Pakistan Security Brief - December 10, 2012

New Afghan reconciliation approach to give Pakistani significant role; Afghan president says Asadullah Khalid suicide attacker came from Pakistan, had assistance; Taliban will attend meeting in France to discuss post-2014 Afghanistan; U.S. troops may be granted immunity in Afghanistan; Two drone strikes kill two senior al Qaeda commanders; TTP spokesman dismisses reports of TTP leadership change; TTP suicide attack in Bannu kills eight; Mehsud-Nazir enmity based on control of roads in South Waziristan; Eight injured in Charsadda grenade blast; Five killed in Bannu; Four shot dead in DI Khan; Two Rangers killed, TTP operative’s son arrested in Karachi; Quetta blast kills one; Cross-border fire in Kashmir kills one; Kashmiri separatists protest Indian court ruling; Iran-Pakistan pipeline deal stalling; Trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey to be held this week; President Zardari visits Malala Yousafzai’s doctors and family in Birmingham hospital.

Afghan-Pakistani Relations

  • According to anonymous diplomatic sources, Afghanistan is envisaging a new approach to the reconciliation process that will give Pakistan a major role in negotiating peace with the Taliban. While Afghan officials say the new initiative, the details of which have not been publicly articulated, would reduce the American role somewhat, the U.S. would still have a say in “a number of critical issues, including the terms for initiating negotiations.” U.S. officials have denied suggestions that they would have a reduced role, however. The new plan includes provisions for including Taliban leaders in the Afghan government and permitting them to establish provincial governments in certain areas under their control.[i]

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the suicide bomber who attacked Afghan intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid in Kabul last week came from Pakistan and was aided in his operation by “a sophisticated foreign intelligence service.” Karzai added that he would speak with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a meeting later this month to find out if Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had any role in the attempt. While the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, Karzai stated that it was “a very professional and well-engineered attack” that was too complex to be solely the work of the Taliban.[ii]

Post-2014 Afghanistan

  • On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai announced that he may be ready to grant U.S. troops conditional immunity post-2014 as long as they honor the “sovereignty, laws, and lives of Afghan people” and provide substantive training for Afghan troops. According to Karzai, he is willing to advocate for granting U.S. troops immunity before the Afghan people as long as the U.S. “doesn’t keep prisoners in Afghanistan in violation of agreement with us, [and] doesn’t violate Afghans’ homes.”[iii]

  • Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Monday that the Taliban would participate in a meeting organized by a French think tank to discuss Afghanistan’s future, but would not talk at all about peace and reconciliation negotiations. Mujahid said that two Taliban representatives would attend to present their views and policies; additionally, Northern Alliance and Hezb-e-Islami representatives will be there as well. Other attendees have expressed optimism that while the meeting may not produce any immediate results, “it is a good forum for exchanging views and expressing oneself and understanding each other’s point of view.”[iv]

Drone Strikes

  • Senior al Qaeda commander Abdel Rehman al Hussainan, also known as Abu Zaid al Kuwaiti, was confirmed dead by Pakistani security officials on Sunday after a Thursday drone strike in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. There had been some prior speculation that Hussainan may have been “a likely successor” to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and that he had replaced deceased al Qaeda deputy leader Abu Yahya al Libi; however, security officials downplayed such rumors after Hussainan’s death.[v]

  • A Sunday drone strike near Miram Shah, North Waziristan killed four suspected militants, including al Qaeda commander Mohammad Ahmed al Mansoor. It targeted a house in the area and damaged two rooms and a car.[vi]

Militancy

  • TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan rejected claims made in a Reuters report last week that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud may soon be replaced by his allegedly more moderate deputy Wali-ur-Rehman. Ehsan said the reports were false, and that 42 members or representatives attended a Taliban shura chaired by Mehsud last week, a number “sufficient enough to rebuff reports of any change in TTP top slot.” He mentioned that while Swat TTP leader Maulana Fazlullah was unable to attend due to security concerns, he made sure to send a representative to participate in the discussions. Ehsan denied that there was any tension between Rehman and Mehsud, and declared that any reports to the contrary were nothing more than propaganda.[vii]

