the United States and Europe. The alleged terrorist is a 23 year old man from an affluent family in Nigeria. The suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, boarded a plane from Amsterdam headed to Detroit, Michigan. The young man’s father, who is a prominent banker in Nigeria, had previously notified the American embassy in Lagos, Nigeria that his son may have become radicalized and he was concerned that he may carry out an attack based on his extremist views.

The American authorities had placed Abdulmutallab on a watch list known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list which has roughly 550,000 names. But despite being on this list, being denied a visa for the United Kingdom, and the fact that his father warned authorities a month ago, Abdulmutallab managed to buy a one way ticket purchased with cash, boarded a plane with no luggage, and snuck past security and screening at Amsterdam airport and almost succeeded in creating a Christmas Day massacre somewhere over the Atlantic or the United States.

The suspect has claimed to have received training and instructions from Al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, a country known for an active Al-Qaeda network called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is also the paternal homeland of Al-Qaeda chief, Osama Bin Laden.

It is simply good fortune that the suspect was incompetent in carrying out the detonation on his device, which authorities say would have brought down the plane. Also helpful was the fact that there were several alert and vigilant passengers who were quick to prevent Abdulmutallab from succeeding in mass murder. Despite all the technological and security advances, the last line of defense always appears to be other passengers and civilians who must heroically act to stop these fundamentalists from carrying out their attacks.

There is a good deal to be learned by American intelligence and airport security agencies to ensure that terrorist incidents like these are prevented by following the clues and connecting the dots much earlier in order to avoid a catastrophe. The various agencies of the United States from the embassies and foreign missions to FBI, TSA, and Homeland Security must work closely to identify individuals who have been placed on strict watch lists. Also needed are very stringent security procedures for international flights coming to the United States, as the majority of the terrorists have attempted to blow up planes inbound to the United States from abroad. Also, authorities must ask themselves how they did not do enough after the young man’s father himself alerted US officials to inform them he was worried his son may have become radicalized and may be planning an attack.

The obvious good news that came out of this incident is that the terrorist attack was foiled and no one was injured. A closer look at the facts should also hearten the American public that for the second straight potential terrorist incident, a Muslim family member willingly and proactively alerted the authorities regarding the suspicious activities of their family member. Just as we saw with the family of the five Washington DC men who are accused of planning attacks on the US and are currently in detention in Pakistan, we should take heart in the fact that Abdulmutallab’s father felt compelled to notify American authorities of his son’s radicalization and possible terrorist planning.

It is sad to see an uptick in the amounts of terrorist incidents in the last few months, but it is also nonetheless heartening to see that Muslim family members are willing to step forward to thwart terrorist attacks and alert the authorities whenever they have suspected them to have become extremist and radicalized in nature and planning attacks. The recent events show that the authorities must continue to rely on Muslim communities to step forward and offer any assistance they can to prevent any future terrorist attacks as authorities tighten their security procedures to continue to protect the public.

Reported by Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Pakistani court suspends deportation as another case of homegrown terror troubles US authorities

Karachi, Pakistan- Pakistani police on Monday seized a luggage and a cell phone from a hotel where three of the five Americans who were arrested on suspicion of terrorism planning and militant links stayed. A court has ruled that the men cannot be deported to the United States until the judges review their case.  Pakistani police has alleged that the five young Americans intended to join militant and extremist groups in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This case is troubling as it would appear that Americans and Western raised men are traveling to Pakistan to link up with Al-Qaeda and other militant groups like the Taliban.

Pakistani police had searched their hotel, aptly named Saddam Hotel in the southern city of Karachi.  The detainees have been accused of using the internet and such sites as Facebook and Youtube to reach out and connect to extremist groups and have been said to have been in contacts with a Taliban recruiter also.  The Pakistani court actions are intended to prevent the deportation of the accused to the United States until the courts in Pakistan can ascertain the facts and review the case.

The men, who are from the Washington DC area were picked up last week by Pakistani authorities after their worried families in the US contacted the FBI about their missing sons and enlisted their help in tracking the men down. The authorities were given a farewell video found by one of the family members that showed scenes of war and called for Muslims to be defended. FBI agents, who have had some access to the men, are trying to see if there is enough evidence to charge the men with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group.

A US government official was satisfied with the Pakistani government’s assistance stating that “We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Pakistani authorities, both on the diplomatic side and on the law enforcement side,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, “And the Pakistani authorities granted us access to the individuals within 24 hours of our request, which is a very speedy response.”

The threat posed by homegrown terrorists in the United States and in European countries is a growing concern for the FBI and US agencies. The incidents such as the Fort Hood shooting where Major Nidal Hasan allegedly shot and killed 13 fellow soldiers at the Texas base last month do nothing but further raise those concerns. Then there’s David Headley, an American born Muslim to mixed ancestry who is indicted in the Mumbai blasts of November 2008. And now comes the story of the five Muslim American men arrested in Pakistan who were interested in waging  jihad against the US.

