The Perfect Rifle

Herschel Smith · 06 Nov 2014 · 8 Comments

Rifles and their advocates are in the news and blogs these days.  It doesn't take a handgun to perform home defense.  A man using a rifle recently detained three burglars until police arrived.  It could have been any type of rifle. Rifle Shooter Magazine recently did a piece on the best bolt action rifles of all time.  Brad Fitzpatrick covers a number of the ones you would expect to see, including the Remington 700, Winchester model 70, Weatherby and so on.  But he includes one…… [read more]

Top al Qaeda Killed in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Top al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Southern and Western Iraq.  Omar Faruq, expert bombmaker, was killed in Basra, and senior al Qaeda leader Khalid Mahal is reported to have been killed in al Anbar.

It has been a bonus week in Iraq.  Al Qaeda operative and expert bombmaker Omar Faruq has been killed in Basra.

BAGHDAD: British troops in Iraq said yesterday they had killed one of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s top global lieutenants, who escaped from a US prison in Afghanistan last year.

Omar Faruq was shot dead while resisting arrest yesterday during a pre-dawn raid by about 200 British troops in Iraq’s second biggest city, Basra, British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge said.

US leaders have described Faruq as the top Al Qaeda operative in southeast Asia. He was caught in Indonesia in 2002 and held at a high-security detention centre at Bagram airbase north of the Afghan capital Kabul until his escape last year.

“The individual had been tracked across Iraq and was in hiding in Basra,” Burbridge said, calling him a “very, very significant man”.

In fact, the British and Iraqis attempted to arrest Faruq, but during the arrest fighting apparently ensued and he was killed.  He would have been a gold mine of information had they been able to effect the arrest.

In other news, Bill Roggio is blogging on senior al Qaeda leaders in the al Anbar Province having been killed:

BAGHDAD, Sept 26 (KUNA) — A joint Iraqi-US force killed Tuesday Al-Qaeda leader in Anbar and one of his aides in the western Iraqi area of Tharthar, said Iraqi state television (Iraqiya).

The television said the joint force killed Al-Qaeda’s Amir in Anbar, Khalid Mahal, and one of his aides, identified as Nasif Al-Mawla.

Iraq security forces had earlier announced over the past few days arrest of Ansar Al-Sunna group leader in Diyala.

Several observations:

In Comments on the Death of Umar Faruq at the Counterterrorism Blog, Kenneth Conboy states that:

“It has long been suspected that Faruq, who was born of Iraqi parents, would attempt to join the insurgency in Iraq. This speculation was supported by reports in recent months that his Indonesian wife had been receiving frequent cell phone calls from unidentified persons in Iraq. It is not known if these calls played a role in tracing his whereabouts.”

I would add that he was born of Iraqi parents in Kuwait, not Iraq.  This is interesting and I may be making too much of it, but it seems that southern Iraq is a dangerous place for al Qaeda.  With the influence of Iran in southern Iraq and their Shia surrogates, and based on the knowledge the police had of the whereabouts of Faruq, it would seem that if there is violence to be done in the Shia territories, the Shia will do it.  I would also add that it is obvious that Iraq is a magnet for this kind of terrorist, and so it continues to be true that the Iraq war is pivotal in the GWOT.

Bill Roggio says that “Task Force 145 … is conducting a full court press in Iraq.”  The reports don’t say yet who conducted the operation to kill Mahal, but Bill may know more about this than has been published in the press.  Either way, killing al Qaeda in al Anbar is a good thing and will help to pacify the troubled region (although like Faruq, I am sure that the coalition forces would have loved to have captured them for the intelligence value).

Finally, al Anbar will continue to be a dangerous place, and the Sunni insurgents will not give up the fight because al Qaeda continues to be targeted.  Killing top al Qaeda in Iraq is a positive move, but the Sunni who will not reconcile to the government, still believing that the Sunni should be running the country, will be problematic even in the absence of al Qaeda leaders.

