TEHRAN, Jan. 19 (Mehr News Agency) — Iran has broken up a CIA-backed network that sought to carry out a “soft revolution” in Iran through people-to-people contacts.
The “soft revolution” plan is based in Dubai and is similar to a U.S. plan that targeted the Soviet Union in 1959, the director of the counterespionage department of the Intelligence Ministry told reporters at a press conference here on Monday.
He said the CIA was seeking to implement the plan under the cover of scientific and cultural contacts between Iranian and U.S. nationals.
Unfortunately, some Iranian nationals, especially cultural and scientific figures, were deceived through such activities, he added.
“The U.S. intelligence agency was seeking to (repeat) its experiences of color revolutions through such public contacts with influential persons and elites.”
The CIA tried to attain its goals by taking advantage of people-to-people contacts, joint studies, efforts to share scientific experiences, and other similar projects, he added.
The soft revolution plan was carried out through “NGOs, union protests, non-violent demonstrations, civil disobedience… and (efforts to) foment ethnic strife” all across Iran, the official stated.
Four of the people who led the network inside Iran were actively and intentionally cooperating with CIA agents, he noted.
These four persons were put on trial, some others were pardoned, and some others were acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence, he explained.
These four persons confessed and videotapes of parts of their confessions will be released soon, he noted.
He only named two of the persons, the brothers Dr. Arash Alaei and Dr. Kamyar Alaei.
The Intelligence Ministry official said that $32 million of the $75 million allocated by the U.S. Congress to destabilize Iran was spent on this project.
The CIA used institutions such as the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Soros Foundation, AIPAC, and charity organizations and sought the help of William Burns and other people in the United States and agents in the Azerbaijan Republic, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.
He stated that the CIA enlisted scientists, physicians, university professors, clergymen, artists, athletes, and dress designers for its plot.
He went on to say that these people were invited to the United States in groups of 10-15 people, with visas issued for them in Dubai in the shortest possible time, and according to their professions, they participated in scientific seminars and toured various states, and when they returned home they were asked to write “analyses” of the situation inside Iran.
The CIA was actively seeking to recruit more people for the network, who also would have been invited to visit the United States, he added.
These persons were ordered to put pressure on the government to change its policy and to sow discord between the government and the people, he explained.
The Intelligence Ministry found out about the secret plan from the very beginning and “even allowed the operation to be conducted to a (certain level) so that we could inform talented people with full confidence that they should not be deceived by such scientific centers,” he stated.
The Iranian Intelligence Ministry countered the plot by “infiltrating” the network and even derailed it from its path by providing false information, but the CIA eventually discovered the ruse, he explained.
Advice for Obama
The official advised the incoming U.S. administration to avoid repeating the previous “failed” policies toward Iran.
He made the remarks one day before Barack Obama is officially inaugurated as the next U.S. president.
The Intelligence Ministry official said the U.S. is discrediting its scientific and charity organizations by allowing the CIA to use them as cover for its activities.
“It is not in the interests of scientific and political institutions (to allow themselves) to be used by the CIA for its hidden agenda.”
Employing such organizations to conduct spy activities will create skepticism about them that will be very difficult to eliminate, he noted.
Palestinian Information Center
MIRAMSHAH – Wrapped in white bandages and lying on a bed in the dust-bowed district hospital in Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan, Fazl-e-Rabbi is one of who lucky enough to survive a US deadly missile strike at a funeral ceremony in neighboring South Waziristan a day earlier.”We had just finished the funeral prayers and I was wearing my shoes when I felt that the sun had exploded on my head,” Fazl-e-Rabbi, who received injuries in his arms, legs and lower abdomen, told IslamOnline.net on Wednesday, June 24.
“What I remember is that I was hit by something in my lower abdomen and then in no time I fell on the ground. I tried to control my senses but I could not.”
Some 83 people, mostly civilians were reportedly killed and over 50 injured in three consecutive drone attacks in Lataka, an area located 50 kilometers north of Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, within 12 hours.
The first strike killed several suspected Taliban militants in Shubi Khel, about 65 kilometers north of Wana.
Intelligence officials say senior Afghan Taliban commander Khoj Wali, who was heading a meeting of local Taliban, was killed in the attack along with five others.
As mourners gathered for their funeral prayers later in the day in a nearby area, another drone fired three missiles into the crowd.