  • Several TTP suicide bombers attacked a Bannu police station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Monday, killing at least eight people and injuring six others. Reports conflict on the number of bombers present; the New York Times mentions three while Reuters mentions four. According to the Reuters report, three suicide bombers successfully detonated their explosives while police shot the fourth before he was able to do so. The New York Times reports that two bombers successfully detonated while the third escaped. The TTP claim that the attack was carried out in revenge for the killing of Ibrahim Mehsud, a nephew of former TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud, last month.[viii]

  • A special Dawn report highlights the underlying roots of enmity between the Hakimullah Mehsud branch of the TTP and Maulvi Nazir’s South Waziristan Taliban and Ahmadzai Wazir tribal allies, tracing them back to Mehsud manipulation of the Tank-Jandola-Wana road. The road, which winds through Mehsud TTP territory, was a “lifeline” for the Ahmadzai Wazirs that the Mehsuds often closed or obstructed “at will to bring the Wazirs into submission.” In June 2012, however, the Pakistani government opened the Kaur-Gomal-Tanai-Wana road circumventing Mehsud territory. The government had also been the principal driver behind an initiative to convince Maulvi Nazir to expel the Mehsuds  from South Waziristan, and while he had initially been reluctant to do so, the November 29 suicide attack against him coupled with his and the Ahmadzai Wazirs’ newfound freedom due to their control of the Kaur-Gomal-Tanai-Wana road clinched the deal. A senior security official said that the attack against Nazir was a pre-emptive effort by the TTP to prevent him from ordering the expulsion of the Mehsud tribe; however, shortly after the attack an Ahmadzai Wazir jirga ordered the nearly-40,000 Mehsuds present in South Waziristan to vacate the region by December 5 and they have been complying. Pakistani government officials are hopeful that such an initiative could be repeated in North Waziristan, where the Uthmankhel Wazirs could evict Mehsud militants and tribal sympathizers.[ix]

  • Unidentified attackers lobbed a grenade into an Awami National Party (ANP) rally site in Charsadda on Monday, injuring at least eight people. Police have launched an investigation.[x]

  • Five members of a family were shot by unknown assailants in the Bakka Khel area of Bannu on Saturday.[xi]

  • Unknown assailants shot dead four people on Bannu road near Sheikh Yousuf Chowk in Dera Ismail Khan on Sunday. Police have launched an investigation.[xii]

  • Unidentified gunmen killed two Rangers troops and injured two traffic wardens at a checkpost near Al Asif Square in Sohrab Goth, Karachi on Monday.[xiii]

  • One man was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast on Sariab Road in the Kechibaig area of Quetta, Balochistan on Monday. Several others were injured; no specific numbers were provided. It is unclear who planted the device.[xiv]

  • Karachi police claimed to have arrested Azmatullah, the son of Karachi TTP Naib Ameer (second-in-command) Muhammad Yaqoob, on Saturday during a raid in North Karachi. Azmatullah was allegedly involved in extortion and firecracker attacks in the city.[xv]

Tensions in Kashmir

  • A local Kashmiri government official told the AFP on Sunday that cross-border fire from India near the Line of Control in Kashmir left one dead and three injured in the Pakistani village of Madarpur.. Exploding shells in Battal village also caused one house to catch fire, though the extent of the damage is unclear. India, for its part, accused Pakistan of firing at Indian posts in the Poonch sector on Sunday, though there was no damage. Indian officials say this is the sixth time Pakistan has violated the Line of Control truce this month. [xvi]

  • Following a life sentence verdict handed out last week by an Indian court to two pro-independence Kashmiri activists, almost 100 members of the pro-independence separatist group Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) engaged in a day-long hunger strike to protest the ruling in Srinagar. Many shops in Kashmir were also closed in protest, and JKLF leader Yasin Malik said the verdict was a “political vendetta” that could contribute to provoking another armed conflict in the region.[xvii]

Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline

  • Over the weekend, President Asif Ali Zardari canceled an upcoming visit to Tehran to sign a $1.5 billion gas pipeline deal with Iran “amid mounting U.S. objections” to the deal. While Pakistan is increasingly desperate for fuel supplies to resolve its current energy crisis, it is “struggling to overcome strong opposition to the project from its U.S. ally” due to sanctions against Iran. Iran had previously granted Pakistan a $500 million loan to finance the laying of its section of the pipeline through Pakistan. Iranian Iranian officials dismissed the cancellation as nothing more than an unfortunate schedule clash, while Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said “God willing, the future talks between officials of both countries will lead to a final agreement.” In a Monday press event, however, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson expressed concern over the IP pipeline plan, and suggested that the U.S. was willing to help Pakistan resolve its energy crisis.[xviii]

Trilateral Meeting

  • President Asif Ali Zardari will meet with Turkish and Afghan officials in the seventh annual Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey Summit in Ankara this week. Representatives will discuss security cooperation and development partnerships to improve regional security, with a particular focus on strengthening economic cooperation through improving and developing new rail and road infrastructure. Earlier in the weekend, a Turkish official confirmed that a “crisis hotline” had been established to aid communications between the three countries in times of crisis. [xix]

Malala Yousafzai

                              


[i] Anwar Iqbal, “Major role for Islamabad proposed: Kabul envisages Taliban inclusion in future govt,” Dawn, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/major-role-for-islamabad-proposed-kabul-envisages-taliban-inclusion-in-future-govt/.
[ii] Graham Bowley, “Karzai Impliates Pakistan in Suicide Bombing that Hurt Afghan Spy Chief,” The New York Times, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/world/asia/karzai-implicates-pakistan-in-attack-on-afghan-spy-chief.html?_r=0.
[iii] Julian Pecquet, “Afghanistan hints at conditional immunity for US troops after 2014,” AFP, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/asia-pacific/271809-afghanistan-hints-at-conditional-immunity-for-us-troops-after-2014.
[iv] “Taliban say they will attend meeting in France on Afghanistan, but won’t talk about peace,” AP, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/taliban-say-they-will-attend-meeting-in-france-on-afghanistan-but-wont-talk-about-peace/2012/12/10/96bef040-42da-11e2-8c8f-fbebf7ccab4e_story.html
[v] Ismail Khan, “U.S. Drone Strike Kills a Commander for Al Qaeda in Pakistan,” The New York Times, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/world/asia/us-drone-strike-kills-a-senior-al-qaeda-commander.html.
[vi] “Drone strike kills Al-Qaeda commander in North Waziristan,” Reuters, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=78890.
[vii] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Hakimullah Mehsud not to be replaced : TTP,” Dawn, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/hakimullah-mehsud-not-to-be-replaced-ttp/.
[viii] “Eight killed as Taliban suicide bombers attack Pakistan police station,” Reuters, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-pakistan-attack-idUSBRE8B905L20121210; Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, “Several Are Killed in Attack on Pakistan Police Post,” The New York Times, December 10, 2012. Available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/world/asia/several-are-killed-in-attack-on-pakistan-police-post.html
[ix] Ismail Khan, “A road or game-changer?” Dawn, December 7, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/08/a-road-or-game-changer/.
[x] “Charsadda: 8 injured in blast near ANP rally venue,” Geo News, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=79006.
[xi] “Five of a family shot dead in Bannu,” Geo News, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=78734.
[xii] “Four killed, three hurt in DI Khan firing incident,” Geo News, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=78842.
[xiii] “Armed men kill two Rangers in Karachi,” Geo News, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=79067.
[xiv] “Blast leaves one dead in Quetta,” Geo News, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=79053.
[xv] “TTP leader’s son held in Karachi,” Geo News, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=78753.
[xvi] “Indian troops’ firing kills one, wounds three in Pakistani village,” AFP, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/indian-troops-firing-kills-one-wounds-three-in-pakistani-village/; “India accuses Pakistan of breaking truce,” Dawn, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/india-accuses-pakistan-of-breaking-truce/.
[xviii] Victor Mallet and Farhan Bokhari, “Zardari cancels Iran gas pipeline talks,” Financial Times, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/478eba60-41d5-11e2-bb3a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2EfH1n8kf;  “US has reservations on IP gas pipeline,” Geo News, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=79020.
[xix] “Zardari to attend Pakistan-Turkey-Afghanistan summit,” Geo News, December 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.geo.tv/GeoDetail.aspx?ID=78888; “‘Crisis hotline’ set up between Pakistan, Afghan, Turkish presidents,” AFP, December 10, 2012. Available at: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/crisis-hotline-set-up-between-pakistan-afghan-turkish-presidents/.
[xx] “Pakistan’s president visits UK hospital to see schoolgirl shot by Taliban,” AP, December 8, 2012. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pakistans-president-visits-uk-hospital-to-see-schoolgirl-shot-by-taliban/2012/12/08/eeee50b2-4186-11e2-8a5c-473797be602c_story.html.