It is too early to call it a growing trend, but the incidents and their frequency does suggest that there is certainly a minority segment of very young Muslim males who somehow are being radicalized not in strict Afghanistan or Pakistan or somewhere in Iran. Rather, in the streets of Virginia, New York, Chicago and other cities, certain young Muslim males are becoming radicalized and becoming extremists. This phenomenon can be best described as a catch 22. You see, these radicalized and misguided men feel that because the United States is waging wars in Muslin countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it is being an oppressor. To these men, defending Muslim lands from an outsider and an oppressor is an obligation and a duty and is a call for every Muslim. On the other side, there is the American policy of engagement of the enemy on its turf, as is seen in the Bush doctrine. “Take the war to the terrorists” as President Bush so famously put it in 2001.  These wars that were initiated to be pre-emptive in the case of Iraq and retribution in the case of Afghanistan, have inadvertently become the cause célèbre of these jihadists and young extremists.

In essence, there is a vicious cycle of violence at work here. We have American troops in Afghanistan who are there to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan so that the US is safe from a terrorist attack hatched overseas. Yet, the next threat may actually be coming from an American born Muslim who is being alienated and radicalized due to the “unjust” war against his “brothers” constant 24 hour cable news coverage, satellite TV and foreign news channels, the internet websites and other sources.

As instances of homegrown Muslim radicalization grow or come into the limelight, it is imperative that the vast majority of peaceful, law abiding and patriotic American Muslims keep vigilant and mindful of the few in their midst who may be becoming radicalized in front of their eyes. It is vital that the Muslim community speak up as the parents of these young men did and alerted the authorities when they became concerned that they may have some sinister designs after discovering their farewell video. It is together with our cooperation with the authorities that we can sniff out these lost individuals before they do any harm to anyone or to an entire religion. The mosques and Islamic centers must do more to ensure that there is no radicalization or fiery sermons. There needs to be a conscientious effort on the part of the American Muslim community of progressives and moderates to speak up and chastise those that are becoming extremists within their midst in order to prevent the next Fort Hood massacare or the next Mumbai.

 Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Sri Lanka to Train Pakistan Army in Counter Insurgency Operations

Colombo, Sri Lanka- The government of Sri Lanka has stated that it has accepted the request of the Pakistani army to assist its personnel in training for counter insurgency operations against militants after the success of the Sri Lankan army in defeating the Tamil Tigers.

In May of this year, the Sri Lankan government announced victory over the rebel Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka who had waged a civil war in the northern and eastern Sri Lanka against the government forces. The Tamil rebels wanted a separate country for the minority Tamil population of Sri Lanka from the majority Sinhalese population. The conflict between the rebels which lasted over 25 years and killed over 80,000 people was one of the longest and most brutal insurgency in all of Asia.

After mounting impressive ground offensives against the rebels earlier this year, the Sri Lankan army captured and killed Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) who had founded the rebel group in 1976.

The LTTE was instrumental in developing child soldiers, women bombers and inventors of the suicide belt and were notoriously effective in their activities and very well organized, hence the lasting of the conflict for almost three decades. Due to the success of the Sri Lankan army in winning the civil war against the Tamil Tigers earlier this year, many nations including the United States, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, and now Pakistan have sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan army in fighting insurgents.

It should be noted that earlier this year the Sri Lankan cricket team came under attack while in Pakistan to play a cricket match by Pakistani militants in a highly embarrassing incident for the Pakistani government in providing security to visiting sporting teams from other countries. Both countries have historically enjoyed warm relations and the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team was wholly unexpected by the authorities and only the heroics of the Pakistani bus driver avoided mass casualties.

It is commendable that Sri Lanka has offered to help Pakistan in strategies to fight militants in its own country and also a positive sign that the government of Pakistan is willing to ask for assistance of other countries that have had both experience in fighting militants and also demonstrable success over the militias and terrorists in their own countries. Pakistan can use all the help it can get in its fight against both the Taliban as well as many other militant and terrorist groups within its borders who appear to attack at whim.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Lone Surviving Mumbai Attacker Pleads Guilty

Mumbai, India- The only surviving gunman from last year’s Mumbai attacks in India’s financial and entertainment capital which killed at least 173 people and wounded more than 300, pleaded guilty today in an Indian court. The confession of guilt from Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, 21 years of age, took many in the court by surprise including the lead prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam.

“He pleaded guilty in court today “a senior police officer told the Associated Press reporter. “He has confessed to his role and the fact that he was involved in the attacks that killed so many people during the attacks. He admitted to both being a part of the planning as well as the execution of the attacks”, stated the officer who was present in court.

Kasab, had earlier pleaded not guilty in May prior to the start of the trial, now faces a  possible death sentence as the court can proceed to the sentencing portion rather than continue with the trial in bringing about a guilty verdict.  During a routine interrogation of the witnesses in his trial, Kasab got up and told the court he had something to say and proceeded to confess his involvement in the attacks.  He also admitted that the closed-circuit video was of him, and he narrated the entire of sequence of events in detail to corroborate his involvement in the crime.

Analysts believe the guilty plea will help Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari’s stance that the country must confront the truth about its militant ties and organizations that operate within its borders. Zardari himself is a victim of such terrorist attacks as his wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto too was killed by suspected militants in December of 2007 while campaigning for office and running on a platform of wiping out the militant threat inside Pakistan.

This admission of guilt on the part of Kasab also should allow Pakistan to press the individuals in its custody that are believed to have been a part of Kasab’s network to be brought to justice as well. One hopes that Pakistan is able to secure guilty pleas against the individuals in its custody and brings some justice to the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones or who were seriously injured by the cowardly attackers preying on innocent civilians. A just and fair trial with guilty pleas and full cooperation is needed on the part of the Pakistani government before India would agree to move ahead with the now stalled peace process between the two nuclear armed hostile nations.

 by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Bullseye for the Bullies

 

The Taliban are the people’s enemy #1 for Pakistan and for people in Afghanistan. This menace must be wiped out and its leaders jailed and their weapons confiscated and if they are not willing to lay down arms peacefully to the will of the state, they should be made to bear full punishment by the rule of the law.

Editorial opinion by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Pakistanis for Peace

A little over two weeks have passed since the attacks in Mumbai, India. Since then there has been new information presented to Pakistani authorities providing evidence that militant extremist groups inside Pakistan were involved in planning and carrying out the attacks. Although at this time it is unlikely that a full scale war will break out between India and Pakistan, It is assumed that India may be considering several options including strategic attacks inside Pakistan where these groups are operating and have their camps. Combined with the American bombings inside Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, this is exactly the sort of thing the army has feared. Having two borders to worry about in addition to unrest within the country due to the lack of safety and security for citizens and foreigners alike makes it a very difficult time to be the head of the army as is General Kiyani.

From the attacks that happened in India 2 weeks ago, arose a small but determined movement within the Pakistani community inside Pakistan and abroad where 3-6 million people of Pakistani origin live around the world. Pakistanis for Peace stared as a group on Facebook into an idea for a global forum for Pakistani and non Pakistani people to come together and demand a change for peace with India. We are tired of seeing Muslims killing Muslims because one is Shia and one is Sunni. We are tired seeing death and destruction brought to every corner of our beautiful country. First it was Peshawer during the Afghan-Russian war. Then the bombs and attacks happened frequently in Karachi. Finally Lahore and other cities were engulfed in constant violence. And now finally even Islamabad is not left untouched with the recent violence at the Lal Masjid and more recently with the horrific destruction of the Islamabad Marriott. Most importantly, decent and law abiding Pakistanis and Overseas Pakistanis are sick and tired of having to feel embarassed when we now have to tell someone when we first meet them about where we are from. A sample conversation goes like this: “Hi, nice to meet you. I am So and so.” “Where am I from?” “I am originally from Pakistan. Oh and by the way, no I am not a terrorist, I am one of the nice guys from Pakistan you never hear about”

Honestly, it should never come to that in real life. But it really has. Many Pakistanis who have never left the country do not know what it is like to go outside Pakistan. Especially to Europe or North America. We are looked upon with more suspicion now than ever. In a recent survey done in the United Kingdom, the average person assumed that Pakistan was either the country most responsible for terrorism around the world or was in the top 5 of countries listed by the survey respondant. It is a damn shame and I for one as a Pakistani American am going to do everything I can to get people inside and outside Pakistan to join us in our quest to bring a normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. Over 60 years of hostility has now only made things that much more dangerous for the neighborhood. We are both nuclear armed nations and with rampant corruption in both countries, poverty and extremist groups and terrorists makes it a very volatile situation with a very dangerous outcome. It is time for peace. Unconditional and uncontested. The people of both nations are demanding it. Now there is a momement within Pakistan and the Pakistani community. The silent majority is standing up and demanding peace. India and the world need to know that there are Pakistanis who are as determined about peace as the terrorists are about terror. The nations needs to understand that Pakistanis for Peace because Pakistan is for Peace.

This blog started as an idea on Facebook and is set up so that we can discuss the current situation from a peaceful Pakistani prespective. Keep checking for daily updates. And Please also join us on Facebook for a vibrant discussion as a group member and help support peace between India and Pakistan as well as in the Middle East and around the world!

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