Feb. 23 News

Taliban rename their group

By Haji Mujtaba Khan submitted 12 hours 30 minutes ago

NORTH WAZIRISTAN – Bringing an end to their internal rifts, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders have renamed their group as Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen [Council of United Mujahideen] with the purpose of striving for the supremacy of Islam and crushing infidels.


The three leading militant groups calling themselves as Taliban have circulated a single-page Urdu pamphlet in different parts of Waziristan, which confirmed that they had got united according to the wishes of Mujahideen leaders like Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden.


The three leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Nazir have confirmed the establishment of Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen with certain objectives. The pamphlet said the target of the Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen was to get Mujahideen united at a single platform for Jihad and stop those who were violating and crossing the limits. It said that TTP had decided to shun differences and join hands with one another. It added the TTP supported Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama bin Laden’s struggle against Obama, Zardari and Karzai administrations.


A number of Quranic verses have been referred in the pamphlet, stressing upon Muslims to get united and join hands against non-believers.


US worried about ‘Taliban shelters in Quetta’

* NYT says Taliban operations in Quetta different from FATA
* Intelligence officials say Afghan troop surge futile unless Taliban supply lines from Quetta are cut

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: There is growing concern among US officials, even as CIA drones pound targets in FATA, about alleged Taliban havens in Balochistan, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Americans are increasingly focusing on Quetta, from where Taliban leaders are alleged to stir violence in Afghanistan. Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the Tribal Areas. As the United States prepares to pour as many as 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials say the effort could be futile unless there is a concerted effort to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Quetta to cut the group’s supply lines into Afghanistan.

Afghan and US commanders have long said Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan from the city. “When their leadership is where you cannot get to them, it becomes difficult,” said Gen Dan K McNeill, who until June was the senior American commander in Afghanistan and recently retired. “You are restrained from doing what you want to do.”

Quetta is close to the provinces in southern Afghanistan where the war’s fiercest fighting has occurred. American intelligence officials said that the dozen or so militants who were thought to make up the Taliban leadership in the area were believed to be hiding either in Afghan refugee camps near Quetta or in some of the city’s Afghan neighbourhoods.

One former intelligence official with years of experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan likened the situation to America’s difficulties during the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese guerrillas used a haven in Cambodia. For the past year, the top American goal in Pakistan has been to press Islamabad for help elsewhere – in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

But NATO generals and diplomats have long complained that the command and control of Taliban fighters, distinct from Al Qaeda insurgents, may lie in southern Pakistan, and that Pakistani security services ignore the threat. “We’ve made progress going into the Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Province against Al Qaeda, but … not … against the Quetta shura,” said a senior Obama administration official.

Some current and former American intelligence officials are sympathetic to difficulties that the government in Islamabad faces in rounding up Taliban leaders. Balochistan has long been an area hostile to government control, and even Pakistani spies have difficulty building a network of sources there, they said.

The influence of the Taliban leadership over operations on the ground in Afghanistan is a matter of some debate among analysts.

“The Quetta shura is extremely important,” said Lt Gen David W Barno, a retired former commander of American forces in Afghanistan who is advising General Petraeus on a strategic review of this region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. “They are the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the Taliban insurgency.”

But Gen David D McKiernan, currently the top military commander in Afghanistan, said in a speech in Washington in November that any assessment that said the Quetta shura’s dictates were closely followed by field commanders “gives the Taliban far too much credit for coherency at the operational and strategic level.”

“They don’t have that,” the general added.

Still, diminishing the Taliban leadership in Quetta and weakening its influence over Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan might also open the way to engaging more moderate Taliban politically. “The challenge has always been to exploit some cleavages between the top leadership, which we’ve ruled out of bounds in terms of reconciliation, and the layers one or two layers beneath them,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In May 2007, Pakistani operatives tracked Mullah Dadullah as he crossed the Afghan border. He was later killed by American and Afghan troops. But most of the arrests in Pakistan have coincided with visits by senior American officials. The arrest of Mullah Obeidullah, the former Taliban defence minister, in February 2007 coincided with the visit of former US vice president Dick Cheney. It is unclear whether he is still in custody or was secretly released as part of a prisoner exchange to free Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, kidnapped last February and released three months later.

Mullah Rahim, the top Taliban commander in Helmand, was arrested two weeks after Admiral Mike Mullen and a top CIA officer visited Islamabad. But an American intelligence official said last week he was no longer in custody. “The dilemma at the moment,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation, “is that some elements of the Pakistani government continue to support the Taliban as a proxy organisation in Afghanistan.”




Waziristan Taliban set up shura to wage jihad

* Pamphlets call for holy war against Obama, Zardari, Karzai

By Haji Mujtaba

MIRANSHAH: The Taliban in Waziristan announced forming a ‘Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen’ (Council of United Mujahideen) on Sunday to wage jihad ‘in an organised manner’.

Pamphlets distributed in the Miranshah Bazaar and other areas of the agency headquarters said the forces led by Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama Bin Laden were fighting against ‘infidels’ led by US President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

They quoted verses of the holy Quran calling people to fight a holy war against ‘infidels’, who they said were killing innocent Muslims.

The announcement was made by Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is the Taliban emir in North Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, the top Taliban commander in South Waziristan, and Maulvi Nazir
, the chief of Taliban in Wana, who said they wanted to “stop the infidels from carrying out acts of barbarism against innocent people”.



