Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief: December 16, 2010
White House releases summary of Af-Pak Strategic Review; Britain investigating the deaths of two citizens linked to al Qaeda in North Waziristan; U.S. drone strike kills seven militants in Khyber; Militants attack Ashura procession in Peshawar as additional security protocols take effect across Pakistan.
Ak-Pak Strategic Review
The Obama Administration has released a summary of its strategic review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the summary, U.S. officials report that “al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership in Pakistan is weaker and under more sustained pressure than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001.” According to the report, U. S. efforts in the region have “diminished” al Qaeda’s leadership core as well as the group’s ability to mount “large-scale, catastrophic anti-Western attacks.” U.S. officials expressly call on Pakistan to make “adjustments” to their counterterrorism efforts along the Afghan border and to employ more non-military “development strategies” in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to abate the spread of militancy. The review acknowledges that although Pakistan has had “uneven” progress in combating terrorism, the U.S. must continue to seek a strategic partnership with the country. The review concludes that while many achievements over the past year “remain fragile and reversible,” discernible “progress” has been made. The review also acknowledges that the United States remains on track to begin withdrawing troops from the Ak-Pak theatre as soon as July 2011.
Al Qaeda and Pakistan
Local security officials in Pakistan report that two “white” British citizens working with al Qaeda were killed last Friday in a U.S. drone in North Waziristan. The two British citizens, identified only by their surnames Stephen and Dearsmith, were reportedly killed last week near Datta Khel after traveling to North Waziristan to join al Qaeda. Pakistani officials claim that the men were in the region to receive training and that both had trained in weapons and explosives at various militant training camps in the FATA. The British High Commission in Pakistan is working with Britain’s Foreign Office to confirm these reports and to seek additional information about their alleged activities in North Waziristan. For a detailed map and more information about militant activity in North Waziristan, please click HERE.
Al Qaeda released a new video on Wednesday calling for revenge against the United States for the imprisonment of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui. In the video, al Qaeda’s Abu Yahya al-Libi, called on Pakistanis to strike American targets, posturing that, “a single shot to the face of those unbeliever aggressors is tougher on them and has a greater effect on their persons than hundreds of demonstrations and thousands of screams.” Yesterday’s video comes one month after al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video that also called on Pakistanis to avenge Siddiqui’s imprisonment by carrying out attacks against the United States. In September, Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced by a U.S. court to 86 years in prison after she was convicted of seizing a gun and firing at U.S. personnel while she was being detained for questioning in Afghanistan in 2008. 
Seven militants were killed on Thursday in a U.S. drone strike in Khyber tribal agency. U.S. missiles targeted a vehicle in the Spin Drand area of Khyber, close to the agency’s border with Afghanistan. Although many militant groups are known to operate in Khyber, U.S. drones rarely strike targets in the agency. Pakistani intelligence officials are reportedly working to establish the identities of those killed in today’s strike.
12 militants were killed and another six were wounded on Wednesday in clashes with security forces in Orakzai tribal agency. According to reports, Pakistani helicopter gunships targeted militant hideouts in the Kasha, Shakar Tangi, Saifal Darra and Mamozai areas of Upper Orakzai tehsil.
Additional security measures are in full effect across Pakistan to protect members of the country’s Shia community participating in large Ashura processions that are scheduled for today and tomorrow. Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad have all increased their number of security personnel while thousands of Pakistani Army Rangers have been deployed to major cities across the nation to respond to any emergencies that may arise. Pakistani officials have identified Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as one of the “most-sensitive” to violence and have sealed the city’s main bazaar to guard against attack. Elsewhere, security forces seized a cache of weapons and a “huge quantity of explosives” from a refugee camp in the Chaman area of Balochistan. Officials report that the weapons and explosives were likely to be used for attacks during Muharram. 
One person was reportedly killed and another 28 were wounded on Thursday when militants attacked an Ashura procession in Peshawar. According to security officials, a militant threw a grenade into a crowd of Shia worshipers in the Qissa Khwani Bazaar area of the city. Security forces quickly locked down the area but the perpetrators of the attack were able to evade arrest. Witnesses report that many of those wounded in today’s attack were women and children.
Pakistani officials today called China its “all-weather" friend and ally, as the country prepares for a three-day visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that is scheduled to begin tomorrow. Wen’s visit to will mark the first time Pakistan has hosted a Chinese Premier in over five years. The three-day visit will focus on investment and bi-lateral trade between the two countries, as well as showcase the growing partnership between the Asian neighbors.