INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 686
( To be read in continuation of my article of September 18,2010 titled “HAQQANI NETWORK IN PARACHINAR” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers41%5Cpaper4047.html )
“The US, while targeting the Haqqanis, is pursuing the ‘hammer and anvil approach’. Alongside the spike in the drone attacks, US Special Forces have launched an intense operation against the group in eastern Afghanistan, killing a number of its ‘commanders’. The Haqqani network has been the focus of US action for the past two years. However, after the Dec 2009 suicide attack on the Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, a key facility of the CIA, the network again came under renewed focus. In this unprecedented intense bombardment by drones, military officials see a shift in US policy in Afghanistan from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism.” ---“Dawn” of Karachi of September 16,2010
The US has been carrying on Drone (pilotless plane) strikes against suspected members of Al Qaeda and its associate jihadi organizations in North and South Waziristan for nearly four years. These strikes have been stepped up since President Barack Obama assumed office in January last year. There has been a further escalation of the strikes since the beginning of September following reports of an Al Qaeda-inspired plot to carry out Mumbai—26/11 style terrorist strikes in the UK, France and Germany.
2. These strikes have killed many known and identified senior cadres of Al Qaeda, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other associate organizations of Al Qaeda. They have also killed some European recruits to Al Qaeda such as Rashid Rauf of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, who was a British citizen of Mirpuri origin, and German recruits to the Islamic Jihad Union. However, they have not had any success in locating and neutralizing Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, his No.2, Jalalludin Haqqani and his son Serajuddin. The US information seems to be that they are probably in North Waziristan. Hence, the largest number of Drone strikes in that area. The US suspicion has also been strengthened by the reluctance of the Pakistan Army to undertake operations in the North Waziristan area.
3. If it is true that these prized assets of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are in North Waziristan, the Pakistan Army must have been highly concerned over the stepped-up Drone strikes in that area and reacted strongly against them. But it did not show signs of any such concern. It did protest pro forma against the Drone strikes, calling them a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and calling upon the US periodically to stop them. Beyond that, it did nothing. The presumption in Pakistan is that these strikes are being carried out with the nod of the Pakistani Army.
4. The same Army, which has avoided any retaliatory action against the US for the Drone strikes, reacted vehemently against a helicopter strike by a NATO helicopter on a ground position in the area of the Kurram Agency, in which two soldiers of a para-military unit of the Army were reportedly killed. The Pakistan Army not only protested strongly against the attack, but even retaliated on the ground by stopping the flow of logistic supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through the Torkham area. The US was so concerned by the impact of this on the logistics position in Afghanistan that it asked its then Ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, to publicly apologise to the Pakistani authorities for this incident. Other apologies from the Pentagon followed. Only then, did the Pakistani Army relent and allow the resumption of logistic supplies.
5. Why did the Pakistan Army retaliate so vehemently against one copter strike in the Kurram area, whereas it had closed its eyes to dozens of Drone strikes in the two Waziristans? According to well-informed Pakistani police sources, this was because the NATO helicopter, which bombed a position in the Kurram Agency, had unwittingly gone very close to the area where the prized assets of the ISI are sheltered. Fears that the US intelligence might have come to know of the presence of these elements in the Kurram area created panic in the GHQ of the Army. It decided to retaliate by stopping the flow of logistics in order to prevent any more strikes by the NATO copters in the area.
6. The “Dawn” Karachi of October 21 has come out with a report on the ground situation in the Kurram area, which explains the importance of Kurram for the Haqqani network and others in the following words: “The most important among all the agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Kurram borders Afghanistan’s Khost province in the south, Paktia in the southwest and Nangarhar in the north, while Kabul is 90 kilometres west of Parachinar. In fact, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all the major groups of ‘Mujahideen’ had bases in the area. The Haqqani group is active in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni and Wardak, which is close to Kabul. And especially as Waziristan has become vulnerable for the network in the wake of frequent US drone attacks, the Haqqanis are desperate to find safe locations outside the agency. Kurram would prove ideal for them and this is why they are trying to reconcile with the tribes in its lower and upper parts. They are not the first to find Kurram’s proximity to Afghanistan attractive. In fact, Taliban first came there in 2006 when they moved to Orakzai Agency and some parts of Kurram from Waziristan after signing peace deals with the government. Baitullah Mehsud, the late chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban, Pakistan had deputed Hakimullah Mehsud to oversee Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai. Another reason the Taliban shifted activities to Orakzai and Kurram was that North and South Waziristan were being closely watched by the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan and they were facing difficulties crossing the border from there. “
7. The text of the “Dawn” report is annexed.( 22-10-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
ANNEXURE ( Report carried by “Dawn of October 21,2010)
Haqqani’s two sons mediating in Kurram
By Our Correspondent
Thursday, 21 Oct, 2010
ISLAMABAD: The three-year fragile and ineffective efforts for peace between warring sectarian tribes in Kurram Agency have received an unexpected boost in the shape of the controversial Haqqani network which is now trying to play peace broker.
