INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER No 681
Mr.Leon Panetta, the Director of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), arrived in Islamabad on September 29,2010, for talks with Lt.Gen.Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was also scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff ( COAS).
2. Ever since he took over as the head of the CIA last year, Mr.Panetta had been periodically visiting Pakistan for talks with Pakistani leaders and officials on action against Al Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans and other affiliates of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistani territory. He has also been utilizing these visits for discussing with his own officers based in the Af-Pak area the operations of the Drones (pilotless planes), which are co-ordinated by the CIA.
3. His latest visit is, therefore, not a matter for surprise. However, it has assumed more than the usual significance because of indicators that the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, which has been the bete noire of the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, has been operating increasingly from new sanctuaries in the Kurram Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). This area, which has seen some bloody fighting between the Shias and the Sunnis during the last two years, has not been the focus of the intensified Drone strikes, which have been confined to North Waziristan ( an estimated 64 strikes this year) and South Waziristan (an estimated six).
4.Because of the sensitive Shia-Sunni angle in the Kurram Agency, the US has till now left the responsibility for action against the Taliban sanctuaries in the Agency to the Pakistan Army, which has been claiming to have mounted ground and air strikes against them. Despite the Pakistani claims, there has been no reduction in cross-border raids into Afghanistan by well-trained elements of the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, from sanctuaries in the Kurram Agency.
5. It is dissatisfaction with the operations which the Pakistan Army claims to have launched in the Agency which has resulted in the decision of the NATO forces in Afghanistan to exercise the right of hot pursuit against the Taliban and Haqqani network elements fleeing back into the Kurram Agency after ambushing/attacking the NATO forces in Afghanistan. This hot pursuit is being exercised in helicopters and not through ground operations. In one such hot pursuit this week, a Pakistani checkpost came under fire from a NATO helicopter resulting in the alleged death of three Pakistani security personnel.
6. According to well-informed Pakistani sources, one of the purposes of the latest visit of the CIA chief is to remonstrate with the ISI and Pakistani Army officials over their failure to act against the sanctuaries in the Kurram Agency and caution them that continued inaction or inadequate action by the Pakistan army could force the US to extend its Drone strikes to the Kurram Agency.
7.According to the same sources, the US continues to be unhappy with the Pakistani inaction in North Waziristan and inadequate action in South Waziristan. The stepped-up Drone strikes have disrupted the functioning of Al Qaeda from North Waziristan, but have not had much of an impact on the operations of the so-called 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, which has been drawing followers from persons of Turkish origin, including Kurds, living in Germany.
8. Ever since the publication of some cartoons of the Prophet by a Danish paper in 2005, Al Qaeda and its associates based in Pakistan’s tribal belt have been exploring ways of mounting terrorist attacks in reprisal against Western targets in Europe. Ilyas Kashmiri has been playing an important role in this regard. Evidence of his role in looking for opportunistic attacks on behalf of Al Qaeda in Europe came from the interrogation of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who was arrested by the FBI in October last year.
9. His interrogation brought out that he had helped the LET in preparing the groundwork for the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and was similarly helping Ilyas Kashmiri in preparing the groundwork for terrorist strikes in Denmark. In fact, Ilyas Kashmiri was reported to have told Headley that he controlled operational assets in Europe whom Headley could use without having to depend on the LET for the European operations.
10.A Press release issued on January 14,2010, by the Public Affairs Division of the US Justice Department had said as follows: “Headley allegedly traveled in January 2009, from Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark, to conduct surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus and to videotape the surrounding areas In late January 2009, Headley traveled to Pakistan and met separately to discuss the planning with Abdur Rehman and Lashkar Member A. In February 2009, Abdur Rehman allegedly took Headley to meet with Kashmiri in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. During the meeting, Kashmiri allegedly indicated that he had reviewed the surveillance videos made by Headley and suggested using a truck bomb in the operation. Kashmiri further indicated that he could provide manpower for the operation and that Lashkar’s participation was not necessary, the indictment alleges. Subsequently, in March 2009, Lashkar Member A advised Headley that Lashkar put the newspaper attack on hold because of pressure in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, according to the charges. In May 2009, Headley and Abdur Rehman met again with Kashmiri in Waziristan and Kashmiri allegedly directed Headley to meet with his European contacts who could provide Headley with money, weapons, and manpower for the newspaper attack. In late July and early August 2009, Headley traveled from Chicago to various places in Europe, including Copenhagen, attempting to obtain assistance from Kashmiri’s contacts and, while there, made approximately 13 additional surveillance videos, according to the charges.” ( My comment: Abdur Rehman is a retired Major of the Pakistan Army, who was acting as a cut-out between Headley and Ilyas Kashmiri)
11.The Islamic Jihad Union or Group (IJU), an Uzbek group based in North Waziristan and closely allied to Al Qaeda, has some followers in Germany among persons of Turkish origin as well as white German converts to Islam. Some arrests were made in Germany in August-September 2007 in connection with investigations into the activities of the IJU and its suspected plots for terrorist strikes in Germany against German as well as American targets.
12. The Norwegian police announced on July 8,2010, the arrest of three men suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda on charges of preparing terrorist attacks. One of them is a Norwegian citizen of Uighur origin. The other two are permanent residents in Norway of Uzbek and Iraqi-Kurdish origin. Two of them (the Uzbek and the Uighur) are reported to have been arrested in Norway and the third (Iraqi-Kurd with a permanent residence permit of Norway) in Germany. The Norwegian police had been keeping them under surveillance for investigation for about a year. The arrests appear to have been made even though the investigation was incomplete because of the leakage of the news about the investigation against them to the media. They apparently decided to arrest them before the media came out with the news. Media reports indicated that the arrested persons were suspected of involvement in plots for terrorist strikes in Norway and of having links with some terrorist suspects under investigation in the US and the UK.
13. The latest reports emanating from the US and the UK about the alleged plans of Al Qaeda to mount Mumbai-style terrorist strikes in the UK, France and Germany have come in the wake of these developments relating to the use of Headley by Ilyas and the arrests in Norway and Germany. The same sources as mentioned above say that the US feels that the ISI has been dragging its feet in taking action against Ilyas and his contacts in the Pakistan Army. Sections of the Pakistani media have been alleging since 2008 that Ilyas had served for some time as a commando in the Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army before drifting into the world of terrorism. He, therefore, enjoys protection from the ISI. Like the Haqqanis father and son, Ilyas is another valued operational asset of the ISI, which uses the Haqqanis in Afghanistan and Ilyas against India.
14. Growing indicators of the role which Ilyas has been playing as facilitator for the Euopean operations of Al Qaeda and its Uzbek associates have made the US step up pressure on the ISI for neutralizing Ilyas and his 313 Brigade. The sources say that this is another important reason for the visit of the CIA chief to Pakistan.
15. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier articles cited below:
(a). Article of September 18,2010, titled HAQQANI NETWORK IN PARACHINAR at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers41%5Cpaper4047.html
(b).Article of July 9,2010, titled “Al Qaeda In Norway” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers40%5Cpaper3915.html
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )