Pakistan Security Brief
Top al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri killed in drone strike; three drone strikes pound North and South Waziristan, kill 18; Obama administration debating cutting pace of drone strikes; U.S., Pakistan could drift apart, but relations secure for now; Pakistan in state of “turmoil” since bin Laden raid; 24 killed in two bomb blasts in northwest; massive militant assault goes into fourth day; Pakistan has “no plans” for imminent North Waziristan operation; Zardari assassination plotters arrested; Shahzad judicial probe to be led by Supreme Court justice; Balochistan situation “improving”.
Ilyas Kashmiri Dead
Top Pakistani al Qaeda-linked leader Ilyas Kashmiri was allegedly killed over the weekend in a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan. Kashmiri was reportedly having tea in an apple orchard in the Karikot area near the main South Waziristan town of Wana when the strike occurred. According to a Pakistani intelligence official, nine people were killed in the strikes, all of whom were Punjabi militants. Kashmiri was reportedly meeting with an Afghan Taliban militant who “worked in liaison with” the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Although the U.S. government has not yet confirmed Kashmiri’s death, top Pakistani government officials as well as members of Harkat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami (HuJI), the group allied with al Qaeda that Kashmiri led, have released statements confirming his death. A HuJI statement read “We confirm that our [leader] and commander-in-chief, Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, was martyred in an American drone strike on June 3, 2011, at 11:15 pm….God willing … America will very soon see our full revenge. Our only target is America.” Kashmiri was believed to be responsible for several high profile militant attacks including the May 22 storming of the Mehran naval base in Karachi and was linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Kashmiri was wanted by both the Pakistani and American governments and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency reportedly provided the intelligence allowing Kashmiri to be targeted.
Three drone strikes on Monday killed up to 21 people in North and South Waziristan days after a strike killed top Pakistani militant Ilyas Kashmiri. Two strikes hit seminaries in South Waziristan in Shalam Raghzai and Wacha Dana near the agency headquarters of Wana. The third struck a vehicle in the Bray Nishtar area on the border between North and South Waziristan. Unnamed officials claim that foreign militants were among those killed in Monday’s strikes. Officials also claimed that all the dead were militants, although one news outlet claims seven civilians also died in the strike. The strike is the 31st strike this year.
An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on alleged splits within the Obama administration regarding drone strikes in Pakistan. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter and some senior military officials are pushing for the U.S. to reduce the “aggressive pace” of CIA drone strikes inside Pakistan. According to the report, an “increasingly prominent group of State Department and military officials” argue that the drone campaign has aggravated an already shaky partnership with Pakistan and risks destabilizing the country. CIA director Leon Panetta reportedly pushed back on the request, claiming the drone program remained the “U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.”
The New York Times reports on the troubled state of U.S.-Pakistani relations and comments on whether the U.S. and Pakistan could eventually see their ties weaken and break. Commenting in the report, former CIA official Bruce Reidel stated, “as we begin to rely on Pakistan less to get supplies into Afghanistan, America’s axis with India will continue to strengthen.” Pakistan, on the other hand, has increasingly started looking to China and Saudi Arabia in times of strain with the U.S. Changes can be expected in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship once the war in Afghanistan spools down, the article states. For the moment, however, “the United States and Pakistan remain bound to each other…the United States will rely on routes in Pakistan to ferry in military supplies, and to keep pressure on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. And the Pakistani government still needs the billions that come each year from Washington to, among other things, keep pace in its arms race with India.”
Bin Laden raid and Aftermath
The Associated Press reports on a state of turmoil being experienced in Pakistan since the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2. The report claims that Pakistan’s security establishment is facing opposition to its rule it has not seen since Pakistan’s defeat and the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. The military has been unable to control the deluge of criticism targeting it in the wake of the bin Laden raid and has suffered a palpable loss of prestige. The report claims that the current situation presents a unique opportunity for loosening the army’s grip on political power, but says that the current civilian government is too weak to seriously challenge the writ of the military.
At least 18 people were killed and 28 others wounded on Sunday in a bomb attack on a military-run bakery in the northwestern garrison town of Nowshera. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the device used was a remote-control bomb, although police officials believe a teenage suicide bomber may have been involved.
A bomb attack on a bus at a terminal in Matani, 20 kilometers south of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, killed six people on Sunday. Eleven people were also wounded in the bombing. Peshawar police claim the bomb was a timed, planted device.
Pakistani forces battled Taliban militants for a fourth day straight in the northwestern district of Dir following an onslaught by hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani militants infiltrating from across the Afghan border. Security forces claim to have killed 26 militants in fighting on Saturday, without losing any of their own men. The assault, launched by around 400 militants on Wednesday, has killed up to 25 soldiers so far. The provincial government has made appeals to both the Afghan and Pakistani governments to bring the cross-border infiltration under control. The provincial government also made the decision to support the standing up of local anti-Taliban tribal militias (lashkars) in Dir and Chitral districts, with government supplemented food and arms, in order to curb cross-border militant infiltration.
Waziristan Operation Rumors
According to a report by the BBC, the Pakistani military says it has no immediate plans to launch an operation in North Waziristan. Speaking to the BBC, Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the commander of XI Corps and in charge of military forces in Pakistan’s northwest, said “I have no such plans….I don’t see something in weeks or days, some juggernaut or sweeping blitzkrieg taking place - I don't think that is happening….I can't undertake multiple operations at the same time.”
Zardari Assassination Attempt
Pakistani security forces reportedly arrested up to eight suspects in connection with a plot to assassinate Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. According to reports, the arrests were made after intelligence agencies intercepted a call on May 15 in which plotters were planning on attacking a hospital where Zardari was scheduled to visit his ailing father. An arrest made in connection with the plot three weeks ago allegedly gleaned intelligence that led to this latest round of detentions. Those arrested have allegedly confessed to being members of a “banned sectarian outfit.”
The Pakistani government on Saturday capitulated to demands from journalists to have a serving Supreme Court judge lead the inquiry into the death of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated that an investigation commission would be set up in two days time under the auspices of a Supreme Court justice. Shahzad’s tortured body was found on May 31, two days after he was kidnapped. Shahzad told human rights activists before his disappearance that he was being threatened by the ISI.
In a statement on Sunday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that the situation in restive Balochistan province was “under control.” Speaking to journalists in the provincial capital of Quetta, Malik claimed that “Taliban do not exist in Quetta and talks of a Taliban shura in the city are baseless.” He further said that “30 raids have been conducted in Quetta in connection with the Taliban.” Malik claimed that the law and order situation in Balochistan was improving.
Eight witnesses spoke before a judicial probe into the May 17 killing of eight foreigners in Quetta by Pakistani paramilitary personnel. The probe was launched after witnesses disputed the claim of security officials that those who were killed were armed militants.
Qaiser Butt, “Strike two: Ilyas Kashmiri dead – again,” Express Tribune, June 5, 2011. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/182727/strike-two-ilyas-kashmiri-dead--again/
HuJi leader was suspect in PNS Mehran attack Drone strike kills Ilyas Kashmiri,” Dawn, June 5, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/05/huji-leader-was-suspect-in-pns-mehran-attack-drone-strike-kills-ilyas-kashmiri.html
“Pakistan helped U.S. target Kashmiri: reports,” Dawn, June 6, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/06/pakistan-helped-us-target-kashmiri-reports.html
Pakistani officials: Suspected U.S. drone strike kills 21 militants,” CNN, June 6, 2011. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/06/06/pakistan.attacks/
“Afghan govt, Nato asked to stop infiltration of militants,” Dawn, June 5, 2011. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/05/afghan-govt-nato-asked-to-stop-infiltration-of-militants.html