“The last feeling I had at that time was that I am going to die as people soaked in their own blood were running from here to there to take shelter,” recalled Fazl-e-Rabbi, a father of three, fighting back his tears.
Since August 2008, about 43 US drone strikes have killed at least 410 people.
The US does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its troops in neighboring Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy unmanned drones in the region.
Publicly, the Pakistani government opposes attacks by pilotless US aircraft as a violation of its territorial sovereignty.
Fazl-e-Rabbi, a farmer by profession, insisted that most of the victims were innocent civilians.
“Most of the deceased were civilians. I know almost all of them. They were from my area,” he insisted.
The victims included two of his cousins.
“One of my cousins was standing next to me during the funeral prayers. I heard his deafening scream before falling on the ground,” he remembered.
“I don’t remember what happened after that but his last scream has settled down in my mind.”
Fazl-e-Rabbi was later informed that both his cousins breathed their last.
According to local sources, the deceased were buried in a mass grave.
“We have nothing to do with Taliban or Al-Qaeda,” he fumed.
“It is a local tradition that whoever dies in your neighborhood, then it is a must for us to attend his funeral and burry him. We did the same.”
His contention is backed by local journalists and a parliamentarian elected from the area.
“Around 50 civilians who had nothing to do with Taliban have been killed in the strikes,” Irfan Khan, a local journalist, told IOL.
He refuted reports that Afghan or foreign Taliban were killed in the drone attacks.
“Most of them [victims] were civilians, while some local Taliban have also been killed.”
Senator Saleh Shah, who belongs to South Waziristan, agrees.
“As far as my information is concerned, most of the deceased were ordinary tribesmen who gathered to offer funeral prayers of some suspected local Taliban,” he told IOL.
“Taliban are not as doofus as gathering under open sky and become an easy target for US drones.”
Fazl-e-Rabbi, the wounded civilian, is furious at the treatment melted out to him and his fellow residents by the government and the media.
“We are stuck between Taliban and US attacks and when we are killed, not only no one cries for us, but also we are dubbed as militants,” he fumed.
He laments that no official has visited them to check on their condition, or even verify whether they are Taliban or not.
“They won’t come because they know we are innocent. It seems as if we are aliens in our own country.”
Fazl-e-Rabbi is equally critical of both Taliban and the Americans.
“If Taliban are bombing the mosques, then America is bombing the funerals. What is difference between them?”
Senator Shah warns that such attacks would further fan anti-government, anti-American sentiments in the already restive tribal area.
“If this kind of practice continues, then mark my words, this so-called war on terror can never be won.
“Taliban don’t need anything to coax the people. US drone attacks are enough to do that.”
“We don’t demand anything. We just want to be treated equally. Don’t force us to become Taliban, which we don’t want to.”
The latest drone strike in Pakistan is apparently the deadliest yet: Reports describe between 45 and 70 dead and many injured. The details are far from clear, but we can at least answer some questions: is it really possible for a drone attack to be so lethal? Is new, more lethal weaponry being deployed?
One thing to bear in mind is that not all so-called “drone strikes” may be carried out by U.S. drones. On previous occasions, there have been strong suggestions that the strikes were actually carried out by Pakistani F-16 jets. It may be much more politically convenient for the Pakistani government to point the finger at the U.S. when it comes to killing its own people.
In this instance, however, Al-Jazeera does have an eyewitness:
“I saw three drones, they dropped bombs,” Sohail Mehsud, a resident of Makeen, said.
Whether the average Pakistani villager can tell manned from unmanned aircraft is another matter. But it may also be significant that in this case bombs, rather than missiles, are being reported.
In the early days of drone wars the only strike aircraft was the MQ-1 Predator, armed with one or two hundred-pound Hellfire missiles. The AGM-114 Hellfire was originally designed as an anti-tank missile for attack helicopters (the name is supposedly a contraction of “Helicopter-Launched Fire and Forget”) and carried a shaped charge for punching through armor. Later a version was developed for the Navy that replaced the shaped charge with a blast/fragmentation warhead, and most recently we have seen the AGM-114N thermobaric version with enhanced blast which flows more efficiently than standard explosives ” capable of reaching around corners, striking enemy forces that hide in caves or bunkers and hardened multi-room complexes.”
