Sunday, June 5, 2011




The USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has not allowed the death of Osama bin Laden in a raid by US naval commandos at his hide-out at Abbottabad on May 2,2011,to slow down its hunt for other high-value targets of Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the Pashtun tribal belt of Pakistan.

2. Its relentless search for them through newly-created human sources and Drone (pilotless plane) strikes has been kept up. The successful commando raid at Abbottabad has added to the already existing disruption in the command and control of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Their remaining leaders are on the run re-locating themselves in new sanctuaries due to a fear that their old sanctuaries might already be within the knowledge of the CIA as a result of its scrutiny of the documents and computer material seized from OBL's hide-out.

3. Their hurried efforts towards re-location have provided the CIA and its Drones new opportunities to run them down and eliminate them. Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of the so-called 313 Brigade of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), one of the constituent units of Al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People, appears to have been successfully hunted down and eliminated along with some associates---all Pakistanis--- in a Drone strike near Wana in South Waziristan on the night of June 3,2011.

4. Though their bodies are reported to have been mutilated beyond recognition and quickly buried by the locals thereby making physical or forensic identification impossible, the admission by a self-proclaimed representative of the HUJI in Fax messages sent to the local media of the fact of Ilyas’ death in a Drone strike has added strength to the widely-held belief in the South Waziristan area that Ilyas is no more.

5. While one cannot rule out the possibility of the HUJI or its 313 Brigade deliberately disseminating a false claim of his death in order to protect him from the relentless hunt by the CIA, one has to note that there has been no instance in the past of Al Qaeda or its affiliates disseminating false claims of death in order to protect their leaders.

6. There had been instances in the past of Pakistani agencies claiming to have killed high-value targets, with the claims subsequently proving to be false. A report in September 2009 disseminated by Pakistani sources regarding the death of Ilyas in a Drone strike subsequently proved to be false. At that time, no claim or admission of his death had been made by the 313 Brigade or the HUJI.

7. Thus, one can be reasonably ---though not totally—certain that the CIA has scored another high-value success in eliminating Ilyas. This will further add to the disruption in the command and control of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. After Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri from Birmingham, who was reportedly killed in a Drone strike some months ago in the FATA region, Ilyas is the second jihadi terrorist of Kashmiri origin associated with Al Qaeda to have been killed by the CIA. He hailed from the Bhimber area of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

8. Ilyas was often compared to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), who orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland, but he was not of the same class as KSM in conceiving and executing spectacular terrorist strikes.

9. His value to Al Qaeda arose from the fact that he had a wide network of contacts not only in the Pakistani Armed Forces and intelligence agencies, but also in the diaspora of Pakistani origin in the West. This enabled him to find new non-Arab volunteers for Al Qaeda’s operations in foreign soil.

10. However, it has to be noted that his spectacular successes were mostly in the Af-Pak and Indian regions. None of his planned operations in the West---including the plan to blow up the offices of the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Holy Prophet in 1995, reached a successful culmination.

11.Ilyas did not have a technical bent of mind like KSM, but he developed an expertise in organising complex swarm attacks using the commando tactics of special forces. The increasing number of such successful swarm attacks by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani network in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan bore his signature and signs of his expertise and training. It remains to be seen whether his death will have any impact on the ability of Al Qaeda and its affiliates to carry out such swarm attacks in future. ( 5-6-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


Paresh said...

India must be careful. Obviously, there is collusion between ISI and CIA in the elimination of these thugs. Kashmiri and OBL had both outlived their usefulness and hence were summarily betrayed by the ISI. The US will perform its duty and run away without bothering about the terrorists that threaten India.

(I am not saying it should do India's dirty work, but atleast not stop us from pressurizing Pakistan, as it has been doing for the past 10 years)

The only positive outcome from these eliminations is that the Jihadis are getting weary of the ISI and Pakistan state causing a civil war situation in Pakistan. But at the end of the day, it does not benefit India, since both sides in this civil war are Islamic, hell bent on destruction of India in the long run! So its a short lived joy for us...unless we really pressure Pakistan to change its ways (or dismember it into smaller states, which MMS won't do!)

Akshaya Handa said...

