Pakistan Security Brief - May 18, 2011

Al Qaeda Interim Director Named; AQ operative Muhammad Ali Qasim arrested; ISI pushing for Haqqani role in Afghan peace talks; ISI has asked Mullah Omar to leave Pakistan; Senator Levin: Aid to Pakistan conditional on action against Haqqanis; Senator Kerry: Pakistan has initiated four investigations into bin Laden death; Washington Post: CIA had flown clandestine missions in Pakistan prior to raid; 100 militants attack checkpoint in Peshawar; Bodies of four men found in Mastung; Five killed in Quetta.

 

Al Qaeda Interim Director Named

  • Following Osama bin Laden’s death on May 2, Saif al Adal, a prominent Egyptian al Qaeda member, has taken temporary control of the group. Noman Benotman, a former commander in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), reports that the decision to choose al Adal as interim chief was made by six to eight leaders of al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. Al Adal had previously been involved in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings and had fled to Iran after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Various reports have suggested that al Adal is now operating out of Pakistan. While Al Jazeera reports that Mustafa al Yemeni will direct operations for the terrorist group, the Guardian claims that Ayman al Zawahiri has been named director of external or international operations. Meanwhile, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has released a videotaped message, vowing revenge for the death of bin Laden. [i]

  • Further information has emerged about Muhammad Ali Qasim, the al Qaeda operative arrested in Karachi by Pakistani security forces on May 4. While the Pakistani military has claimed Qasim to be a senior operative, a U.S. official said that he is “a mid level al Qaeda operative, not a household name." However, a local Pakistani security official said that, “Nonetheless, he is a very good catch,” and termed him an “explosives expert.” Qasim was reportedly born in Yemen and has been involved in “planning attacks on Saudi interests in Pakistan, and had ordered retaliatory strikes following Bin Laden's death.” In addition, he reportedly possessed ties with Anwar al Awlaki, the alleged leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).[ii]

  Haqqani Role in Afghan Peace Talks

  • The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is reportedly pushing the insurgent Haqqani Network to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government. U.S. officials have argued that the group is closely allied with al Qaeda and have urged action against the group’s safe havens in North Waziristan. However, the ISI has resisted initiating security operations against the group, and now wants the insurgent network to be “a force for peace” in Afghanistan. A tribal elder from North Waziristan reported that the Haqqanis have been “spooked by an unrelenting campaign of CIA drone strikes and the death of bin Laden….and may be increasingly amenable to talks.” Meanwhile, Afghan news outlets report that the ISI, through former Pakistani spy chief General Hamid Gul, has asked Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to leave Pakistan for Afghanistan or Iran. An Afghan security official reported that “Pakistan's spy organization wants to move Mullah Omar out and then report his location to the US forces. Then if the Taliban leader is killed on Afghan soil, Pakistan will use it as a propaganda tool to show that terrorist leaders are also hiding in Afghanistan.” [iii]

  U.S.-Pakistani Relations

  Bin Laden Raid and Response

  • The Washington Post reports that the CIA flew dozens of clandestine missions into Pakistan to monitor the compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed, using unmanned planes with sophisticated technology designed to evade radar detection. The drones were also used on the night of the raid, enabling President Obama and other members of his national security team to monitor the operation. Satellites, eavesdropping tools, and CIA operatives residing in a safe house in Abbottabad were also utilized to conduct surveillance on bin Laden’s residence.[v]

  • The Yemeni family of bin Laden’s youngest widow has demanded that she and her five children be repatriated from Pakistan. The Yemeni ambassador in Islamabad has assured her family that she “is in good health,” in spite of sustaining a bullet wound to her leg during the U.S. operation on May 2.[vi]

  Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

  • Over 100 militants attacked a security checkpoint in the Sangu Mera area of Peshawar on Wednesday. The attack led to a five-hour battle between the insurgents and security forces, killing two security officers and fifteen militants. According to a local police chief, the assailants were associated with Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) militants based in the Bara area of Khyber.[vii]

  Balochistan

 



[i] Peter Bergen, “Egyptian Saif al-Adel now acting leader of al Qaeda, ex-militant says,” CNN, May 17, 2011. Available at http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/17/mideast.al.qaeda.appointee/index.html
[ii] “Pakistan announces arrest of senior al Qaeda militant,” CNN, May 17, 2011. Available at
[iii] Matthew Rosenberg, “Pakistan Woos Insurgent Group,” Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2011. Available at
[iv] Salman Masood and Eric Schmitt, “Pakistan and NATO Trade Fire Near Afghan Border,” New York Times, May 17, 2011. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/18/world/asia/18pakistan.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world
[v] Greg Miller, “CIA flew stealth drones into Pakistan to monitor bin Laden house,” Washington Post, May 17, 2011. Available at
[vi] “Yemen family of bin Laden widow demands her return,” AFP, May 17, 2011. Available at
[vii] Ismail Khan and Jane Perlez, “Security Forces Battle Militants in Northwest Pakistan,” New York Times, May 18, 2011. Available at
[viii] “Four bodies found in Mastung,” Dawn, May 18, 2011. Available at
[ix] “Four killed in Quetta shooting incident,” Dawn, May 18, 2011. Available at