The Hellfire warhead weighs around twenty pounds; the anti-tank version will damage very little except the vehicle it hits, and the thermobaric version is extremely effective inside buildings but blast is has a relatively short range outdoors. The Air Force budget suggests that only a handful of the blast/frag version are being bought.
However, the Predator has now been joined by the much larger MQ-9 Reaper, which can carry a heavier payload, around three thousand pounds, including a large number of Hellfires and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBD-38 JDAM bombs. These are different types of 500-pound bomb, one with laser guidance and the other satellite guided. Both are based on the 1950’s-vintage Mk 82 bomb ; less than half the weight of the bomb bomb is explosive, and the rest is the steel casing. The reason for having such a thick casing is shrapnel: when the bomb detonates, the casing blows up like a balloon before bursting and spraying high-velocity steel fragments in all directions. It is these fragments, rather than blast, that do most of the damage.
Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.
This brings us to the photograph above, which was originally supplied to NBC journalist Kerry Sanders by a U.S. military source in 2006. It was taken from a Predator and shows a group of almost 200 Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan; U.S. officers wanted to attack the group, but were prevented because the rules of engagement did not allow attacks on cemeteries. A military statement noted that coalition forces “hold themselves to a higher moral and ethical standard than their enemies.”
The situation in Pakistan was similar and may have offered a similarly dense concentration of targets: a funeral, attended by a large number of Taliban. However, there are differences in the accounts of when the attack took place, and although Al-Jazeera says it was “at the funeral of a suspected Taliban commander,” a Pakistani intelligence source quoted in the UK’s Guardian newspaper says that it happened “as people were dispersing” after the funeral.
In any case, the high body could have potential to be an embarrassment rather than a triumph. The apparent target of the attack, Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, seems to have escaped unscathed, and some of the dead may have been villagers attending the funeral rather than Taliban. In the long run, one well-placed bullet from a drone may be more effective than a five-hundred pound bomb.
Russia is not happy that the government of Kyrgyzstan changed their mind and decided to allow the U.S. to continue operating at Manas airbase. But then, if I gave someone $2.1 billion for nothing, I’d be pretty upset too:
“The news about the preservation of the base was an extremely unpleasant surprise for us. We did not anticipate such a dirty trick,” the foreign ministry source told Kommersant.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the decision to close the base in February during a visit to Moscow — on the same day that Russia unveiled a generous aid package to his impoverished country.
In the package, Russia agreed to settle an estimated 180-million-dollar debt owed by Bishkek to Moscow, extend Kyrgyzstan a grant worth 150 million dollars, and loan it two billion dollars more, news agencies reported at the time.
Russia has consistently denied playing any role in Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close the base. But the base’s presence had long irritated Moscow, which sees it as an intrusion into its former Soviet domains in Central Asia.
I understand why keeping Manas open is important to the war effort in Afghanistan, but being played like this by Kyrgyzstan against Russia for the personal enrichment of Kurmanbek Bakiyev (the U.S. is paying three times the original rent in order to keep the base open) can’t feel like much of a victory for the Pentagon.
By ROHAN SULLIVAN
Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD (AP) – What appeared to be the deadliest U.S. missile attack ever on Pakistani soil brought an unusual reaction Wednesday in a country that has
previously denounced such strikes as an affront to its sovereignty _ silence.
Tuesday’s attack killed 80 people, Pakistani officials said, but missed its chief target, Baitullah Mehsud. He is the country’s top Taliban leader and its public enemy No. 1, accused of masterminding numerous brutal operations including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
The seemingly accurate targeting appeared to point to cooperation between the U.S. military and Pakistani intelligence _ despite Pakistani denials. This was possible because Mehsud _ unlike some other U.S. foes in the northwest tribal region on the Afghan border _ is so reviled in Pakistan.
Missiles apparently fired by unmanned aircraft first struck a purported Taliban training center in South Waziristan, then another barrage rained down on a funeral procession for some of those who had been killed earlier.
Mehsud attended the funeral in Makeen village, and panicky militants reported losing contact with the Taliban chief for a short time immediately after the attack, according to radio intercepts cited by two Pakistani intelligence officials.
But the officials said they were later able to determine that Mehsud left the funeral shortly before the missiles struck.
The two missile strikes killed at least 80 people, including several senior militants, said the officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information. Fifty-five of those killed were at the funeral, they said.
The Taliban gave a slightly lower count: Waliur Rehman, an aide to Mehsud, told the AP that 65 people were killed, including some militants.
