Thursday, September 16, 2010

[wvns] US Drones Bomb Residential Neighborhoods

US drones keep up heat on Haqqani group
By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Apparently frustrated over Pakistan military's inaction against the Haqqani network, the United States has this month unleashed a relentless wave of drone attacks in North Waziristan, hoping to downgrade the operational capabilities of the group it considers to be the most lethal militant outfit in Afghanistan.

Since Sept 2, there have been 13 strikes by unmanned Predator drones in North Waziristan — the highest number in a month since the US began using them to hit targets in Pakistan in 2004. The number of drone attacks this year has already crossed 70 — the highest figure for a year.

According to military sources, an operation in North Waziristan got delayed because the army was preoccupied with fighting militancy in other tribal areas and flood relief. This window was fully exploited by the group to intensify its activities, defence analysts believe.

"The Americans want to check that freedom of space available to the Haqqanis through intensified drone attacks," a source said.

There are few takers for the Pakistani explanation in the US and many describe the delay as tactical. Besides, Pakistan had in June initiated efforts to secure a place for the Haqqanis in post-war Afghanistan by working out a rapprochement between the group and the Karzai government. US opposition to the initiative halted it.

Sources suggest that Pakistan would make fresh moves to discuss peace with the Haqqanis, in the context of the overall reconciliation plan, during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's current visit to Pakistan.

The pattern of the attacks this month shows that the primary target is the Haqqani network, even though his host Hafiz Gul Bahadar and foreign militants of Al Qaeda have also been targeted.

The strikes this month have predominantly been in Miramshah sub-division, where the Haqqani network's headquarters are based and where the group carries out its financial dealings, acquisition of weapons and strategic planning.

Five of the attacks occurred in Datakhel tehsil, which is home to Gul Bahadar's clan Uthmanzai Wazir.

Dandi Derpakhel, the scene of another attack in Miramshah, is where members of Jalaluddin Haqqani's family live.

Gul Bahadar, who leads the other major militant grouping in North Waziristan, is more than a host for the Haqqanis. He not only provides them with the tribal support the Haqqanis lack, but also gives them passage to the border.

The only attack this month outside Miramshah was in Shawal, where foreign fighters loyal to Al Qaeda have sanctuaries.

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.

They say the US, notwithstanding international denunciation of the drone attacks, feels encouraged because the strikes in the past took out second- and third-tier leadership of militant groups.

Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has criticised the attacks as `licence to kill' that creates a `major accountability vacuum'.

Analysts opine that the drone attacks have been counter-productive, providing militants with an effective recruitment tool and inflaming opinion against the US and an embattled Pakistan government, which has lately gone silent on the attacks.


In the evening, drones carried out the second attack and fired missiles at a house in Datakhel area, killing seven militants.

Twenty-one militants killed in two attacks
Thursday, 16 Sep, 2010

MIRAMSHAH: US drones carried out two attacks on Taliban positions in North Waziristan on Wednesday. According to sources, 21 suspected militants were killed in the attacks.

In the first attack, which began at about 4.30am and continued for half an hour, 10 missiles hit a residential compound owned by Badshah Khan in Dandi Derpakhel area, north of Miramshah. Badshah Khan, the sources said, had links with the Haqqani group. The main compound was destroyed and 14 foreigners and so-called Punjabi Taliban were killed.

In the evening, drones carried out the second attack and fired missiles at a house in Datakhel area, killing seven militants.

Meanwhile, reports said a commander of the Haqqani group had been killed in a drone attack on Tuesday. Commander Saifullah was said to be a cousin of Sirajuddin, a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani.—Correspondent


Taliban trying to end tribal clashes in Kurram By Zulfiqar Ali
Thursday, 16 Sep, 2010

Taliban of the Jalaluddin Haqqani group are in contact with elders of rival tribes and talks between the Haqqani group and elders from Upper and Lower Kurram were held before Eidul Fitr.

Five UCs, fuel pipelines face flood threat BODY COUNT
Pakistan bomb death toll hits 102, worst this year PESHAWAR: A Taliban faction fighting US forces in Afghanistan is trying to end a tribal dispute which has resulted in severe clashes in Kurram Agency.

According to sources, Taliban of the Jalaluddin Haqqani group are in contact with elders of rival tribes and talks between the Haqqani group and elders from Upper and Lower Kurram were held before Eidul Fitr.

"Two trustworthy people of Jalaluddin Haqqani took part in the talks," they said, adding that the next round of talks was expected soon.

They said elders of Turi and Bangash tribes had said that they would attend further talks only if nine people kidnapped after an attack on two vehicles in Lower Kurram in July were freed and safety of passengers travelling between Parachinar and Peshawar was guaranteed.

"These measures are necessary to build confidence among the tribes and prepare the ground for future talks," an elder said.

He said the Taliban had told them that they wanted reconciliation among the tribes and had approached all groups to start negotiations.

The sources said the Taliban had been in contact with local tribes for some time but the talks had not produced any result so far.

