Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – September 29, 2010
Intelligence agencies uncover al-Qaeda terror plot in Europe; TTP commander Wali-ur-Rehman shown in new video interview; senior al-Qaeda leader killed in U.S. drone strike; CIA director Panetta heads to Islamabad for talks; Pentagon officials cite “communications breakdown” as cause for recent cross-border incident.
Al-Qaeda Terror Plot
- On Wednesday, a U.S. security official anonymously confirmed reports that western intelligence sources have picked up on a “credible but not specific” al-Qaeda terror plot in Europe. Although initial reports suggested that al-Qaeda operatives planned to carry out coordinated Mumbai-style attacks in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany the official indicated that the precise targets and mode of attack in the plot are still unclear. U.S. officials have also acknowledged that this recently uncovered al-Qaeda plot has been a contributing factor towards the heightened drone campaign against militant targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan in order to “keep up the pressure” on al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Afghan Taliban, and the Haqqani network. Pakistani officials have uniformly denied the existence of the plot and military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas has said that there is “no credible evidence… that any such planning is taking place or terrorists are planning anything in North Waziristan.”
- A new video interview released by Reuters shows senior TTP commander Wali-ur-Rehman reaffirming his group’s allegiance with al-Qaeda and pledging his organization’s commitment to global jihad. During the interview, which is believed to have been conducted in North Waziristan in August or early September, Rehman said that the TTP is fundamentally “attached” with al-Qaeda and is in total agreement with their “ideology and their agenda” while also vowing that the TTP would “expand this war during the next ten years.” Rehman also claimed that Osama bin Laden is alive and actively directing operations, saying that the al-Qaeda chief maintains “contacts with his close aides and gives them instructions.” Speaking in regard to U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Rehman claimed that although many militants have been killed in the attacks the drone strikes have caused an outpouring of support among sympathizers from around the world and has led to increased recruitment.
Pakistani security officials confirmed on Tuesday that al-Qaeda’s senior commander in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sheikh Fateh, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on Saturday. The officials said that Fateh was killed along with three other militants when a missile fired from a U.S. drone strike the vehicle they were travelling in. Fateh was believed to have taken over for Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al-Qaeda’s former third ranking member and top operational commander for the region who was killed in a drone attack back in May.
On Tuesday, at least four militants were killed when two missiles from a U.S. drone struck a militant compound in South Waziristan. The attack occurred in the village of Zeba, just outside the agency’s main town of Wana.
U.S. Pakistan Relations
CIA director Leon Panetta is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy with top Pakistani leaders. Although the details of Panetta’s two-day visit have not been disclosed, Panetta is expected to discuss key issues such as Pakistan’s role in approaching the Taliban for a peace deal in Afghanistan as well as the United States’ heightened level of drone strikes against militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
On Tuesday, Pentagon officials cited “communication breakdowns” as the driving factor in the controversy surrounding last weekend’s incident involving NATO helicopters crossing the Pakistani border to pursue fleeing insurgents. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Laplan told reporters that talks between U.S. and Pakistani security officials were currently underway in order to address the errors in communication. Angered by the perceived breach of sovereignty, Pakistani officials have threatened to stop protecting NATO supply convoys travelling to Afghanistan through Pakistan should any further incidents occur.
An article adapted from Bob Woodward’s recently published book Obama’s Wars explores President Barack Obama’s determination to take an active approach in dealing with terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. During a November 2009 meeting in the oval office the president was quoted as saying that “we need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan” and that a stable and effective government in Afghanistan is necessary “so the cancer doesn’t spread there” as well. The article also reveals that the Obama administration had a “retribution plan” which called for the bombing of around 150 terrorist targets in Pakistan if a terrorist attack on American soil were successful.
The U.S. government singled out Pakistan during an announcement on Tuesday that the U.S. will set tougher conditions on its aid provisions to foreign governments. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “countries that will not tax their elite who expect us to come in and help them serve their people are just not going to get the kind of help from us that historically they may have.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also said that the U.S. needs to assess key elements so that until aid recipients show that they are “running their country in ways that give us confidence that our resources will be used well, we should not be financing them at this level.”
- An article in the New York Times describes how the Pakistani military is becoming increasing frustrated with the civilian government’s ineptitude in managing the country’s flood disaster as well as its economic collapse. These frustrations culminated in a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday during which Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reportedly demanded the dismissal of several ministers from the cabinet in response to the “incompetence and corruption in the government.” Despite the military’s criticisms, officials close to the president have said that Zardari will not step down, adding that Kayani, Zardari, and Gilani all agreed following Monday’s meeting “to protect the democratic process and to resolve all issues in accordance with the constitution.”