It was not known if innocent civilians were among the dead, an issue that has drawn outrage in Pakistan and Afghanistan whenever U.S. missiles have been fired. The region is too dangerous for outsiders to enter, making independent confirmation of the attack’s details impossible.
Militant leaders have been targeted in dozens of strikes in the past two years from U.S. drones, high-tech, remote control planes used for both surveillance and to fire Hellfire missiles. The U.S. military never comments on such operations. The highest known death toll in earlier suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan was 30.
Pakistan has loudly disapproved of past drone attacks because they involve the use of force by a foreign government on its soil and sometimes kill innocents.
But the latest strikes went unremarked upon by Pakistani officials for almost 24 hours. When the AP asked for comment, the Foreign Ministry issued a short statement reiterating “Pakistan’s consistent position that drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and must be stopped.”
Pakistani officials have said previously that civilian casualties occurred when the U.S. struck suspected targets on the Afghan border without Pakistan’s agreement and intelligence.
At least two of those targets _ Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Naseer _ are fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but Pakistan has no quarrel with either man.
This time, the apparent U.S. target was Pakistan’s most wanted man and the focus of a military operation that is gearing up in his home territory of South Waziristan, part of the lawless tribal zone where Osama bin Laden and other high-value U.S. targets may be hiding.
The offensive comes on the back of the army’s operation to oust the Taliban from another northwestern stronghold in the Swat Valley region.
Both campaigns are strongly backed by the Obama administration, which views them as a test of Pakistan’s resolve to confront a growing insurgency after years of halfhearted offensives and peace deals with militants.
Many Pakistanis support the operations, fed up with the brutality the Taliban displayed in Swat and with Mehsud’s increasingly widespread and bloody campaign of bombings that have killed not just security forces, but also civilians and Islamic clerics who denounced the militant violence as against the tenets of Islam.
Mehsud is also accused of engineering last year’s assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto, whose husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is now president of Pakistan.
The battle in the tribal zone, a mountainous area where the central government holds little sway over heavily armed and religiously conservative clans, will almost certainly be far tougher than in Swat.
Mehsud is believed to have some 12,000 loyal fighters, including hundreds of foreigners. He humbled the Pakistani army in past battles and has been forging fresh alliances with other powerful Taliban leaders and killing off opponents _ the most recent one on Tuesday.
“Baitullah Mehsud has crossed a red line, and the Pakistan government and military is declaring open war on him,” said Ishtiaq Ahmad, a Pakistan-U.S. specialist at Islamabad’s Qaid-i-Azam University.
“What we are seeing now is a relatively promising scenario where there is renewed commitment and closer collaboration between Pakistan’s security forces and NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” he said.
That tone could change, however, if the attacks kill leaders less disliked than Mehsud and his cohorts, Ahmad said.
Mahmood Shah, a former security chief in the tribal region, said the government’s failure to condemn the missile attacks forcefully could produce a backlash if the U.S. is perceived to be fighting Pakistan’s battles.
“Once the impression is established that Americans are assisting in this operation, the indigenous effort will be discredited and anti-American sentiments in the tribal region will overshadow everything,” Shah said.
Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Kathy Gannon and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.
By Iqbal Khattak
DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Operational plans being made against Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan might need “a slight readjustment” after the death of rival commander Qari Zainuddin, but plan to take on the “enemy No 1” will “stay the course”, military authorities told Daily Times.
Zainuddin was assassinated by his own guard while on his way from Peshawar to Dera Ismail Khan two days after he agreed to an interview with Daily Times.
Some analysts call Zainuddin’s death – days before formal kick-off of Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or Path of Salvation, against Mehsud – a “setback” to government preparations, but military authorities argue such action “is not planned around a single individual”. They add that the killing of the anti-Mehsud commander had “come at the wrong time” but was not “a major cause of concern”.
The analysts said Zainuddin would have been “more effective” if he was holding territory inside Waziristan.
“The government delayed the investment in Zainuddin and the result is that today the state stands humiliated as it could not protect its man against likely threats from Mehsud,” analysts told Daily Times.
Signs of all-out support of the government to Baitullah’s rival Abdullah and Turkistan groups was clearly visible in both Tank and Dera where government and private buildings were being used by anti-Mehsud groups to recruit foot soldiers and set up regional bases around Waziristan.
