Pakistan Security Brief – July 11, 2011

U.S. government suspends military aid to Pakistan; Pakistan army downplays effects of aid cuts; Pakistan asks U.S. to share intel on Zawahiri; U.S. troops to shift focus in Afghanistan to Pakistan border; Kurram operation continues; Taliban in North Waziristan deny attacking army; Afghan cell phone operators aid militants; Afghanistan, Pakistan agree to high-level meetings; Afghan traders threaten to close trade route; suicide bomber attacks political rally; army holds de-radicalization conference in Swat; Karachi violence brought under control; U.S. praises Pak nuclear security; General rejects nuclear proliferation charges; Pakistan dissuading Iran from nuke program; Punjab Police terrorism cases floundering; Army rebukes New York Times report; Blast kills one in Islamabad.

 

U.S.-Pakistan Relations

  • The U.S. government is suspending and cancelling aid to the Pakistani military to the tune of $800 million, according to a report in the New York Times. The amount represents one-third of the more than $2 billion in security assistance disbursed to Pakistan each year, and includes money intended as reimbursement for Pakistani military operations in northwest Pakistan as well as funds for training and military equipment. According to the report, the cuts are being carried out to “chasten Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and to press its army to fight militants more effectively.” Major General Athar Abbas, the Pakistan Army’s spokesman has stated that U.S. aid cuts would “have no significant effect” on the army’s ability to conduct operations. “We will continue our operations as in the past,” he said. Maj. Gen. Abbas also claimed that the Pakistani military’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had “already been asking for military aid to be redirected towards civilian areas.” The aid cuts are indicative of the strained relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Over the weekend, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called U.S. ties called the relationship “complicated….it is not always perfect, but it is significant and important.” CBS reports that Pakistan’s increasingly “close and effective defense ties” with China could allow Pakistan to fill any potential gaps in funding arising from the U.S. aid cuts.[1]

  • Pakistan has asked the U.S. to share intelligence on the whereabouts of new al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he believed Zawahiri was hiding in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A military spokesman said “We expect [the] U.S. intelligence establishment to share available information and actionable intelligence regarding Al Zawahiri and other HVTs [high value targets] with us, enabling Pakistan Army to carry out targeted operations.”[2]

  • According to a report by the AFP, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are beginning to shift their focus from Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan to the Afghan-Pakistan border where U.S. troops will likely continue to fight until 2014. After having “turned the tide” of the war in the south, U.S. strategists are planning on refocusing priorities to eastern Afghanistan, where the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network is particularly active. The refocusing of operations will bolster U.S. special operations forces activities in the region.[3]

 

FATA

  • Pakistani officials claimed on Saturday that over 10 militants were killed and four soldiers injured in an ongoing military offensive against militants in Kurram agency. The military claims to have moved into and secured the Dhalki, Kurtt, Kund and Ali Sherzai areas of central Kurram and to have discovered large militant weapons stockpiles in Marghan and Manato. The operation, titled “Koh-e-Safaid” or White Mountain, is taking place in a “70 kilometer stretch” of central Kurram agency. The military claims to have killed over 50 militants in the last five days as more than 580 families displaced by the fighting have registered at relief camps in the Sadda area. Over 3,500 more have arrived in parts of neighboring Hangu district after fleeing the fighting.[4]

  • Taliban leaders in North Waziristan agency are strongly denying complicity in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a Pakistani military convoy last Tuesday that killed three soldiers and wounded 14 more. A one page statement released after a shura was held by the leadership of the Gul Bahadur Taliban faction stated: “Mujahideen Shura of the North Waziristan gives last warning to those elements who carried out the improvised explosive device attack and opened fire from main bazaar a few days ago. If these people don’t stop their activities then action will be taken against them.” The shura further claimed the attack had been carried out by “U.S. agents” and not its own personnel.[5]

  • Dawn reports that Afghan cell phone companies are being “used freely” in Kohat, Hangu and Pakistan’s tribal areas. The report claims the use of Afghan cell companies makes it more difficult for security forces, which have previously suspended the services of Pakistani cell phone companies in the area, to clamp down on militant communications networks. A source quoting Pakistani intelligence reports claimed “This problem of easy connectivity and availability of Afghan SIMs will have enormous repercussions on the fight against terror, economy of the country and patriotism of tribesmen.”[6]

 

Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations

  • Military leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to a series of high-level talks in order to defuse tensions over a series of cross-border attacks that have further frayed relations between the two countries. Both delegations agreed to “stop and prevent repetition of the attacks” and expressed the need for greater military cooperation on both sides. Both sides recently traded rocket and artillery fire and accusations of cross-border militant attacks that have “killed dozens of residents and forced hundreds to flee.”[7]

  • Afghan traders on Saturday threatened to block the Torkham border crossing on the Afghan-Pakistan border if problems in the new Afghan-Pakistan transit trade agreement were not addressed. A senior Afghan official complained about thousands of supply containers that were stuck in Pakistan and not receiving clearance from Pakistani authorities to transit the border. The new trade agreement allows Afghan truckers to transit Pakistan to deliver goods to India as well as use Pakistani ports for sea trade.[8]

 

Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa

  • At least six people were killed and 15 others wounded on Monday when a suicide bomber attacked a meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) party in Battagram. Amir Muqam, a PML-Q leader who has previously been the target of assassination attempts, was on his way to the rally but had not arrived yet when the attack took place.[9]

  • The Pakistani military in Swat held a seminar on militant de-radicalization that is reportedly part of a “major public relations exercise by the army.” Hundreds of local and foreign journalists were invited to attend the three-day seminar. Response to the seminar was mixed; some analysts saw the seminar and “the military's decision to expose itself to criticism” as an attempt to “‘create an alternative narrative’ to counter, or at least to soften, the ‘dominant narrative which is Islamist, pro-Taliban and anti-West,’” whereas some skeptics saw the exercise as an attempt to “rehabilitate its own image after it was badly tarnished” by the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.[10]

  • Militants in northwest Pakistan killed six people and injured 11 when they opened fire on two vehicles in the Jawakai tribal area 30 miles east of Peshawar. Police confirmed the involvement of militant but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.[11]

 

Karachi

  • Paramilitary Rangers retook control of Karachi on Saturday, quelling days of deadly violence that left over 110 people dead. The operation to retake the main centers of violence was reportedly conducted without a shot being fired. Over 157 people have been detained in Karachi in connection with the political “target killings,” which have mainly been blamed on warring gangs supporting the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP). Rangers were issued with shoot-on-sight orders on Friday in an attempt to quell the spiraling violence.[12]

 

Nuclear Security

  • On Friday U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen said Pakistan’s control over its nuclear weapons stockpile “appears strong enough to prevent militants from accessing them.” He further said he was “as comfortable as can be that they have taken significant steps in recent years to improve the security with respect to their nuclear weapons.” Adm. Mullen indicated that Pakistan had received assistance from the U.S. in improving nuclear security as well, and that the Pakistani program was similar to one used by the U.S.[13]

  • Retired General Zulfiqar Ali Khan on Friday challenged allegations that he was complicit in a nuclear arms bribery scandal involving North Korea. A recent article in the Washington Post alleged that Gen. Khan, along with other top officers, took bribes from North Korean officials in exchange for turning over nuclear know-how. The allegations are based on a letter provided to the Post by Dr. A.Q. Khan, the “father” of the Pakistani nuclear project and himself the center of a now defunct nuclear proliferation ring.[14]

  • According to documents obtained by Dawn via Wikileaks, Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani government were “actively dissuading” Iran from pursuing its own nuclear weapons program. Pakistani officials also allegedly served as interlocutors between Iran and the U.S., and helped to relay meetings between the two countries.[15]

 

Punjab

  • According to a report in the Express Tribune, police in Punjab have failed to submit “complete charge sheet in 18 of 27 high-profile terrorism cases” before an anti-terrorism court, even 13 years after some of the crimes were initially committed. Documents obtained by the Tribune highlight the lack of progress made in a number of terrorism and sectarian violence cases, including the fact that the majority of witnesses in the cases were yet to be cross-examined. Some of the attacks that are reportedly not being followed through on include the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the bombing of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)  buildings and assassination attempts on former heads of state Pervez Musharraf and Benzair Bhutto.[16]

Balochistan

  • Two Shias and a third man were killed in a sectarian attack in Quetta on Sunday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Elsewhere, three people were killed in a rocket attack on oil tankers in Barkhan district. Local security forces engaged in a firefight with militants following the attack.[17]

 