1. The reported death of Ilyas Kashmiri if true throws up interesting possibilities.
2. Counter terrorism operations seek to keep the militants (and especially their leaders) off balance by killing or capturing them while also rolling up the lower levels of the group. Militants scrambling for their lives seldom have the opportunity to plan effective attacks, and sustained pressure makes it difficult for them to regain the offensive. They seek to establish a tempo of operations based on intelligence, surgical operations, additional intelligence based on interrogation of captives if any, quick analysis, rapid re-tasking and follow-on operations. In this intelligence and additional intelligence are the key.
3. His reported death coming in the wake of reports of death of Mullah Omar and confirmed killing of Osama reflects of the pressure on the Al Qaeda leadership. A spate of sudden series of success after reports of a faltering Af-Pak Campaign, suggests the sudden increase of actionable intelligence with the ISAF. It must be reiterated that despite all the sophistication drones, as all other AB platforms need targeting information from near the target.
4. Hence, the process which led to his identification and location would throw up keys to the future. Following possibilities seem plausible. One, information captured in Osama’s lair; two, the information being given by Headley; three information given by Pakistani locals and; four information by Pakistani Government sources under pressure after the discovery of Osama. If either of the first two are true it would reflect the value of the information currently with the US. It should lead to further successful raids against leaders though the same is likely to slow down in the weeks (as the information becomes old) to come unless another Headley / Osama are caught. The third if true, would spell a remarkable HUMINT gain which would convert many a fence sitters. It should lead to more sustained and targeted strikes in the near future. However, if the fourth is true, it would reflect of pressure on the Pak Government, which may lead to targeting of only leaders adversely affecting the ISAF and in the medium to long term concessions to Pak in Afghanistan.
5. As such the death of Ilyas Kashmiri – even if true – is unlikely to be more than a tactical reprieve for India.

Esoteric said...

Akshaya- Only 1st/4th are possibilities.Headley has been in custody since Oct '09 and Pak locals have always provided some inputs but there is no reason for it to increase.

Given,OBL's history its unlikely that information from OBL can have tactical significance as Kashmiri would have known that he might be exposed given OBL has died and changed his hideout.

This leaves the real possibility that Pak was informed of Abb'bad at the last moment and is now providing some information and in return will get their men in Kabul.

As far India goes,it needs to get rid of its inept,corrupt and discredited UPA Govt before any gains can be made.If UPA had information on OBL they might have sold it to the highest bidders like Kayani & co.

Paresh said...

Read the following about the new Great Game in Central Asia:

Esoteric said...

Paresh - Read it with interest.Right now India and China's economies are being destroyed by inflation due to high prices of commodities incl oil prices.High oil prices are a result of Mid-east unrest.US has also re-started Oil,gas exploration and Nuke plants build within its borders.High commodity prices are a result of US deficit financing to finance itself.

India doesnt have a energy reserve but instead has a deficit.The Govt is unable to align its foreign,economic and energy policy into one whole strategy.

India urgently needs a responsive Govt which can formulate a coherent strategy and execute it.MMS signed a deal with US in 2005 but power from Nuke plants mightnt be available before 2020 at best,if all goes to plan.Instead we suffer Ministers making money by reverse trading Onions etc and increasing food inflation.

Paresh said...


You are right! Corruption makes India like a pocket with a hole in it. How much money you put in it, finally, nothing remains!

On top of that the UPA govt is absolutely not serious in tackling corruption. Instead, it is hell bent on creating a divide in anti-corruption forces on the basis of Hindu Muslim rivalries. Pathetic!

Although, I am happy with our foreign policy at the moment. We seem to be doing pretty good in these days of uncertainty.

Bhautik said...


1) OBL was just a so-called Sheikh, a non-state actor, without a proper military training and strategic thinking capacity. He only acted/did (after running into pakistan) what was asked to him to do by his rogue ISI handlers (mainly old retired fellas probably excellent in HUMINT and may be aware of implications of SIGINT). Poor fellow didn't even think to properly disguise himself.

2) Whereas Illyas Kashmiri was/is a well trained pakistan elite SSG commando with proper military training and strategic thinking. Examples are (i)execution of attack on PNS Mehran and eliminating two of the three P3C orion engaged in reconnaissance of NATO's logistics sea lanes in Arabian sea. (ii) plan to attack danish newspaper and plan to kill lockheed martin's CEO (above two points reflects upto what extent he can think. I strongly feel that attack on danish newspaper failed b'coz western intelligence is more organized, professional, and structured unlike our RAW and MEA). (iii) mumbai 26/11 attacks, where instead of taking all the pain to send huge amount of plastic explosives into india, which again has more chance of being caught by indian intelligence and security forces, sent 10 (or may be more, god knows or our incompetent congress MMS government knows how many) armed militant through sea route under the disguise of indian fisherman, in a hijacked indian shipping trawler, thereby staying low on indian intelligence agencies' radar. (I am NOT the admirer of Ilyas Kashmiri. I just tend to think at the enemy's frequency.)

3) I think that with a spectacular success of CIA+US Navy seals in eliminating OBL, hiding deep inside Pakistan at a stone-throw distance away from PMA, and having executed PNS Mehran attack, he is not feeling safe well inside pakistan (his only safe house), and is trying to spread rumors of his own death.

chomskyist said...

SOrry to Dissapoint the Commando Commander lives to fight an another day.