WANA: The residents of South Waziristan know hard times are coming. Troops are massing on their doorstep, they say, food is in short supply, and tens of thousands of civilians are already on the move.
Military and government officials have vowed a full-scale operation into the semi-autonomous, fiercely-independent tribal belt along the Afghan border to hunt down Pakistan Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and his fighters.
There has been no indication of when a ground offensive may begin, but Pakistani fighter jets have been pummelling Taliban positions in the area for weeks, and nervous residents are now just waiting for the worst to come.
‘We can see a large scale movement by ground troops, they are equipped with small and heavy weapons,’ said 28-year-old Noor Yaseen, who lives in South Waziristan’s main town of Wana.
‘The army are targeting the militants through air strikes or shelling by helicopters. The Taliban are not allowing technicians to repair the electricity towers damaged during the crossfire,’ he said.
‘I saw people bringing water on donkeys from miles away (to Wana and nearby villages). There is no water in mosques, in houses and in madrassas.’
The main Wana bazaar remains open, but people complain about food shortages, while most electricity has been disconnected because of outbursts of fighting between security forces and militants active in the area.
‘There has been no electricity for 20 days, we are already facing shortages of fuel, food and water,’ said 35-year-old farmer Umar Gul.
Roads in and out of the main district hub have been closed for about a month, in what analysts say could be a tactic by the military to impose an economic blockade on militants ahead of the tribal campaign.
Wana is surrounded by high hills covered with orchards, but although the fruit is ripe, farmers say there are no workers to harvest it.
‘You see, the Wana-Jandola road is closed, the Wana-Tank road is closed… we are fed up with this situation,’ said Gul.
Many people have already started packing up their belongings and heading to safer districts.
An army offensive against the Taliban in three other northwest districts which began in late April has already created Pakistan’s largest displacement crisis since partition from India in 1947.
The United Nations says that about two million people have been uprooted from Swat valley and nearby districts, and are now suffering in limbo in hot and dusty refugee camps, or crowding into relatives’ homes.
A similar exodus is beginning in the tribal belt.
Pakistan’s military says that so far 45,000 people have fled the area, most heading to the neighbouring districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, which unlike South Waziristan are under full government control.
Those who stay are kept awake at night by the sounds of war.
‘Every night we hear heavy firing, forces used artillery and this creates havoc,’ said Gul Wali Khan, a local shopkeeper in Wana bazaar.
‘We can see helicopters and Pakistan war planes flying in the sky. Jet planes fly very high and are almost invisible.’
It is not just Pakistani jets that residents fear.
On Tuesday, unmanned US drone aircraft fired missiles on a funeral gathering of militants in a remote Mehsud stronghold deep in the mountains, reportedly killing about 50 people in the deadliest drone attack in South Waziristan.
Washington alleges that the tribal belt has become a haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban rebels who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion.
There is a common feeling among Wana’s residents that this time the military offensive will be harsh.
Analysts have said that an operation into the tribal belt will be a tougher challenge than clearing out Taliban militants from Swat, with Mehsud entrenched among his supporters in remote areas and the government holding little sway.
Local government and law and order are run by tribal councils, with many sympathetic to the Taliban because of ethnic ties.
‘It looks like the army is preparing for a full-scale offensive,’ said Wana resident Zumurd Khan. ‘They are taking positions and gathering at various important places.’
While the showing of photographs of 54 dead militants by the ISPR director-general is a welcome step in that it helps remove some of the questions that are increasingly cropping up surrounding the death toll inflicted by the military operation on the militants in Malakand and Swat, it would be fair to say that an information and credibility gap has opened up on this very sensitive matter. If the general public is to continue supporting this war of ours then they need to know a lot more about it than the currently is the case. There is no independent verification of the death toll or even of the injuries inflicted upon the Taliban and in the context of the recent and not-too-recent past where official claims were often found to be otherwise, leaving the general public rightly sceptical, it would be in the fitness of things for more such information to be passed on to the public and the media. Also, and one needs to say this, slightly paradoxically, people in the UK may be better informed about out war than we are, courtesy of a recent investigative programme on the BBC’s flagship Panorama show. The BBC team were given access that out own media personnel have yet to get, and were able to spend time on an active frontline. Their report makes compelling viewing and raises questions which are just beginning to be addressed by those who brief our media every day. We wonder why the same access is not being offered to local news and media organizations.