Continued Troubles in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Even after the recent NATO efforts at ridding the troubled regions in Afghanistan of Taliban, the Gulf Times is reporting on a changed nation-state due to Taliban influence:

PASHMUL: “It is very dangerous here because the Taliban have not been driven out and Nato is still here,” says a villager in this part of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

Days after Nato forces declared they had defeated insurgents entrenched in Panjwayi and Pashmul, worried inhabitants still fear the Taliban and some even sympathise with the rebels.

And life cannot return to normal.

“It is impossible to go back to our village because our house has been destroyed, unless the coalition forces help us,” continues villager Haji Bilal-jan, referring to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“My house was bombed and burnt. I lost 4,000 kilos of raisins that were ready for market,” says the 48-year-old with a black turban and thick beard.

“ISAF was cruel, they bombed our houses when there weren’t even any Taliban here.”

Another villager, Namatullah, interrupts. “Why did you allow the Taliban to come here?” demands the 45-year-old, who does not wear the traditional turban, unleashing a bitter debate. “We have to call a shura (council) in every village to appoint someone to tell the strangers – Taliban or other – to go on their way,” he says.

But says Haji Bilal-jan, “We do not have the power to stop the Taliban from coming to our village or to ask the coalition not to bomb our houses.”

“The government must pardon everyone and let them return,” he says, apparently referring to the Taliban, whose main leaders have found refuge in Pakistan.

Namatullah recalls meeting some of the Taliban who had moved into the area. “One day I was working close to a stream where women were washing clothes with the children. A hundred metres away, I saw a group of Taliban.

“I told them to leave, that they were going to get these women and children killed. They replied, ‘No we have orders.’” His house was destroyed by a bomb and his loft, which contained Rs25,000 worth of opium, was hit by a rocket, he says.

But he is not complaining. “I am happy because the Taliban deserve punishment, even if it cost the destruction of my house.” “If Pakistan is helping them, the Taliban will come back. If it drops them, they will not come back,” he says. 

The Taliban are patiently awaiting the tiring of the coalition forces ensuing in their final departure, which would mark their opportunity to retake at least part of Afghanistan.

In other news, Musharraf apparently hopes for the same thing.  The things he is doing and saying do not help the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.  Musharraf’s demuring to a book contract the other day when faced with questions at the White House is more than just clownish behavior.  It is designed to undermine the war effort.

Iran, Supply Lines, and the Power of the Shia in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Iran has designs on a regional Caliphate, and has positioned special operations forces in Iraq.  These troops, along with the Shia in Iraq, could pose more than just a theoretical threat later down the road.  If desired, they could cut or at least cripple the U.S. lines of supply in Iraq.

In Iran’s Iraq Strategy and Iran Muscles in on Iraq, as well as my posts in the Iran category, I outline what I believe to be Iran’s strategy for Iraq.  The peace cannot be won with al Qaeda by any amount of politics.  The same can be said for the Sunni diehards in al Anbar, as well as those Sunni fighters filtering into the Baghdad area.  I have long held that one key to the security of Baghdad is peace in the Sunni triangle.  If the peace was secured in the Sunni triangle, there would be few Sunni insurgents left to wreak violence in and around Baghdad.

The Shia militia are perhaps even more important than the Sunni or even al Qaeda, and whether peace can be won by political means is a salient question.  I hold that peace can be won with the Shia, but only if their power broker — Iran — has been muzzled.  The Shia in Iraq will seek peace and stability if they see Iran on the ropes, politically and militarily.

Leaving behind the question of the propriety of the war in Iraq for a moment and thinking critically about unintended consequences of our presence in Iraq, there is a sobering and statement in Time, July 24, 2006, by Joe Klein (The Iran Factor):

The U.S. “has been Iran’s very best friend,” a diplomat from a predominantly Sunni nation told me recently.  “You have eliminated its enemies, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.  You have even reduced yourselves as a threat to Iran because you have spent so much blood and treasure in Iraq.”

The Shia in Iraq are closely connected to Iran as I have pointed out in my posts, but there is very interesting and troubling assessment of Iranian and Iraqi Shia capabilities that was published on July 21, 2206, by Patrick Lang in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled The vulnerable line of supply to U.S. troops in Iraq.  In it, he observes:

American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers’ supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq.

