Daily brief: Pakistan army to enter North Waziristan, reports indicate

Risky business Pakistan’s army has reportedly agreed "in principle" to begin a military operation in the volatile tribal agency of North Waziristan, as first reported this weekend by The News and confirmed by the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (The News, Dawn, Reuters, AJE, VOA). Mullen said Monday that ...

-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images

Risky business

Pakistan's army has reportedly agreed "in principle" to begin a military operation in the volatile tribal agency of North Waziristan, as first reported this weekend by The News and confirmed by the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (The News, Dawn, Reuters, AJE, VOA). Mullen said Monday that the plans for the assault -- which will reportedly begin with the Pakistan air force "softening up" targets --  had been readied some time ago by the Pakistani command, but were agreed to during the visit to Pakistan last week of Mullen and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Dawn). During the visit Clinton and Pakistani leaders reportedly came to an agreement on cooperation with regards to "high-value targets" and Clinton reportedly demanded action on al-Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ilyas Kashmiri, and Atiyah Abdel Rahman as well as insurgent leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (Dawn, WSJ, ET). Pakistani officials denied that a decision has been made on the operation, though Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani will reportedly meet this week with senior officers to discuss U.S. "demands" for a military operation (ET).

The News also said that the incursion will target the "most violent factions" of the Pakistani Taliban, led by Hakimullah Mehsud, though Pakistan faces pressure from the United States to go after the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network headquartered in the agency (The News, Reuters, Tel). Joshua Partlow has a must-read on the Haqqani Network and its operations on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Post). And Pakistani media outlets yesterday reported a NATO helicopter incursion into North Waziristan to seize five members of the group (ET).

Risky business

Pakistan’s army has reportedly agreed "in principle" to begin a military operation in the volatile tribal agency of North Waziristan, as first reported this weekend by The News and confirmed by the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (The News, Dawn, Reuters, AJE, VOA). Mullen said Monday that the plans for the assault — which will reportedly begin with the Pakistan air force "softening up" targets —  had been readied some time ago by the Pakistani command, but were agreed to during the visit to Pakistan last week of Mullen and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Dawn). During the visit Clinton and Pakistani leaders reportedly came to an agreement on cooperation with regards to "high-value targets" and Clinton reportedly demanded action on al-Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ilyas Kashmiri, and Atiyah Abdel Rahman as well as insurgent leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (Dawn, WSJ, ET). Pakistani officials denied that a decision has been made on the operation, though Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani will reportedly meet this week with senior officers to discuss U.S. "demands" for a military operation (ET).

The News also said that the incursion will target the "most violent factions" of the Pakistani Taliban, led by Hakimullah Mehsud, though Pakistan faces pressure from the United States to go after the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network headquartered in the agency (The News, Reuters, Tel). Joshua Partlow has a must-read on the Haqqani Network and its operations on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Post). And Pakistani media outlets yesterday reported a NATO helicopter incursion into North Waziristan to seize five members of the group (ET).

Aid agencies in Pakistan’s northwest indicated to journalists that they were told recently to prepare for up to 365,000 displaced persons from an eventual assault into North Waziristan (Reuters). A bomb tore through a hotel in the agency’s capital of Miram Shah Monday, killing one and wounding at least 12 (AFP, Daily Times, BBC, CNN, Reuters). Elsewhere, a suicide bomber killed eight in a restaurant in Bajaur, including the apparent target Malik Tehsil Khan, an anti-Taliban figure in the area, as well as tribal elder Malik Mayn Jan (NYT, AJE, AP). Pakistani military operations in Orakzai agency reportedly killed at least 17 militants (Reuters, Dawn). Militants killed a local leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Swat, Muzafar Ali Khan (ET). Pakistani authorities arrested five suspected terrorists in Dera Ghazi Khan, including a man believed to be linked to the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team during a visit to Pakistan (ET). Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik this weekend announced an amnesty for "young Taliban" who renounced violence (ET). And in Karachi, five men were arrested for alleged involvement in targeted killings in the city (Dawn).

The threat from within

Pakistani authorities on Friday reportedly arrested a former Navy commando, Kamran Malik, as well as his brother and at least two others, in connection with the deadly siege last week of the Mehran naval base in Karachi (NYT, AP, ET, Reuters). Malik, who was discharged from the navy in 2003 after an altercation with a senior officer, was reportedly wiretapped in 2008 following an attack on the navy’s academy in Lahore (WSJ, NYT).The arrests come as Pakistan’s military leaders are said to have grown increasingly concerned about extremists infiltrating the ranks of the country’s armed forces (Post, AFP, VOA). And Pakistan’s navy provided new information yesterday about the raid, telling journalists that the attackers infiltrated the base from the side controlled by Pakistan’s air force, as the Sindh government announced the formation of a team to investigate the incident (Dawn, Dawn).

Human Rights Watch claimed this weekend that Asia Times journalist Saleem Shahzad was in the custody of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) just days after Shahzad wrote a story alleging contact between Pakistan Navy officials and al-Qaeda (Dawn, Daily Times, TIME, ET, Asia Times). Police today reportedly found Shahzad’s car nearly 200 km from Islamabad, where he was kidnapped, and an unidentified body was found nearby (Dawn). And NPR looks at the dangers journalists face when criticizing the Pakistani military (NPR).