Several conclusions may be drawn. Perhaps the most obvious is that the military do not trust the local media to properly or fairly represent them. Or that they would rather give privileged access to a foreign news organization for reasons that they may want to keep a check on the kind of information that is passed on for public viewing. It is more than possible – and understandable in fact — that the military do not want us to know precisely how many civilians have been killed in the various ongoing operations, or the number of prisoners taken. To be scrupulously fair it does appear that the military are taking note of some of the criticisms levelled at them, and the recent appearance of photos of the bodies of 54 slain Taliban begins to address at least one of the issues of concern; that of ‘how many dead’. We remain in the dark as to how many have been injured and, even more worryingly, unaware of the numbers of those captured and their fate in terms of whether they are to be tried for their crimes, or simply given a smack on the wrist.
We understand that there are issues of confidentiality – secrecy even – that are in play. It would be foolish in the extreme to reveal our strategies to the enemy, and we do not seek to stray into confidential territory. The military have to understand that they are not only fighting this war, they are marketing it as well. The politicians are in the same business but in general terms lack some of the competencies of communication that the military have – not the least of these being that the military sings from a single songsheet, a trick the politicians have yet to master. We would therefore request a little more openness about non-strategic information. For instance, we understand that there are going to be civilian casualties. We understand that the military will do its best to minimize them but we cannot escape the realities of war – so, do we have a ball-park figure for civilian dead? The reason for this also is that silence on this matter only undermines the objectives of the war because residents fleeing the area – most of them now IDPs – have by way of anecdotal evidence suggested far more civilian casualties than so far acknowledged. We can live with this reality in the same way we can live with the reality of the pictures of the dead Taliban. And lastly when are we to see our own journalists reporting from the frontlines? Selling a war is never easy – but this one might be a bit easier to sell if local faces and voices were speaking to the people who have to pay its price.
Death has many names. The Grim Reaper, a cloaked skeletal figure holding an hour-glass and a scythe is one of the more familiar manifestations; and it finds a corporeal form in the name of the drones that regularly harvest souls in the ongoing battle against extremism. Confusion reigns as to the casualty figures. As many as 54 (but perhaps 83) have died as a result of two ruthlessly coordinated strikes. The first was on the compound of commander Khozhwali. Subsequently, and during his funeral prayers which were being offered at the home village of Baitullah Mehsud Shobikhel in South Waziristan Agency; there was a second strike on the assembled mourners. Two missiles were allegedly fired killing perhaps as many as sixty and wounding perhaps sixty others. That confusion exists around the numbers of dead and injured is unsurprising considering the likelihood of bodies being mutilated and dismembered.
Both of these strikes were clearly aimed either at killing Baitullah Mehsud and/or his close associates. A Taliban spokesman later said that he had been ‘in the area’ but was not hurt. We will never know if the drones missed by an inch or a mile. There can be little doubt that the drones which carried out this operation were American, though whether they were flown form a base inside or outside Pakistan remains a mystery. However, we may deduce that this operation was clearly designed to draw as many as possible into the target-frame and a loitering surveillance drone would have supplied the visuals enabling the second and more deadly strike. Numbers of dead and wounded are almost inevitably going to rise in the next twenty-four hours – as will local anger at this latest outing for the Grim Reapers.
Against this background there are reports of infighting within the Taliban themselves. They were never ever a homogenous entity – and even in the days when they ruled most of Afghanistan they were split into several not always compatible factions. The strains are now beginning to tell in Pakistan. The murder of Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, probably by one of his own bodyguards who was himself a defector (or a plant) from the ranks of Baitullah Mehsud is a clear indicator both of the factionalism and of the ‘reach’ of Baitullah Mehsud. Claims to have isolated him or pinned him down by various government officials have to be taken with a pinch of salt, as do those that Buner is now ‘pacified’ and ready for the return of the IDPs. Some have indeed returned, but it is far too soon to call the area pacified. The fact that it is only lower and middle-ranking commanders of the Taliban, not the senior management, who have been killed so far speaks volumes for their ability to survive in a negative environment.
ISLAMABAD: Fifty-seven men of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) ranging from chief technicians to officers were arrested over their alleged contacts with terrorists and involvement in anti-state activities. According to reports, the arrests were made during the last one and a half to two years after conducting an inquiry.