Until now the Shiite Arabs of Iraq have been told by their leaders to leave American forces alone. But an escalation of tensions between Iran and the US could change that overnight. Moreover, the ever-increasing violence of the civil war in Iraq can change the alignment of forces there unexpectedly.

Southern Iraq is thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian special operations forces working with Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a “shooting gallery” 400 to 800 miles long.

At present, the convoys of trucks supplying our forces in Iraq are driven by civilians – either South Asians or Turks. If the route is indeed turned into a shooting gallery, these civilian truck drivers would not persist or would require a heavier escort by the US military.

It might then be necessary to “fight” the trucks through ambushes on the roads. This is a daunting possibility. Trucks loaded with supplies are defenseless against many armaments, such as rocket-propelled grenades, small arms, and improvised explosive devices. A long, linear target such as a convoy of trucks is very hard to defend against irregulars operating in and around their own towns.

The volume of “throughput” would probably be seriously lessened in such a situation. A reduction in supplies would inevitably affect operational capability. This might lead to a downward spiral of potential against the insurgents and the militias. This would be very dangerous for our forces.

Final victory in Iraq will be a function of the degree to which we muzzle Iran.  In the mean time, let’s hope that this assessment exaggerates the danger Iran poses, but I fear that it is spot on.  This is made darker still with the newfound respect the U.S. military has for the Iranian military.

Iraqi Soldiers Hinder U.S. Efforts

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Official Iraqi army hinders U.S. efforts due to commitment to tribes over Iraq nationalism.  Heavy reliance on proxy fighters is unwise and unproductive.

I have commented (negatively and disparagingly) on the tendency to rely too heavily on proxy fighters to accomplish U.S. mission objectives.  In the case of the tribal commitments in the al Anbar province, the concern will be that these troops do not have training, command and control, commitment to nationalism, or self-confidence.  It appears that in the Shia-controlled areas, some of the same problems exist, even among the offocial Iraqi army.

The plan was simple: Iraqi troops would block escape routes while U.S. soldiers searched for weapons house-by-house. But the Iraqi troops didn’t show up on time.

When they finally did appear, the Iraqis ignored U.S. orders and let dozens of cars pass through checkpoints in eastern Baghdad _ including an ambulance full of armed militiamen, American soldiers said in recent interviews.

It wasn’t an isolated incident, they added.

Senior U.S. commanders have hailed the performance of Iraqi troops in the crackdown on militias and insurgents in Baghdad. But some U.S. soldiers say the Iraqis serving alongside them are among the worst they’ve ever seen _ seeming more loyal to militias than the government.

That raises doubts whether the Iraqis can maintain order once the security operation is over and the Americans have left. It also raises broader questions about the training, reliability and loyalty of Iraqi troops _ who must be competent, U.S. officials say, before America can begin pulling out of Iraq.

Last week, for example, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Sheehan could barely contain his frustration when he discovered that barriers and concertina wire that were supposed to bolster defensive positions had been dragged away _ again _ under the noses of nearby Iraqi soldiers.

‘(I) suggest we fire these IAs and get them out of the way,’ Sheehan, of Jennerstown, Pa., reported to senior officers, referring to Iraqi army troops. ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ came the reply.

U.S. soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment eventually blocked the road again while Iraqi troops watched from a distance.

Some Americans speculated the missing barriers were dragged off to strengthen militia defenses in nearby Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite neighborhood that is a stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

This may not be justification for turning back the hands of time and dismissing the Iraqi army, but it certainly warns against heavy reliance on the use of either the official Iraqi army or groups of tribal recruits in al Anbar to effect U.S. mission objectives.

U.S. Dance with Pakinstan and Iran Over Nuclear Programs

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

The U.S. is in an intricate dance with Pakistan, balancing concerns over a potentially unstable regime armed with nuclear weapons with the need for access to troubled provinces as well as A. Q. Khan, the father of the nuclear program in Pakistan.  This dance must end at some point, and the Taliban must be defeated while information is also mined concerning the Iranian nuclear program.

Since the intense pressure in 2001 on Pakistan to take sides in the GWOT, the U.S. has been in a tricky and tenuous dance with Musharraf.  Pakistan is armed with nuclear weapons, and the father of this program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, is widely regarded as a hero in Pakistan for putting Pakistan on even ground with India.