India’s Terror Stance Vexes Obama Amid Voter Ire at Pakistan


By James Rupert

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — India’s 670 million voters may be about to set back President Barack Obama’s campaign against Islamic militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

India’s ruling Congress Party, which heeded U.S. calls to avoid threatening its neighbor after November’s Mumbai terrorist attack, is heading for elections that might push it from office. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which accuses Congress of a “soft approach” toward terrorism, says India should consider blockading Pakistan’s main port and severing ties unless the government extradites 20 suspected militants.

A less cooperative India would hamper Obama’s effort to keep Pakistan’s army focused on fighting the Taliban and other guerrillas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“The BJP is more hard-line now than when it was in power,” says Gareth Price, head of the Asia program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. “There’s no question they would increase the pressure on Pakistan, and that would complicate matters for the Obama administration.” The likeliest outcome, he says, may be a weak coalition government led by one of the two large parties and including some of India’s burgeoning small parties.

This month, Pakistan ceded effective control of the Swat Valley, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Islamabad, in a truce with local Taliban. The Taliban’s gains threaten to further destabilize Afghan President Hamid Karzai — and diminish pressure on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who’s believed to be hiding in the region.

‘Listen and Learn’

The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, visited all three countries last week to, in his words, “listen and learn.”

Holbrooke said last week on PBS’s NewsHour program that the administration was “troubled and confused” by the truce in Swat. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have criticized Karzai’s government, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month is “plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption.”

Obama on Feb. 18 ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan as a first step in a new strategy likely to be unveiled late next month. By then, India’s election will be in full swing: Voting in the world’s most populous democracy is to take place in several phases and must be completed by May.

Congress enters the campaign without history on its side: No ruling party has won re-election after serving a full term since Indira Gandhi led Congress to victory in 1971. Since the start of 2007, the party had lost ground in nine of 11 state elections, before winning three out of six late last year.

Leadership Conundrum

It isn’t even clear who’ll lead the party. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, was hospitalized last month for cardiac bypass surgery and had to reduce his workload. If he isn’t able to carry the party banner, the succession is murky.

Party leader Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has declined to assume a direct role in government. Congress hasn’t said whether it will name her 34-year-old son, Rahul, to lead the party their family has dominated since India won its independence six decades ago.

Rahul Gandhi is not ready,” political scientist and commentator Harish Khare wrote in the Hindu, a national newspaper, on Jan. 30. Congress, he said, should avoid “pitchforking the young man into the race.”

The campaign comes at a time when the global recession has crippled Indian exports, cutting growth in Asia’s third-largest economy to its slowest pace since 2003.

Job Losses

India has lost 1 million jobs, the government said Jan. 29, and companies such as Bangalore-based Gokaldas Exports Ltd., the country’s largest clothing exporter, predict more firings. Meanwhile, an accounting scandal at Satyam Computer Services Ltd. has undermined India’s appeal to foreign investors.

India’s benchmark Sensex stock index tumbled 50 percent in the past year, led by declines in Tata Motors Ltd. and property developer DLF Ltd. The rupee fell 24 percent against the dollar in the same period.

“The economy is the key to a very tough fight for Congress,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst at Delhi University. A nationwide poll last week by India’s CNN-IBN television network found 32 percent of respondents named the economy as the main election issue, compared with 21 percent who cited security and terrorism. No margin of error was given.

India, with a population of 1.1 billion, will elect its lower house of parliament for a five-year term. Thirty-seven parties sit in the current chamber; since the early 1990s, governments have been coalitions headed by Congress or its main rival, the BJP, with smaller parties playing an increasing role.

Hindu Base

The BJP, which draws support from groups seeking to make India a more overtly Hindu state, criticized Congress’s patience with Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks, which killed 164 people. It suggested a naval blockade of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and on Feb. 8 urged Congress to consider breaking off “all trade, transport, tourism and cultural ties.”

No improvement in India-Pakistan ties is likely during a three-month election season because of political pressures, says Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a research institute in Washington.

“It will probably be more difficult if the BJP wins to get back to an Indo-Pakistan dialogue, but I don’t think it’s impossible,” Curtis says.

Musharraf Detente

Still, the BJP, headed by L.K. Advani, 81, might not bring a radical departure from Congress’s foreign policy. While the BJP-led government of then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee mobilized Indian troops against Pakistan after a 2001 guerrilla attack on India’s parliament, it later opened a process of detente with Pakistan’s then-ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

“Under a BJP government, there’s no question the rhetoric and language will be much tougher and aggressive, but it will just be rhetoric,” says Olivier Louis, head of the India and South Asia program at IFRI, the French Institute for International Affairs in Paris.

The election probably will sustain the growth of smaller parties rooted in the ethnic and linguistic groups that dominate many of India’s 28 states, says Walter Andersen, a retired State Department India specialist who heads the South Asia Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

Rangarajan says “the unknown quantity” is the socialist- leaning Bahujan Samaj Party, which aims to mobilize minority and lower-caste groups. It swept aside Congress and other parties in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, in 2007.

With all parties seeking votes by showing their readiness to get tough on terrorism, the biggest challenge to the Obama administration’s calls for moderation would be another attack similar to Mumbai, says Vikram Sood, a former chief of India’s main intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.

In such a case, “India would have to make at least a symbolic strike” on Pakistani targets, Sood said in an interview. In such a case, Clinton “should go to Islamabad and tell them to quietly take what’s coming.”