The Rack: Ron Moreau, "The Taliban After bin Laden," Newsweek.
By hook or by crook
The Journal reports that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) is prodding the insurgent Haqqani network into peace talks with the Afghan government, resisting U.S. pressure to go after the group’s strongholds in North Waziristan (WSJ). U.S. officials consider the Haqqanis one of Afghanistan’s most violent and effective insurgent groups, and the increased efforts to target the Haqqanis, including drone strikes and concern about a cross-border raid, reportedly led worried Haqqani members to vacate their compounds in the North Waziristan capital of Miram Shah in the wake of the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
Afghan news sources also report that the ISI, working through current operatives or former director Hamid Gul, asked Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to leave Pakistan for Afghanistan or a third country in recent days (Pajhwok, Tolo).
U.S. senators from both parties yesterday questioned the several billion dollars in military aid given to Pakistan each year during a caucus briefing and a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, and Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin told reporters after the briefing that Pakistan should take concrete steps towards combating militancy, especially in fighting the Haqqani network, before receiving the aid (NYT, Bloomberg). During the briefing, Sen. John Kerry said Pakistan has four different probes into Osama bin Laden’s death and how he was able to hide unnoticed in Abbottabad until he was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2 (ET).
Pakistani security forces yesterday killed five alleged Chechen "suicide bombers," as they attempted to attack a Frontier Corps checkpoint near the city of Quetta (Dawn, Geo, ET, Daily Times). The group, according to officials, consisted of two men and three women. Five others were killed in Quetta when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a van (Dawn). And two Pakistani soldiers and 15 militants were reportedly killed in fighting on the outskirts of Peshawar when a group of nearly 100 fighters attacked a major checkpoint (NYT, AP, AFP, Reuters, AJE).
Lonely at the top
Longtime al-Qaeda figure Saif al-Adel has taken temporary control of al-Qaeda, according to Noman Benotman, a former commander in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and onetime acquaintance of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (CNN, The News, Times). Citing militant sources and jihadist internet posts, Benotman says that al-Adel, who was previously al-Qaeda’s military leader and was involved in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, was the choice of the six to eight al-Qaeda leaders present in Afghanistan and Pakistan; al-Adel fled to Iran after the fall of the Taliban, but is believed to have left the country for Pakistan sometime last year. According to al-Jazeera, a militant known as Mustafa al-Yemeni will direct operations for the group, while the Guardian claims that former al-Qaeda no. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has been named director of international operations (Reuters, Guardian). And the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have released a video threatening retaliation against the ISI and CIA for bin Laden’s killing (AJE).
Pakistani authorities yesterday announced the arrest in Karachi of a man they termed a "senior al-Qaeda operative," Mohammed Ali Qasim (also known as Ali Suhaib al-Makki), who they say operated with al-Qaeda leaders in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, though U.S. officials described him as a mid-level operative and "not a household name" (CNN, McClatchy, Guardian, Reuters, WSJ, AP, Geo). An anonymous official later called al-Makki a mid-level operative as well, but said he is "Nonetheless… a very good catch" (Reuters). Pakistani officials also said that al-Makki, who was born in Yemen and reportedly arrested May 4, helped plan attacks against Saudi interests in Pakistan and is close to radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (BBC).
Greg Miller writes that the CIA used state-of-the-art high-altitude drones employing stealth technology to help track Osama bin Laden, deep inside Pakistani territory and outside of the "flight box" in which Pakistani authorities allow U.S. drones to operate (Post, AFP). The existence of the drone, reportedly an RQ-170, was revealed in 2007 after it was seen and photographed at Kandahar Airfield. And in other bin Laden news, the family of his youngest wife, the Yemeni Amal Abdulfattah, have demanded that Pakistani authorities repatriate her and her five children (AFP).
Up to 12 civilians have been killed in protests in the northern Afghan city of Taloqan in Takhar province after a night raid near the city killed four people NATO forces said were insurgents (BBC, AP, Reuters, AJE). Protesters said all four, including two women, were civilians.
The AFP reports that the suicide bomber who killed Kandahar province police chief Khan Mohammad Mujahed last month was Mujahed’s bodyguard; the two had known each other for more than a decade (AFP). An inquest into the shooting deaths of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman in 2009 heard yesterday that the shooter was angry with his British trainers after they told him to wear his uniform cap, instead of a brown Afghan hat (Guardian). British prime minister David Cameron told parliament yesterday that he would withdraw 400 troops from Afghanistan this year, as part of the plan to pull all British troops out of Afghanistan by 2014 (Guardian, FT).
The U.S. Army has charged a sixth person, Staff Sgt. David Bram, with involvement in the "kill team" that allegedly murdered three Afghan civilians and posed the bodies to make them look like combatants (NYT, AP). And four Afghan boys aged eight to ten, arrested under suspicion of being suicide bombers, claimed their innocence to the Times of London, and said that they had been beaten and endured electric shocks at the hands of the Afghan police (Times).
The Los Angeles Times today profiles Mina Habib, one of the small but growing group of female journalists in Afghanistan who face threats and family trouble to cover the news (LAT). Habib, the Times writes, helps shine light on issues affecting Afghanistan’s "poor and voiceless."