Pakistan also has strong elements of radical Islam in its intelligence services, but Musharraf has claimed that its nuclear weapons are under strict custody and will not fall into the wrong hands.  But the U.S. administration has taken the position that Musharraf, while weak in his handling of the radical elements in Pakistan, is better than the alternative should a coup topple his government.

It was a made-for-main-stream-media confession that Musharraf gave recently concerning their nuclear proliferation:

Musharraf claims he only suspected that Khan was passing secrets to Iran and North Korea until the then CIA director George Tenet confronted him with proof at the United Nations in 2003.

“(Tenet) passed me some papers. It was a centrifuge design with all its numbers and signatures of Pakistan. It was the most embarrassing moment,? he admitted in an interview to CBS news.

Musharraf learned then, he said, not only were blueprints being given to Iran and North Korea, but the centrifuges themselves—the crucial technology needed to enrich uranium to weapons grade—were being passed to them.

“(Khan) gave them centrifuge designs. He gave them centrifuge parts. He gave them centrifuges,? he said.

Despite the fact that the military was guarding Khan’s nuclear facilities and the total amount of secret material sent from the laboratory was more than 18 tons, Musharraf denied anyone in the government or military had to know.

But once again, this “confession” is only for the American public.  In 2004, Seymour Hersh (who sometimes relies too heavily on anonymous sources), discussed the bargain that the administration made with Musharraf regarding Khan and his apology for nuclear proliferation:

“It is state propaganda,? Samina Ahmed, the director of the Islamabad office of the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that studies conflict resolution, told me. “The deal is that Khan doesn’t tell what he knows. Everybody is lying. The tragedy of this whole affair is that it doesn’t serve anybody’s needs.? Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is a member of the Pakistani senate, said with a laugh, “America needed an offering to the gods—blood on the floor. Musharraf told A.Q., ‘Bend over for a spanking.’ ?

A Bush Administration intelligence officer with years of experience in nonproliferation issues told me last month, “One thing we do know is that this was not a rogue operation. Suppose Edward Teller had suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology and equipment around the world. Do you really think he could do that without the government knowing? How do you get missiles from North Korea to Pakistan? Do you think A.Q. shipped all the centrifuges by Federal Express? The military has to be involved, at high levels.? The intelligence officer went on, “We had every opportunity to put a stop to the A. Q. Khan network fifteen years ago. Some of those involved today in the smuggling are the children of those we knew about in the eighties. It’s the second generation now.?

[ ... ]

According to past and present military and intelligence officials, however, Washington’s support for the pardon of Khan was predicated on what Musharraf has agreed to do next: look the other way as the U.S. hunts for Osama bin Laden in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan dominated by the forbidding Hindu Kush mountain range, where he is believed to be operating. American commanders have been eager for permission to conduct major sweeps in the Hindu Kush for some time, and Musharraf has repeatedly refused them. Now, with Musharraf’s agreement, the Administration has authorized a major spring offensive that will involve the movement of thousands of American troops.

But this permission never materialized, and in fact, Musharraf said recently that he would not allow the U.S. to conduct military operations in Pakistan, even more than two years after this supposed bargain.  This denial of permission should not unexpected, since Musharraf’s own intelligence services seems to operate with autonomy.

One of Musharraf’s most vocal critics inside Pakistan is retired Army Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, a fundamentalist Muslim who directed the I.S.I. from 1987 to 1989, at the height of the Afghan war with the Soviets. If American troops start operating from Pakistan, there will be “a rupture in the relationship,? Gul told me. “Americans think others are slaves to them.? Referring to the furor over A. Q. Khan, he added, “We may be in a jam, but we are a very honorable nation. We will not allow the American troops to come here. This will be the breaking point.? If Musharraf has made an agreement about letting American troops operate in Pakistan, Gul said, “he’s lying to you.?

The U.S. has taken military action (albeit small scale) in Pakistan recently, seemingly in an attempt to ensure that Musharraf and the province of Waziristan thinks long and hard about its deal with Pakistan to eliminate the cross-border threat into Afghanistan.  But again, this was a small scale military action.

