Pakistan Security Brief
U.S. moves to vacate Shamsi Airbase, Pakistan threatens to cut NATO fuel supply; Gingrich questions security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons; U.S. and Afghanistan urge Pakistan to take action after Pakistan-based LeJ attacks kill over 60 in Afghanistan; Zardari expected to return to Pakistan within four days; Militants destroy 22 NATO tankers; Iran kills three Pakistani fishermen for straying into Iranian waters; “Extremists” clash in Khyber agency; American man pleads guilty to receiving money for Pakistan’s ISI; Abbottabad Commission holds press conference; Australia denies lifting of ban on uranium sales to Pakistan.
U.S. aircraft continued to arrive at Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan on Thursday to recover American drone equipment and operators ahead of Pakistan’s December 11 deadline for the base to be vacated, a move which came in response to the November 26 NATO raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. At least seven U.S. planes were seen flying into the base, which the U.S. has used to launch drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and witnesses reported that a number of containers used by U.S. personnel on the base were purposely torched. Meanwhile, Pakistan has moved toward enforcing a “permanent ban on [the] export of locally-produced petroleum products, except jet fuel” to NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) is set to vote on the ban on Friday, but Pakistan has announced that it will not implement the ban on locally-produced fuel if “NATO agrees to pay all applicable duties to Pakistan.”
While on CNN’s “Situation Room” on Wednesday, U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich challenged the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, noting that a nuclear weapon could be stolen by “extremist elements” within Pakistan’s military establishment at any time.
In the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks that killed over 60 people in Afghanistan during Ashura, Pakistan called on Afghanistan to provide it “hard evidence” that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi (LeJ) terrorist group carried out the attack. On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman responded to Pakistan’s request for evidence, citing that the LeJ “splinter group” had publically claimed responsibility for the attacks and added that it was now Pakistan’s duty to “take action” against the Pakistan-based LeJ terrorist group and “investigate [the attacks] without waiting any longer.” Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner motioned for Pakistan to take “greater action” against LeJ, noting that LeJ was exactly the type of terrorist group Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had “in mind when she urged Pakistan to act against extremists during an October visit” to the country.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney wished Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari a “speedy recovery” after the leader reportedly suffered a heart attack on Monday and was flown to Dubai for medical care. Carney dismissed speculation that President Zardari’s trip to Dubai was part of a “soft coup” against the president as Zardari’s top aides issued a “seemingly endless stream of contradictory statements” on Wednesday which fueled rumors about the capacity of the Pakistani head of state and led to an 88 point drop in the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE). Zardari is expected to return to Pakistan within the next “three to four days,” according to his advisors.
On Thursday night, militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) attacked and destroyed 22 NATO oil tankers near Quetta, Balochistan. The tanker trucks have been sitting idle along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border since Pakistan closed its border crossings with Afghanistan in response to the November 26 NATO raid that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Iranian security forces killed at least three Pakistani fishermen on Wednesday after their fishing boat drifted into Iranian “territorial waters in the Pasaband area, about 40 kilometers off the Jewani coast in Pakistan,” during the Islamic New Year.
On Wednesday, Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and Tauheed-ul-Islam (TuI) “extremists” clashed in Tirah Valley, Khyber agency, resulting in the death of four fighters.
On Wednesday, an American citizen, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to conspiracy charges and admitted to secretly accepting over $3.5 million from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In exchange for the money, Fai reportedly used his position as executive director for the Washington-based non-profit Kashmiri American Council (KAC) to lobby the U.S. Congress over “the disputed territory of Kashmir.” Fai faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
The Abbottabad Commission, which is leading an investigation into the May 2 raid by U.S. Special Operations Forces on the compound of deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, held what some observers regarded as an “unusual” press conference on Thursday. The man leading the investigation, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, announced that the commission’s report would be released “within weeks” and suggested the commission would submit a request to the U.S. to examine the evidence collected by U.S. Special Operations Forces from bin Laden’s compound; Iqbal also proposed that the investigation’s findings be made public. Meanwhile, an unnamed U.S. expert who was allegedly granted access to the evidence said that the Abbottabad documents indicated that bin Laden “no longer had any role in [al Qaeda] operations” at the time of his death.
On Thursday, Australia announced that it would formally allow for the sale of uranium to India, despite the fact that India is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith acknowledged a request make by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to lift the long-standing export ban on Pakistan but said that Australia would not offer Pakistan a “similar agreement” given Pakistan’s concerning record of nuclear proliferation.