Daily brief: Qaeda-linked terrorism plot uncovered
A busy month Intelligence agencies have reportedly disrupted an al-Qaeda linked plot to stage simultaneous Mumbai-style attacks — with coordinated attackers taking hostages, using guns and grenades — on cities in the U.K., France, and Germany, believed to have moved from the aspirational to the operational stage in Pakistan, where the CIA has stepped up ...
A busy month
A busy month
Intelligence agencies have reportedly disrupted an al-Qaeda linked plot to stage simultaneous Mumbai-style attacks — with coordinated attackers taking hostages, using guns and grenades — on cities in the U.K., France, and Germany, believed to have moved from the aspirational to the operational stage in Pakistan, where the CIA has stepped up the pace of drone strikes in the last month in an attempt to thwart the plotters (Guardian, AFP, Times, BBC, Sky, AFP, CNN). The U.S. is reportedly investigating whether the plot extends to U.S. targets (WSJ). A Pakistani military spokesman has dismissed reports about the alleged plot, stating, "We don’t have any credible information from sources that any such planning is taking place or terrorists are planning anything in North Waziristan" (AFP).
Pakistani security officials said yesterday that al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been killed by a drone strike in North Waziristan last weekend (Geo, AP, Tel, FT, CNN, AFP/ET, Reuters, The News). Sheikh Fateh al-Masri is said to have taken over the job of al-Qaeda’s number three after his predecessor, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, was killed by a drone in May of this year. And strikes this month continue to climb: a drone strike reported yesterday in South Waziristan, and is said to have killed four militants near the Afghan border (ABC, LAT, Bloomberg, AP, Dawn/AFP, Geo, The News). Officials tell ABC that a threefold increase in special operations raids has led to a "treasure trove" of intelligence, helping make the drone strikes possible (ABC). CIA chief Leon Panetta is in Islamabad for a two-day visit to meet with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership (ET).
In response to recent NATO helicopter raids across the Pakistani border, Pakistani officials have threatened to stop protecting U.S. and NATO supply lines to the war in Afghanistan that run through Pakistan, if more cross-border raids occur (AP, Reuters, FT). The threat may be mostly aimed at tamping down domestic criticism (AP). A P
entagon spokesman said the Western forces had tried but failed to notify Pakistani officials of the airstrikes beforehand (Reuters).
Strained civil-military relations
Jane Perlez has today’s must-read describing how the Pakistani military is dissatisfied with the civilian government’s bungled response to the floods that have devastated Pakistan, writing that though the military is pushing for a shakeup in the government, it is busy with its fight against militants and "not eager to take over" direct responsibility for a shaky economy (NYT). Both Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani maintain that the current government will complete its five-year term and that relations between the government and the military are good (ET, Daily Times).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a sharp warning to Pakistan yesterday, announcing that the U.S. will set tougher conditions on its foreign aid: "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" (AP). Pakistan receives $1.5 billion in annual nonmilitary aid from the U.S., and only two million of Pakistan’s some 170 million people pay income taxes (NYT).
And part three of Bob Woodward’s series of articles adapted from his new book about the Obama administration’s Afghanistan deliberations focuses on the role of Pakistan (Post). Barack Obama, wanting to clamp down on safe havens, reportedly asserted, "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan;" his administration reportedly has a "retribution" plan to bomb 150 identified terrorist camps inside the country if a successful attack in the U.S. is traced back to Pakistan.
A day after Indian authorities ordered the re-opening of schools in Indian-administered Kashmir after three months of closures due to strikes and curfews, a separatist strike and a curfew kept attendance down (AFP, HT). Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said yesterday at a U.S. General Assembly meeting that countries should pressure India to "end its repression in Kashmir;" his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna said he was "disappointed" over the "unacceptable references;" analysts suggest the verbal sparring will not derail the chance of further talks between India and Pakistan, however (NDTV, BBC, Dawn, WSJ).
Ups and downs
NATO has confirmed that airstrikes on Saturday in the Korengal Valley killed Abdullah Umar al-Qurayshi, an al-Qaeda commander who orchestrated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and Abu Atta al-Kuwaiti, an al-Qaeda explosives expert (AP, ISAF, Reuters, CNN).
The Taliban have rejected the Karzai’s government’s High Peace Council, whose nearly 70 members were announced yesterday in an effort to promote reconciliation between the insurgency and the Afghan government, and similarly denied Gen. David Petraeus’s assertion that "very high level Taliban leaders" have reached out to the government (WSJ, AP, NYT). The AP profiles Gen. Petraeus in the Afghanistan command (AP). Bonus read: you would cry too: in defense of Hamid Karzai (FP).
I’ve been workin’ on the railroad
The first modern railroad in nearly a century in Afghanistan is nearing completion, linking the Uzbek-Afghan border with the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif (CNN). China’s state mining company has signed on to build up a much longer railroad from the Pakistani border to Kabul
past the Aynak copper mine.
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