Religiously Motivated: Al Qaeda and Taliban Step up the Battle

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 5 months ago

The following is a list of suicide attacks in Pakistan this year.

- March 11: Separate bombers shatter seven-story police headquarters and house in Lahore. At least 27 people killed, more than 200 wounded.
– March 4: Two bombers blow themselves up at navy training college in Lahore, killing four college employees.
– March 2: Bomber attacks tribesmen discussing resistance to al-Qaida and Taliban in Darra Adam Khel. At least 40 dead.
– March 1: Bomber on foot attacks vehicle carrying security officers in Bajur tribal area, killing one person, wounding 19.
– Feb. 29: Bomber strikes police officer’s funeral in Mingora in Swat Valley. More than 40 people killed, at least 60 wounded.
– Feb. 25: Bomber attacks car carrying Pakistani army’s surgeon general along busy road south of Islamabad, killing at least seven others.
– Feb. 16: Car bomber hits election rally in Parachinar. Some 40 people killed.
– Feb. 16: Attacker kills two civilians and wounds eight security personnel in Swat Valley.
– Feb. 11: Attacker kills seven people at election campaign rally in North Waziristan.
– Feb. 9: Bomber attacks election rally near Charsadda, killing 27 people, wounding 45.
– Feb. 2: Bomber rides explosives-laden motorbike into minibus carrying security personnel in Rawalpindi, killing at least seven people.
– Feb. 1: Car bomber rams into military checkpoint in North Waziristan, killing five soldiers, injuring five.
– Jan. 17: Attacker kills 11 people, wounds 20 at Shiite mosque in Peshawar.
– Jan. 15: Car bomber blows himself up trying to attack troops at checkpoint in Mohmand.
– Jan. 10: Bomber blasts crowd of police guarding courthouse in Lahore, killing 24, wounding dozens in first major attack since Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
– Jan. 7: Bomber in pickup truck strikes in Swat, wounding eight soldiers and two civilians.

The Asia Times is reporting on an interesting jihadi recruitment pool for al Qaeda that may both give context to the recent list of bombings and give concern for future counterinsurgency efforts in the NWFP and FATA areas of Pakistan.

At the root of al-Qaeda’s strategy is the belief in the powerful ideology of Takfir, which deems all non-practicing Muslims infidels. This, al-Qaeda believes, fuels anti-Western forces in Muslim societies.

From Pakistan’s perspective, the tribal insurgencies in North-West Frontier Province are a thorn in the side of coalition troops in Afghanistan as the area is used as a staging ground for Taliban attacks into that country. But Islamabad believes these can at least be controlled, even if not tamed.

The real concern is the radicalization of Punjab, the largest Pakistani province and comprising more than half the country’s population, through banned militant organizations.

Thousands of activists are known to be affiliated with banned militant organizations in Punjab. Many were initially trained by Pakistani security agencies to fuel the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.

However, after September 11, 2001, Pakistan, as a new partner in the “war on terror”, was forced by the Americans to shelve its support of the Kashmiri insurgency. As a result, militant training camps were shut down and militants left their parent organizations in the thousands.

These young jihadis are obviously committed fighters and have been kicking their heels for several years now. The fear is that if they fall into the hands of al-Qaeda, they could significantly escalate unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iraq. Segments of these Punjab-based militant organizations have already been cultivated by the Takfiris, resulting in a new source of suicide bombers.

Frank Hoffman has remarked to us that The Captain’s Journal is “rather famous” for our disagreements with Dave Kilcullen, counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus.  Actually, at the Small Wars Journal, Kilcullen never interacted with us – the balance of the council weighed in against our notions of religious motivation in Islamic insurgency.  How nice, to be so alone all of the time.

But in the end our theories are reasonable and have been proven correct.  At the heart of our system was that there were indigenous insurgents who would be amenable to efforts enveloped by nonkinetic operations, but also those who fight for religious reasons (mostly foreign, some small amount indigenous), this later group being impervious to efforts at winning hearts and minds since they don’t engage in the struggle for any reason that can be ameliorated by our actions.  It pays to understand the difference between the two groups, because our strategy is a function of the target group.

This lesson was learned in Anbar, and regardless of any counterinsurgency advice to the contrary, U.S. forces have also implemented efforts to identify the two categories – with remarkable success.  Concerning the Pakistan suicide bombings, the U.S. is taking unilateral action to target Taliban sanctuaries.

WANA, Pakistan, March 16 (Reuters) – A U.S. aircraft fired missiles on Sunday at a house in a Pakistani region known as a haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, killing at least 9 militants and wounding nine, an intelligence official said.

A U.S. Central Command spokesman said the missiles were not fired by any military aircraft. This leaves open the possibility it could have been a pilotless drone aircraft which the CIA has used in Pakistan.

The intelligence official said four missiles were fired at the house in Shahnawaz Kheil Dhoog, a village near the town of Wana in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, just after 3 p.m. (1000 GMT).

“It was apparently an American plane that fired precision guided missiles at the house,” the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

Three foreigners, an Arab and two Turkmen, were among those killed, according to the intelligence official.

These actions are necessary since the new Parliamentary coalition is less amenable to warring with the Taliban and al Qaeda and more amenable to talking.

“We will discuss the issue of terrorism in parliament and the parliamentary committees, which will also be open to the public through live telecast, and in those meetings the PPP will lay down all the dimensions of the problems and plans to tackle it,” the PPP spokesperson disclosed.

In this context, it is learnt that Benazir Bhutto had “several thoughts” which also pertained to the issue of the dual control over the intelligence apparatus. While it is not clear yet what shape the anti-terror policy of the new government will take, indications are that the strategy and approach pursued will be a departure from the existing one. That it will be more inclusive and non-violent. More importantly, the commitment to deal with the issue will further strengthen.

In fact, the ANP has already made peace overtures to the Taliban.  It is of the utmost importance that the motivations of the enemy are understood, because if our theories are correct, talking with the Taliban will succeed in nothing but further extending amnesty and allowing time for the enemy to regroup, retrain and recruit.

Back In Iraq, lest it be thought that al Qaeda were the only religiously-motivated insurgents, Moqtada al Sadr has recently told us precisely what he was working towards over these last three years.  “So far I did not succeed either to liberate Iraq or make it an Islamic society — whether because of my own inability or the inability of society, only God knows. The continued presence of the occupiers, on the one hand, and the disobedience of many on the other, pushed me to isolate myself in protest. I gave society a big proportion of my life. Even my body became weaker, I got more sicknesses.” (Editorial note: Sadr seems to be in poor health, if alive at all.  He is apparently in Iran where he has spent most of the last six months.  He should just stay there.)

Some finite number of foreign fighters as well as Iranians (Quds) and indigenous radical Shi’a in Iraq have fought for religious reasons, while the indigenous Sunnis have generally not.  Some very much larger percentage of Taliban in Afghanistan have fought for the same ideals.  Literally all of the Pakistani Taliban (Baitullah Mehsud) and al Qaeda fight for these same motivations, and using the wrong strategy to combat their influence will not only be ineffective, it will also be dangerous because it will prolong their life and increase their power.




You are currently reading "Religiously Motivated: Al Qaeda and Taliban Step up the Battle", entry #995 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency,Featured,Iraq,Religion and Insurgency and was published March 16th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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