Daily brief: Al Qaeda sleeper cell in U.S.?
The mending wall The New York Times reports that the Taliban, whose leadership is headquartered in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, is stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan with a widened campaign of violence in the northern and western parts of the country, areas where it previously had little control (New York ...
The mending wall
The New York Times reports that the Taliban, whose leadership is headquartered in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, is stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan with a widened campaign of violence in the northern and western parts of the country, areas where it previously had little control (New York Times). American officials say the Taliban in Pakistan is still receiving support from some elements of Pakistan’s military spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, which has been its on-again off-again patron for more than a decade.
The insurgency still swells on the Pakistani side of the border as well, as Taliban militants killed at least seven pro-government tribal elders in the restive tribal district in Bannu in northwest Pakistan early this morning (AFP, BBC, Dawn). The elders were members of the Jani Khel tribe and part of a local self-defense militia called the “Peace Committee” (New York Times, Reuters). Two members of another tribal lashkar in the Swat Valley were also killed by militants this morning, demonstrating that these groups seriously anger the Taliban (AP).
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama later today in New York at a “Friends of Pakistan” meeting at which he is expected to bring up the topic of more foreign assistance for his country (Reuters, Dawn). International donors pledged about $5.7 billion in aid to Pakistan this spring, but only a fraction has been delivered. Reuters provides a useful Q&A about the “Friends of Pakistan” organization (Reuters).
The Goldilocks strategy
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has denied reports that his dire Afghan war assessment added to growing rifts among members of the Obama administration and the military about the proper course of action for the conflict (New York Times). Gen. McChrystal’s anticipated troop request will reportedly be delivered up the Pentagon’s chain of command this week, but could be revised if U.S. President Barack Obama substantially alters the counterinsurgency strategy he announced just six months ago (AP, Washington Post).
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has yet to make up his mind about the next steps for the Afghan war, and CNN’s Barbara Starr reports that officials within the Obama administration are working to come up with alternatives to the McChrystal plan, which reportedly “puts the president in a box” in which he can only fully accept or fully reject the plan (Reuters, CNN). One alternative being discussed is a “hybrid” strategy that somewhat short of the full-scale counterinsurgency McChrystal recommended but with more capability than a purely counterterrorism effort.
Violence still plagues the country every day, as a roadside bomb in the Taliban-dominated Helmand province in southern Afghanistan killed three Afghan policemen this morning (AFP). Yesterday, another IED in Farah province in western Afghanistan killed at least five civilians and one in Kandahar, a family of seven (Al Jazeera).
An actual sleeper cell?
The terror plot that came to light last week, spanning from Denver to New York to northwest Pakistan, may be the first actual active al Qaeda “sleeper cell” in the U.S. since the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to government officials quoted in the Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal). In the past, U.S. officials have made “startling allegations” about terrorism suspects, only to have to walk their rhetoric back later, but the circumstances in this case — in which a legal U.S. resident allegedly left the country, received explosives training from al Qaeda in Pakistan, and returned to the U.S. to plan an attack — reportedly “embody [the] worst fears” of current and former U.S. officials.
The three suspects — the 24 year old Afghan resident of Colorado Najibullah Zazi, his father, and an imam in Queens, a onetime NYPD informant who allegedly turned double agent and warned Zazi that he was being investigated — are due back in court today after being charged with lying to federal authorities (AP). Investigators are casting a wide net in the search for more information about the case (AP).
Back to school
The school year is underway in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the site of this spring and summer’s Pakistani military offensive designed to rout Taliban militants from the region (Los Angeles Times). However, many schools lack the basics like electricity, desks, and blackboards, and parents fear the return of the insurgency.
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A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
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