Sources disclosed that six officials were sentenced to death. Among them were Khalid Mehmood, Senior Technician Karam Din, Technician Nawazish, Niaz and Nasrullah while 24 were arrested and dismissed from service for opposing the policies of then President Pervez Musharraf. The PAF men, allegedly found involved in having contacts with terrorists, were given strict punishments.
According to a private television channel, 26 PAF men were court martialled for their ‘involvement’ in terrorism. According to the reports, those arrested were working in airbases including Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, Minhas Airbase, Sargodha Airbase, Lahore Airbase, Faisal Airbase and Mianwali Airbase.
Senior Tech Liaqat Ali, whose service tenure was 17 years 15 days and commissioned at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, was sentenced to three years in jail. Jahangir Khan, working as senior tech at Lahore Airbase, was imprisoned for two years.
Senior tech Muhammad Idrees arrested from Sargodha Airbase and whose service tenure was 11 years and 3 months was sentenced to nine years in jail with five years rigorous imprisonment.
These arrested officials had allegedly established contacts with Baitullah Mehsud and other banned outfits of the country.Spokesperson for the PAF Air Commodore Humayun Waqar said that action was taken against the PAF men according to law and arrests were made in Musharraf’s time. He said no new arrests have been made adding that several cases have already been decided.
|Wednesday, June 24, 2009
By By our correspondent
|PESHAWAR: Taliban militants in North Waziristan have finally released a person they had kidnapped more than seven months ago along with a Canadian woman, Khadija Abdul Qahaar, and another Pakistani man identified as Salman.
Zar Muhammad, belonging to Nowshera district, was freed on Sunday and has now reached his home. He told The News that he was released somewhere in North Waziristan and was blindfolded while being transported out of the tribal area and via the Frontier Region (FR) Bannu.
“We were treated well by our captors. None of us was tortured or humiliated. They gave us good food and took care of our medical needs,” Zar Muhammad said. He added that the militants had promised to release Salman in a few days.
However, he said the militants were unwilling to free the Canadian woman [Editor of Jihad Unspun]. Zar Muhammad was the guide and cook of Khadija Abdul Qahaar, who is in her late 50s and claimed to have converted to Islam. She used to introduce herself as an author, producer and presenter. The lady insisted she was a supporter of the Taliban and was keen to visit North Waziristan to meet the militants.
Shireen M Mazari
Pakistanis cannot be allowed to savour joy and success peacefully. Just when the nation was tumultuously enjoying the magical victory of our cricket team, the hard reality of our hostile environment post-9/11 clouded over us once again. For anyone who thought the US was not targeting our nuclear assets, the screaming headlines from the Afghan-based Al Qaeda leadership’s interview to Al Jazeera brought the issue to the forefront once again with claims that Al Qaeda would use our nuclear assets against the US if they could. The absurdity of the statement notwithstanding, it can be explained only if seen as part of the campaign to legitimise a US/NATO takeover of our nuclear assets since our security prevents the US from taking them out physically.
We have also seen US weapons mysteriously land in the hands of militants in Pakistan – now we have the Al Qaeda leadership freely having access to the foreign media in Afghanistan. What is the US up to with Al Qaeda? Post-9/11 the world has had a memory lapse over the US-Al Qaeda connections – especially when Sudan offered Bin Laden to the US – but the latter allowed the Al Qaeda leader to move to Afghanistan!
While our military has become embroiled in a “war” that cannot be won by conventional military means, the US continues to play dangerous games with Pakistan – and at multiple levels. The drone attacks continue under Obama since the first one he ordered three days after his inauguration as US president – which killed 15 Pakistanis. In fact just as the present government has gone the extra mile in ceding ground to the US in Pakistan, the Obama administration has expanded the drone policy and according to Jeremy Scahill in the first 99 days of 2009 more than 150 Pakistanis have been killed in these attacks.
His estimate is that since 2006 and up to April 2009 drones have killed 687 Pakistanis – apart from the identifiable militants. That comes to about 38 civilian deaths a month just from these drone attacks.
Nor is this all. The New York Times gave an interesting account of US military operations within Pakistan including US Special Forces commando raids in FATA across the international Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Even more of a wakeup call of US intent should be the $.9 billion of the first year ‘largesse’ under the Kerry-Lugar Bill that has been earmarked for the construction of the new US embassy in Islamabad – a huge fortress right behind the presidency and the prime minister’s secretariat. If Iraq is anything to go by we may soon have US private security companies like the notorious Blackwater plus hundreds of other contractors. While US human intelligence will not gain in quality we will have a meddling US presence across our state institutions and civil society which will be damaging in the long term to our national well-being.