This has been confirmed by more than one source from among the key players involved in the peace process.
The entry of the Haqqanis in the Kurram peace talks, which date back to 2007, has surprised many. After all, the network is usually mentioned in terms of its war theatre in Afghanistan and its base in North Waziristan. The US has been pressurising the government for months to dislodge the Haqqanis from North Waziristan.
Khalil and Ibrahim, sons of the network’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, have reportedly been meeting tribal elders from the Kurram in Peshawar and Islamabad to end the hostilities between the local tribes and bring peace to the area which has witnessed some of the worst clashes in its history over the past three years.
The last round of talks was held in Islamabad on Oct 10. “They first turned up at a meeting held in Peshawar in the first week of September,” a tribal elder told Dawn.
This account is corroborated by another elder who adds that the two brothers were also present at the second meeting in the provincial capital on Sept 16 and then at a subsequent one in Islamabad.
It is expected that elders and mediators will put their heads together in the next few days yet again to ensure sustainable peace in the area.
Although the ongoing spate of violence dates back to 2007 and the peace efforts to 2008, the Haqqanis have been in contact with the rival tribes since early last year.
In the early phase, Haqqani’s senior ‘commanders’ negotiated with all the groups in Kurram on his behalf. But the talks remained inconclusive.
Now he has nominated his two younger sons which shows how important the region has become for the group.
However, the people of the violence-wracked Kurram are apprehensive of the aims of the mediators.
Not only are they wary of those involved in fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also because they think that the involvement of the Haqqanis may not be possible without the tacit approval of the military which is reported to enjoy links with this group of Afghan militants.
Such suspicions gain credence against the backdrop of reports that members of the Haqqani clan visited Peshawar and Islamabad for the talks.
Some reports suggest that the Haqqanis have sought full authority and ‘machlaka’ (bond) from rival factions before unveiling a new peace agreement. The proposed deal will be binding on all parties.
However some groups are reluctant to give full authority and machlaka to the ‘mediators’.
Instead, they are stressing that the Murree/Islamabad agreement signed by all tribes be implemented.The government had brokered the agreement in Murree that was signed on Oct 16, 2008.
Under the agreement, the rival tribes deposited Rs20 million to the local authorities as guarantee that they would refrain from fighting in the future.
But the five-point agreement which covers all major issues could not be implemented.
Tribesmen blame a lack of interest on the part of the state organs for this.
According to some reports, the tribesmen have sought the release of the people kidnapped during an attack on a convoy on the Thall-Parachinar road in July.
The Haqqanis’ interest is not linked to the welfare of the residents of Kurram but to the tribal agency’s strategic position. The most important among all the agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Kurram borders Afghanistan’s Khost province in the south, Paktia in the southwest and Nangarhar in the north, while Kabul is 90 kilometres west of Parachinar.
In fact, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all the major groups of ‘Mujahideen’ had bases in the area.
The Haqqani group is active in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni and Wardak, which is close to Kabul. And especially as Waziristan has become vulnerable for the network in the wake of frequent US drone attacks, the Haqqanis are desperate to find safe locations outside the agency. Kurram would prove ideal for them and this is why they are trying to reconcile with the tribes in its lower and upper parts.
They are not the first to find Kurram’s proximity to Afghanistan attractive. In fact, Taliban first came there in 2006 when they moved to Orakzai Agency and some parts of Kurram from Waziristan after signing peace deals with the government.
Baitullah Mehsud, the late chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan had deputed Hakimullah Mehsud to oversee Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai.
Another reason the Taliban shifted activities to Orakzai and Kurram was that North and South Waziristan were being closely watched by the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan and they were facing difficulties crossing the border from there.
However, the militant groups’ move to Kurram was opposed locally. The residents of the upper parts of Kurram opposed the movement of armed men through the agency. Eventually the agency plunged into bloody clashes in April 2007, leaving over 3,000 people dead, according to unofficial estimates, while hundreds of families were displaced.
Property worth millions of rupees was destroyed in clashes and the people suffered immensely because of prolonged closure of the Thall-Parachinar road.
Unfortunately, scrappy media coverage of the clashes gave them a sectarian colour and the involvement of the Taliban was ignored, although the government did acknowledge on some occasions the involvement of a third party.
For a number of reasons, the Taliban since then have not been able to enforce their writ in Kurram. And this is why they have been forced to negotiate peace, a process which the Haqqanis have joined. Meanwhile, the residents of Kurram remain sceptical about the new initiative. DAWN 21-10-10