Al-Qaeda center of gravity moving from Pakistan to Yemen, experts say

Center of gravity  After a threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula shuttered 22 U.S. diplomatic facilities in 17 different countries last week, terrorism experts note that as al-Qaeda marks its 25th anniversary this month, its center of gravity is shifting from Pakistan to Yemen (AFP).  Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on militant groups in Pakistan, told ...

BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GettyImages
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GettyImages
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GettyImages

Center of gravity 

Center of gravity 

After a threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula shuttered 22 U.S. diplomatic facilities in 17 different countries last week, terrorism experts note that as al-Qaeda marks its 25th anniversary this month, its center of gravity is shifting from Pakistan to Yemen (AFP).  Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on militant groups in Pakistan, told AFP that while al-Qaeda’s core retains its symbolic importance, plans are not coming from Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over when Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011.  Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani author and security analyst, commented that: “They don’t need someone as charismatic as Osama bin Laden was and they have, I think, the ideological ammunition, ideological fuel which is helping them stay afloat.” 

During a flag ceremony to mark Pakistan’s 67th Independence Day in Islamabad on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to "give an absolute defeat to the terrorists" and turn the country into a cradle of peace (Dawn).  While he did not give specifics, Sharif’s comments came one day after he received a draft copy of a new ambitious counterterrorism policy, the country’s first in 13 years. Sharif added that since Pakistan is a nuclear state and an important regional power, it needs to be included in regional decisions. 

In response to rising tensions between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, Sharif pledged "restraint and responsibility" on Wednesday during a press conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (ET).  Skirmishes along the heavily-militarized Line of Control have been ongoing for about a week and continued on Wednesday with reports of Indian shelling that killed a 60-year old man and injured his daughter in the Battal sector, and an incursion by unidentified gunmen from the Pakistani side of the border in the Keran sector (ET, Reuters).  According to Lt. Col. Brijesh Panday, an Indian army commander, the gunmen tried to cross the Line of Control, prompting Indian forces to open fire and kill two militants.   

On Tuesday, Salman Khurshid, India’s Minister of External Affairs, told reporters that there was a sense of shock in New Delhi over the "ceasefire violations by Pakistan," and a spokesman for the ministry confirmed that the tensions in Kashmir would delay secretary-level talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbors (Dawn).  In his statement, the spokesman for the ministry said, "For peaceful dialogue to proceed we need an environment free of violence and terror. And certainly what has happened last week doesn’t fit into that." 

"More than numbers"

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the U.S. commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, told Reuters on Tuesday that the country’s future security will be dependent on foreign troops for years, though he would not specify the number of troops he thinks should stay post-2014 (Reuters).  Dunford’s comments come as the United States and its NATO allies consider how many troops to leave behind in Afghanistan to provide training and operational support once combat troops withdraw at the end of next year.  According to the report, the White House favors about 7,000 U.S. troops, while some in the military would prefer two or three times that.  But to Dunford, "It’s about a lot more than numbers. It’s about what capability is required to sustain the Afghan security forces after 2014." 

The U.S. Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday that the next trilateral meeting between Afghanistan, India, and the United States will occur next month when the leaders gather in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting (Pajhwok).  She specificially acknowledged: "the important role India plays in Afghanistan’s future, particularly in terms of business," and noted that the U.S. appreciates the country’s efforts.

Nearly 1,500 people from the Chappa village in Badakhshan province have been infected by a cholera outbreak that has killed one and left 100 in critical condition (AP).  Abdul Marouf Rasekh, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the outbreak begin three days ago but was restricted to Chappa, which has now been quarantined.  He also told reporters that the source of the infection had been traced to the single spring that supplies the town’s drinking water.  Until the contamination issue is solved, health workers are bringing in clean water from nearby towns.

At least nine people died and 13 others were injured on Monday and Tuesday by flash floods that hit Maidan Wardak and Paktika provinces (Pajhwok).  Most of the casualties occurred in the Chak, Daimardad, Jaghatu, and Syedabad districts of Maidan Wardak, where the floods displaced around 3,000 families, destroyed 2,000 acres of farmlands, and killed around 200 farm animals.  This round of flooding came just days after flash floods killed 22 others in several other Afghan provinces.  

The Pride of Pakistan

While flag-raising ceremonies and celebratory gunfire marked Pakistan’s independence day in many cities across the country, in Karachi, Sahib Dad and Saifur Rehman created a patriotic rickshaw to honor the country’s birthday (ET).  According to Dad, Rehman was inspired to build the rickshaw after discovering that none of the local shopkeepers had patriotic records for sale.  It took the two men a month and more than 150,000 rupees ($2,500) to make the green and white rickshaw, nicknamed "The Pride of Pakistan," and it is festooned with neon truck art, disco balls, patriotic slogans, steel plates embossed with the crescent and star, and giant Pakistani flags.

— Bailey Cahall 

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