We are already hearing of the CIA chief visiting us followed by Obama’s special representative general James Jones. Both these officials will also be visiting India and the general thrust seems to be to push Pakistan into accepting an Indian military presence in Afghanistan. Interestingly General Jones also has strong ties to US business including Boeing and Chevron. Meanwhile there is no let down on focusing on our nuclear assets, which is why Prime Minister Gilani was compelled to finally, after a year of silent tolerance, demand that the US stop using a discriminatory approach towards Pakistan’s nuclear programme, including the search for civilian nuclear power.
But there is discrimination and the new line of attack that has been opened is the Al Qaeda statement – following the numerous US official and media statements expressing “fear” of US nukes falling into militant hands! Surely just as the discovery of US/Israeli arms on militants in Pakistan raised serious questions as to the role/linkages of outside forces to militant outfits within Pakistan, so the new development is hardly without its linkage to an overall plan against our nuclear assets. Once again, the fact is that unless the Pakistan military is weakened from within, the assets cannot be accessed at all. Hence the need of the US to get the military bogged down in a conventional battle against unconventional foes in Swat and FATA – without any overarching political strategy visible from the government.
Ironically, while plots against our nuclear assets continue, it is developments in other countries that reveal the lack of strong security measures at nuclear installations in these places. On 22nd June, anti-nuclear activists managed to break through security at the German Unterweser nuclear power plant and actually scaled the dome of the plant. More disturbing has been the story, now surprisingly blocked out, about the Indian nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam, who disappeared or was abducted, and was later found dead from the Kali river. Mahalingam had also disappeared ten years earlier while he was working at another sensitive Indian nuclear location – the Kalpakkam nuclear complex.
India’s nuclear and missile security has revealed many shortcomings and in 2006 Dr Tiwari involved in space research was also shot dead.
There have been stories of an underground network of Hindu extremists and Indian scientists involved in technology transfers to and from India and Israel. Indian scientists were also discovered at Iran’s Bushehr plant. So it is strange as to why the US and the IAEA continue to keep silent over India’s possible private proliferation rings as well as the weak safety of its nuclear and missile installations and sites? Equally puzzling is official Pakistani silence on these issues.
It is similar to the questionable manner in which our official institutions declare that there are Indians/US links to militant outfits in Pakistan, but then fail to give details or to take up these issues with the countries concerned. What is the Pakistani state playing at or fearful of? Is it not time the nation was told about the sources of funding and weapons for the militants in specific terms to give credibility to these allegations? Or will all the “militants” be “killed” before we can learn crucial facts about US double dealing and Indian destabilisation of Pakistan. That is why arrest and trial of the militant leadership in anti-terror courts, rather than their killing, is essential for our nation and state’s long term security.
As for India, while Pakistan is also under pressure to resume the bilateral dialogue, our seeming haste seems to have sent the wrong signals to India. That is why we saw the sheer bad behaviour on the part of India’s Manmohan Singh towards President Zardari in Russia. Too bad the latter was unable to respond in kind. But we can still send the correct message to the Indians by refusing to have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NAM conference in Egypt.
Dialogue is certainly desirable but only when the intent of the two sides is honest in terms of conflict resolution. So far the Indian intent is clearly not focused on this aspect. So perhaps it would be good to wait till India realises the need to move towards conflict resolution with Pakistan in a holistic fashion. It may take pleasure in our leadership’s refusal to bring up the K word but without any movement on Kashmir, the dialogue will eventually run aground as always. For Pakistan it is also essential to know its maximalist and minimalist positions in clear terms – both, of necessity, being premised on giving Kashmiris their right to self-determination.
Things are moving fast, and there is a crucial need for the Pakistani state to step back and look at the larger picture so that inclusive policies can be formulated to deal with the threat of extremism, militancy on a long term basis by denying them space in our society; and to protect our nation and its nuclear assets from US designs.
Finally, it is sad to see that while the Pakistani state has seemingly abandoned the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir, these brave people continue to rally round Pakistan in a most instinctive way. So it was with the T20 World Cup where the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir joined the Pakistani nation in celebrating the Pakistani victory. Did anyone else in our neighbourhood do the same?
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com