If Musharraf’s regime is not on solid ground and there is actually some probability of a coup by the more radical elements in Pakistan, or if Musharraf is assassinated by these radical elements (two attempts have already been made), the national security implications for the U.S. are thoroughgoing and far-reaching.  Unlike Iran who is pursuing nuclear weapons, Pakistan already has them.  If the more radical elements come to power in Pakistan, this becomes an immediate nuclear threat to both India (its neighbor) and the U.S. through arms deals with terrorists.  Hence, there have been very levelheaded calls for a plan to secure the nuclear facilities in Pakistan in the event of such a threat.

While publicly supporting Musharraf, the administration knows how potentially unstable the regime is in Pakistan, and thus it should be planning for this instability, including the use of military action to secure the nuclear assets.  Also, prior to any military action with Iran, the U.S. should force the issue with Khan, demanding to question him directly (he is currently under a loose “house arrest”) on what he knows about the Iranian nuclear program.

No amount of instability in Pakistan would justify the soft glove approach to Musharraf when considering the possibility of going to war with Iran over a nuclear program about which Khan could shed light.  Finally, we should be about the business of tracking the technology of centrifuges to enrich Uranium.  It is the simplest method by which highly enriched Uranium can be made, and there are budding proliferators across the planet.

Al Anbar Tribes Gives Coalition Three Divisions of Recruits

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

The fact that the al Anbar tribes have made an agreement to align themselves with the government is a positive sign, but it will be a protracted period of time before these troops can be relied upon to conduct operations in a manner equivalent to the U.S. troops.

I have discussed the use of proxy fighters to accomplish mission objectives, as well as the pushback that the U.S. is getting from some of the al Anbar tribes to the pressure to take on al Qaeda and the Mujahideen themselves.  Concerning the al Anbar tribes and their pact to eject al Qaeda, the Strategy Page has this:

September 22, 2006: Coalition forces in Iraq have suddenly received the manpower equivalent of three light infantry divisions. They did not suffer any repercussions in domestic politics as a result, and now have a huge edge over al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. How did this happen? Tribal leaders in the largely Sunni province on the Syrian border got together and signed an agreement to raise a tribal force of 30,000 fighters to take on foreign fighters and terrorists.

These leaders have thrown in with the central government in Baghdad. This is a decisive blow to al Qaeda, which has been desperately trying to fight off an Iraqi government that is getting stronger by the week. Not only are the 30,000 fighters going to provide more manpower, but these tribal fighters know the province much better than American troops – or the foreign fighters fighting for al Qaeda. Also, this represents just over 80 percent of the tribes in al-Anbar province now backing the government. 

The commentary goes on to cover some of the real benefits of these additional resources, such as indepth knowledge of the terrain (leading to an understanding of the best ambush sites that might be used by al Qaeda).  And while we can take this pact to be a victory for coalition forces, this assessment by the Strategy Page is without question overly optimistic.

It is certainly not the case that the coalition “suddenly received the manpower equivalent of three light infantry divisions,” even if you consider this manpower to be support troops rather than infantry or police.

I talked with an Army mother several days ago who has three boys under arms (one in Afghanistan, two in Iraq), and the perspective conveyed by her two sons in Iraq is one of a vast cultural difference between the U.S. forces and the Iraqis.  Of course there is, and we all know this, but it gets lost unless it is kept in the forefront of our thinking.

Regarding the missions, raids and other maneuvers that the U.S. troops go on along with the Iraqi troops, it is a frequent experience for the U.S. to go on a mission, work alongside the Iraqis, assess the results, go on another mission alongside the Iraqis, assess the results, etc., etc., until the assessment concludes that the Iraqis are ready to conduct the operations alone.  The Iraqis attempt to conduct the operation alone, and the force evaporates.  They lack self-confidence, have poor leadership, and simply have not been raised from childhood the same way U.S. boys were raised.

In the future I will comment more on this difference, focusing on the way American boys are raised.  But for now suffice it to say that al Anbar will lack proper government and control for some time.  The coalition didn’t gain three divisions.  They gained some recruits — really how many remains to be seen — who can work alongside the U.S. troops until they gain the confidence to do it themselves.  This will be a long process, and it may be longer if we rely too heavily on these proxy fighters.

You wanted rock … you’ve got it

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Friday night music based on reader feedback after listening to Giovanni Gabrieli last Friday night: “Sheesh.  Military blog.  Seems like you should be doin’ rock and roll.”

My response: I am a trombone player, so I make no promises for the future.  I will put more brass music on the site on Fridays, but you wanted rock … okay … you’ve got it.  Turn it up to maximum, put your face near the speakers, and let the avalanche of sound plaster your hair to your head.

Jefferson Starship: Jane

You wanted rock … you’ve got it

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Friday night music based on reader feedback after listening to Giovanni Gabrieli last Friday night: “Sheesh.  Military blog.  Seems like you should be doin’ rock and roll.”

My response: I am a trombone player, so I make no promises for the future.  I will put more brass music on the site on Fridays, but you wanted rock … okay … you’ve got it.  Turn it up to maximum, put your face near the speakers, and let the avalanche of sound plaster your hair to your head.

Jefferson Starship: Jane

U.S. Military Action in Waziristan

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Waziristan has seen Taliban violence in the past months, and many tribal elders have been killed.  The recent accords between Pakistan and Waziristan is a victory for the Taliban, but recent U.S. Military action would seem to indicate that the U.S. is not willing to allow this region to continue being safe haven for the Taliban. 

The Taliban have wreaked violence and havoc throughout the border provinces recently as a prelude and harbinger of the accords between the Pakistan and Waziristan.  Courtesy of The Word Unheard:

Militant groups opposed to the United States and Pakistan Army have almost taken over control of the volatile and troubled South Waziristan district where the Pakistani Army last year launched major operations, and after heavy casualties, claimed to have cleaned up the place and restored peace.

That peace, as is now turning out, is purely on the terms of Taliban and its armed fighters, who have reorganized and emerged as the de facto rulers of the area. Some 60 notable Maliks and elders of the region, who collaborated with the US and Pakistan Army, have been shot dead in the last 18 months.

The groups, led by trained Taliban commanders have taken physical control. New offices have been opened all over the Agency to recruit youngsters and fighters for ‘jihad’ inside Afghanistan, Kashmir and against the Pakistan Army.

It is thus no surprise that attacks against government installations have now become a routine affair. Attacks against candidates, pro-government clergymen and government officials have increased in the neighboring Afghanistan as the war-ravaged country prepares to hold the first ever parliamentary elections on September 18.

The groups collect money and ask for generous donations. Foreigners are escorted by local Taliban to visit mosques, mostly during the night, crying and wailing before the faithful, asking them for help against the infidels and their supporters, a number of local tribesmen confirmed.

This is a bleak picture, but it is still unclear how the Pakistan-Waziristan accord will effect the Afghanistan war effort and the strength of the Taliban.  I posted earlier posing the question whether Musharraf would consider Waziristan as Pakistani territory and if the U.S. military would have the freedom to operate inside the region of Northern Waziristan, concluding that the Taliban had cleaned up in the deal with Musharraf, and that the U.S. would be prohibited from entering this area.

As it is turning out, this question might have a somewhat more complicated answer than I had previously granted.  There are recent reports of U.S. military action in Waziristan:

Miran Shah, 21 Sept. (AKI/DAWN) – Security forces have arrested 10 people from Lawara Mandi area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the North Waziristan Agency, officials said. The action was taken after six US helicopter gunships intruded into the Pakistan airspace following clashes between the allied forces and Taliban across the border. The intrusion by US helicopters prompted the military and political authorities to proceed to the area along with tribal elders, including parliamentarians. It was the first action by the security forces since the peace accord reached between the government and militants early this month.

The authorities, sources said, believed that Taliban guerrilla might sneak into Lawara Mandi after clashes with the US-led allied forces in Pipali area of Afghanistan close to the North Waziristan Agency.

The sources said that army and paramilitary forces in collaboration with the tribal elders, including MNA Maulvi Nek Zaman, besieged a cluster of houses in Lawara Mandi on Tuesday night and asked local residents to hand over suspects.