Islamabad

  • An explosion at an arms depot near Islamabad’s Sihala area killed one soldier and injured two others on Monday. The blast was reported to be an accident. Secondary explosions caused by nearby explosive material injured three more people.[18]

 Journalist’s Killing

  • Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas in an interview with Reuters rebuked the allegation that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies played any role in the torture and death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. Maj. Gen. Abbas called the allegations, reported in a July 8 editorial in the New York Times, a “direct attack” on Pakistan’s security and part of a plan by “unnamed officials” to “weaken” the Pakistani state. The editorial alleged Pakistani involvement in the sheltering of Osama bin Laden, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and Shahzad’s murder.[19]

 


[1] Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez, “U.S. is Deferring Millions in Pakistani Military Aid,” New York Times, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/world/asia/10intel.html?seid=auto&smid=tw-nytimes&pagewanted=all
“Pakistan: US aid cut will not harm fight against terror,” BBC, July 11, 2011. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14104342
“Pak-US relationship is not perfect but vital: White House,” The News, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=7301&Cat=13
Farhan Bokhari, “With U.S. Military aid cut, Pakistan eyes China,” CBS, July 10, 2011. Available at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20078219-503543.html
[3] Ben Sheppard, “US looks to Pakistan border for Afghan endgame,” AFP, July 10, 2011. Available at http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110710/wl_sthasia_afp/afghanistanunrestuspakistan
[4] Manzoor Ali, “Kurram violence, 10 Taliban killed as military crackdown continues,” Express Tribune, July 10, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/206462/kurram-violence-10-taliban-killed-as-military-crackdown-continues/
[5] Pazir Gul, “Taliban deny hand in attack on convoy,” Dawn, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/taliban-deny-hand-in-attack-on-convoy.html
[6] Abdul Sami Paracha, “Afghan mobile SIMs active in Kohat,” Dawn, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/afghan-mobile-sims-active-in-kohat.html
[7] Afghan, Pakistan forces agree on more border talks,” AFP, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/afghan-pakistan-forces-agree-on-more-border-talks.html
[8] Tahir Khan, “Afghan traders threaten to block Torkham border acces,” July 11, 2011.Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/207095/inefficient-implementation-afghan-traders-threaten-to-block-torkham-border-access/
[9] Salman Masood, “Suicide bomber Kills 6 in Pakistan,” New York Times, July 11, 2011. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/12/world/asia/12battagram.html?_r=1
[10] “Is Pakistan’s army going soft,” BBC, July 8, 2011. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14080208
[11] Pakistan militants kill 6, attack NATO tanker,” AFP, July 10, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/10/gunman-kills-three-in-balochistan-sectarian-attack.html
[12] Faraz Khan, “Order returns without a shot fired by Rangers,” July 10, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/205941/karachi-violence-rangers-enter-qasba-colony-arrest-suspects/
Shahzeb Jillani, “Pakistan troops retake control of Karachi  after violence,” BBC, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14091896
[13] Anwar Iqbal, “US praises Pakistan’s steps to secure N-arsenal,” Dawn, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/us-praises-pakistans-steps-to-secure-n-arsenal.html
[14] “General Zulfiqar refutes US allegations about nuclear sell-off,” APP, July 8, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/08/gen-zulfiqar-refutes-us-allegations-about-nuclear-sell-off.html
[15] Madiha Sattar, “Musharraf govt pushed Iran to abandon N-weapons proramme,” Dawn, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/09/secret-us-cables-accessed-by-dawn-through-wikileaks-musharraf-govt-pushed-iran-to-abandon-n-weapons-programme.html
[16] Asad Kharal, “No progress in 18 terrorism cases: report,” Express Tribune, July 11, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/207094/no-progress-in-18-key-terrorism-cases-report/
[17] “Gunmen kills three in Balochistan during sectarian attack,” Dawn, July 10, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/10/gunman-kills-three-in-balochistan-sectarian-attack.html
“Three killed by rocket attack on oil tankers,” Express Tribune, July 10, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/206617/three-killed-by-rocket-attack-on-oil-tankers/
[18] “One killed in blast ant arms depot near Sihala,” Dawn, July 11, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/11/explosion-in-islamabad.html
[19] Sheree Sardar, “Pakistan army says New York Times report is a “direct attack,” Reuters, July 9, 2011. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/09/us-pakistan-usa-idUSTRE7681SM20110709