Pakistani interior minister Malik announced Sunday that a commission will be formed in short order to investigate the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden May 2, as prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters that negotiations were "under way" for such a commission (Dawn, Dawn). Jason Burke reports that, according to documents seized in bin Laden’s compound, the terrorist leader worked towards the end of his life to build a "grand coalition" of Afghan and Pakistani insurgent groups (Guardian). A Pakistani foreign office spokesperson confirmed for the first time this weekend that bin Laden had a "support network" in the country (The News). And 14 American military trainers have reportedly left Pakistan, in accordance with government wishes to keep the American military footprint in the country to a minimum (ET).

Wikileaks: Pakistan edition

Another batch of Pakistan-related U.S. diplomatic cables was released this weekend, including: Washington’s calculations behind the sale of F-16 figher aircraft to Pakistan, announced in 2005 (The Hindu, NDTV); a 2008 cable detailing Pakistani requests to Saudi Arabia to stop funding the presidential campaign of current opposition figure Nawaz Sharif (ET); 2009 cables discussing Pakistani support for militant groups and the importance of solving the Kashmir conflict (The Hindu, ET); a cable summarizing French concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Times of India); and a summary of Pakistani concerns about an Indian military incursion following the 2008 Mumbai attacks (NDTV).

Praveen Swami reported Monday for The Hindu that lawyers for Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of facilitating the Mumbai attacks, will argue today that their client had no knowledge of the assault plan and was "duped" by childhood friend David Coleman Headley (The Hindu). Swami also reports that the U.S. will not push Pakistan to extradite other suspects indicted in connection with the Mumbai plot, and that the FBI ignored warnings about Headley’s militant connections (The Hindu, The Hindu). Sebastian Rotella looks at Headley’s credibility problems, which will be on display as he resumes testimony this week (ProPublica).

Terrible losses

An apparent suicide bomber dressed as an Afghan policeman attacked a meeting of senior security officials in the northern Afghan province of Takhar’s capital city, Taloqan, killing the police chief for northern Afghanistan, Gen. Daud Daud, as well as the provincial police chief, and wounding the German NATO commander for the region, Gen. Markus Kneip (NYT, Post, Times, Guardian, LAT). Daud, a former bodyguard for anti-Taliban leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, was highly regarded by Western officials for his role in combating militants (NYT). The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, vowing to continue targeting senior officials (Guardian). And Afghan security officials yesterday disputed reports that the attack was committed by a suicide bomber (NYT).

NATO officials have formally apologized for an errant airstrike on a compound in Helmand province that killed between nine and fourteen civilians this weekend, as Afghan president Hamid Karzai gave his "last warning" for NATO to cease operations that kill civilians (Guardian, BBC, CNN, NYT, Tel, LAT). Karzai in a press conference this morning banned airstrikes on Afghan houses, saying U.S. troops risk becoming an "occupying force" if civilians continue to die in operations (AJE, BBC, AP, Reuters, Tel, AFP).

The officials said the compound was targeted because militants had taken shelter inside, though Afghan officials said the strike missed its target and instead hit two civilian houses. Afterwards, villagers reportedly carried the dead children, some as young as two, to the governor’s office in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, shouting, "See they aren’t Taliban" (BBC). In Nuristan province, up to 22 Afghan soldiers and 20 civilians were reportedly killed in a "friendly fire" incident with NATO forces (Tolo, ET).

In the normally calm western city of Herat a suicide bomber and gunmen yesterday attacked a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) base guarded by Italian soldiers, while a car bomb struck a market in the city, killing at least 5 and wounding up to 30 (BBC, NYT, Guardian, LAT, Post, Reuters, AJE). The Journal reports on the growing violence in stable parts of the country, while Rajiv Chandrasekaran looks at the role the war’s cost will play in talks about an eventual troop drawdown (WSJ, Post). President Barack Obama yesterday nominated Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey to help lead the war effort as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while the top British general in Afghanistan warned against a serious pullout of troops (Post, Times, Tel, AP).

In other news…

Afghanistan’s Central Bank on Monday rejected a report from a presidential panel blaming it for not discovering fraud at the troubled Kabul Bank, as the commission also cleared President Karzai’s brother Mahmoud, a key stakeholder, of any involvement in the bank’s illegal dealings (NYT, NYT). In Kandahar, former border police commander Abdul Razzaq has taken over as the province’s chief of police (Pajhwok). An Afghan soldier in Uruzgan province on Monday shot his Australian "mentor" before fleeing, killing the soldier (AP, CNN). And Taliban threats have resulted in the closure of eight girls’ schools in the central province of Logar (Pajhwok).

Flashpoint

Pakistan and India today failed to reach a demilitarization agreement after two days of talks about the Siachen glacier, which borders the disputed territory of Kashmir and is considered the world’s highest battlefield (Reuters, ET, BBC, AFP, AP). The two sides will meet again at a later date to continue discussions.

And 25 people are believed to have died this weekend when a bus went off the road in Pakistani-administered Kashmir (AP).

Boom town

The Telegraph reports that Western aid money and military spending, in addition to successful Afghans returning home, has fueled a boom in luxury housing in Kabul (Tel). A series of luxury apartment buildings and a skyscraper are currently under construction in the city.

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