There seems to be subtle political pressure from the administration on Pakistan, and Hamin Karzai knows that battling the Taliban in Afghanistan will not pacify the region, and he bluntly told the U.N. that action inside Pakistan is necessary:

“We must look beyond Afghanistan to the sources of terrorism. We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance, arm and deploy terrorists.”

The U.S. Military knows that the coming weeks and months in Waziristan are crucial, and is watching the developments in that region.  In fact, they might be doing more than watching.  It is no mistake that helicopters chased the Taliban across the border in recent firefights, in this instance continuing the chase rather than suspending operations upon reaching or crossing the border.

It is possible that the U.S. Military is trying to help Musharraf and the anti-Taliban tribal elders in Waziristan along with the process of honoring the accords that have been reached.  The message may be that there will be no peace in the region – no matter what accord has been reached – until and unless sanctuary has been denied to the Taliban.

Only time will tell how this ends.  But in the mean time, the great Taliban chase should continue unabated.  There is no substitute for killing the enemy in war.

Will Musharraf Prevent U.S. Military Action in Breakaway Provinces?

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

Musharraf is trying to survive, and in doing so has ceded control over breakaway provinces to the Taliban.  Yet he defends those same provinces as being Pakistani territory, denying that the U.S. has authority to enter those provinces.  The U.S. administration will face a coming decision on military action directly against the Taliban in Pakistan.

The counterterrorism community has been tracking for a couple of weeks the gradual diminution of Pakistan sovereignty in seven Western breakaway provinces in Pakistan, and the signing of accords, or truces, with the Tribal leaders in those regions.  These tribes are closely connected to the Taliban and al Qaeda, many of whom have made these regions their safe haven from NATO attacks inside Afghanistan.  The most recent post by Andrew Cochran at the Counterterrorism Blog (Is Musharraf Buying His Survival and is Bush Giving up on Him?) poses some interesting questions for official U.S. policy and Bush’s position concerning these developments.

The State Department endorsed this Pakistan retreat, and Bush had supportive words a few days ago concerning, saying:

“What he is doing is entering agreements with governors in the regions of the country, in the hopes that there would be an economic vitality, there will be alternatives to violence and terror.”

Today the song sounds a little different.

NEW YORK (CNN) — President Bush said Wednesday he would order U.S. forces to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on the fugitive al Qaeda leader’s location.

“Absolutely,” Bush said.  The president made the comments Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  Although Pakistan has said it won’t allow U.S. troops to operate within its territory, “we would take the action necessary to bring him to justice.”

But in response, Musharraf, in New York on Wednesday at the United Nations, said:

“We wouldn’t like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves.”

This is an interesting development, and the U.S. military establishment should take notice.  Musharraf has ceded control over the breakaway provinces to the Taliban and tribal leaders, essentially abdicating Pakistani sovereignty over these provinces.  The question naturally arises, “Will the U.S. then feel the freedom to take the necessary military action in those provinces to address the Taliban threat?”

The answer from Musharraf seems to be no.  Musharraf wants to survive, and is thus playing the game that he sees as necessary to this end, but when speaking of those areas that have broken away from Pakistan, he sees those areas as Pakistani territory.

The Taliban indeed have safe haven.  They have been given unmitigated control over the provinces, yet they have the protection of being considered Pakistani territory.  But Musharraf is certainly playing a game.  He said of Bin Laden:

“This notion that anybody who has a record as a terrorist will get safe haven — we would not even think of doing that.”

Yet this is exactly what he is doing, and he admitted it recently.

For the first time, Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff has revealed that his government may know the general whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Speaking at a meeting in New York earlier this week, Musharaff conceded that bin Laden may well be in his country, according to people who heard his comments. 

“We believe he is somewhere between Bajaur, Pakistan, and the province of Kunar in Afghanistan,” he said at a meeting connected to his appearance at the United Nations.

The extent of the U.S. victory in Afghanistan against the Taliban will be directly proportional to the extent to which action is taken directly against the Taliban in their safe havens in the breakaway provinces.


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