The first round of talks was held in Balishkhel village in March last year and was attended also by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

Another team of Taliban visited the area in September last year.

According to the sources, a relative of a former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and his local business partner facilitated the talks which ended without achieving anything.

It may be mentioned, Nato officials and the Afghan government made similar efforts and invited elders of various tribes to Paktia province of Afghanistan in May last year to urge them to resolve their disputes.

Violent clashes have been taking place in the Kurram valley since November 2007 and thousands of people have been killed or injured and hundreds of families have been displaced.

The area is cut off from the rest of the country and local people travel on the Thall-Parachinar road in convoys protected by security personnel.

The government brokered a peace deal and an agreement to end violence was signed in Murree in October 2008, but there has been no let-up in violence in the valley.

Insiders said the aim behind Taliban's reconciliation efforts was to secure the strategic region and turn it into a safe route to Afghanistan.

Kurram valley borders Afghanistan from three sides, Paktia on its west, Nangarhar on the north and Khost on the south.

When militant groups signed peace deals with the government in South and North Waziristan, some armed groups tried to use Kurram for their activities in Afghanistan. Under the agreements, the militant groups operating in Waziristan were required not to infiltrate into Afghanistan.

Tension flared in the area when Baitullah Mehsud, the slain chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, deputed Hakimullah as `commander' for Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai agencies in 2008 and tribal people in Kurram opposed TTP's activities.

Local tribes blamed Taliban for violence and insecurity in their area.

According to the sources, Taliban have told the elders that tension in Kurram has had an adverse effect on the `Jihad' in Afghanistan and that they are interested in ending disputes among local groups.

But several tribes are sceptical about the initiative and suspect that the Taliban are interested only in securing a safe passage for their cross-border movement.

"Taliban are yet to show their cards, but we have already conveyed to the negotiators that people in Kurram are against the presence of outsiders in their area," a source said.


Karzai restates intent to engage Taliban By Our Staff Reporter
Thursday, 16 Sep, 2010

"There are sanctuaries and training camps in our countries. Militants are not coming from Ivory Coast, they are coming from our lands," he said at the press conference with President Asif Zardari. - Photo by Reuters.

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday castigated Pakistan for the presence of sanctuaries and training camps of militants within its territorial limits. At the same time, he reiterated his government's resolve to talk with Taliban.

"There are sanctuaries and training camps in our countries. Militants are not coming from Ivory Coast, they are coming from our lands," he said at the press conference with President Asif Zardari.

Mr Karzai has been accusing Pakistan of doing nothing against militants' sanctuaries and training camps for several years.

At the press conference, however, the two presidents pledged to work together to eliminate terrorist hideouts.

In reply to a question about his offer of talks to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Mr Karzai said: "We have made talks offer to those Taliban who are not part of Al Qaeda and are ready to obey the Afghan constitution."

When his attention was drawn towards reports that Indian consulates in Afghanistan were being used for creating unrest in Balochistan, Mr Karzai said his government would never allow anyone to use its territory against any other country. He said he was ready to help normalise relations between Pakistan and India.

President Zardari said that strengthening and expanding cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and among neighbouring countries, was a key to regional stability, security and economic development.

He said that during his meeting with Mr Karzai bilateral relations had reached new levels. "However, there is a need to strengthen bilateral institutional arrangements for promotion of durable and mutually beneficial cooperation in security, development, trade, economic and investment linkages, infrastructure and energy connectivity and people-to-people exchanges," Mr Zardari said.

The one-to-one meeting between the two presidents was followed by a delegation-level meeting to discuss issues of mutual concern and explore the possibility of enhancing the existing cooperation between the two countries.

The Afghan delegation was represented by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul, Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and National Security Adviser Dr Rangeen Dadfar Wardak. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Commerce Minister Amin Fahim and Interior Minister Rehman Malik represented Pakistan.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told reporters that Mr Zardari had thanked the Afghan president for his government's assistance in cash and kind for the flood-affected people. Afghanistan provided helicopters, food and medicines and sent medical teams. Mr Zardari said that Afghan gesture of helping those in need indicated strong bonds between the people of the two countries.

"We believe that military operations alone cannot restore and guarantee peace and stability and the international community should follow a holistic approach combining military, political and developmental tracks," he said.

"A viable reconciliation is vital for durable and long-term peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan is supportive of an Afghan-led and inclusive political reconciliation process," Mr Zardari said.

The two countries underlined the need for concerted and coordinated efforts to eliminate terrorism and extremism from their soils.

Pakistan suggested initiation of a bilateral security dialogue for close coordination between security agencies of the two countries.

The meeting decided that security, counter-terrorism, economic, trade and investment, infrastructure development and connectivity and energy should be top priority areas to enhance mutual cooperation.

Welcoming the conclusion of negotiations on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement in July this year, the Pakistani side called for its early implementation for the benefit of the two countries.

Later, President Zardari hosted a dinner for Mr Karzai and his delegation.



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