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Monday, 16 November 2009

Pakistan Militant Groups

Attacks by militant groups in Pakistan's 700-kilometer northern tribal belt, which stretches from southeastern Balochistan to the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), are making international headlines on almost daily basis.
Little, however, is being said about these groups, numbers, affiliations and funding.
IslamOnline.net's correspondent recently visited the troubled region and reported back on the main militant groups operating there.
The militants, known as local Taliban, can be divided into pro and anti-government forces.
Yet, they all follow the same ideology and recognize Mullah Omer, the leader of the ousted Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, as their leader.

Baitullah Mehsud
Foreign Militants
Punjabi Taliban
Mangal Bagh

Baitullah Mehsud
According to local tribesmen and intelligence sources, Baitullah Mehsud commands the largest Taliban group in the tribal belt.
Intelligence sources say he commands an armed and high-trained militia of 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers.
However, local tribesmen estimate the real number between 7,000 and 8,000.
Mehsud is being blamed for the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, which he vehemently denies.
He was recently elected as leader of all anti-government Taliban groups operating in the tribal belt under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, making him the most influential person in the area.
His group's major strongholds are Laddah, Makeen, Tiarza, Shakai, Spinkai Ragzai, Nawazkot, Tauda Cheena and Kotkai areas in South Waziristan, which have been under constant bombings by the security troops for the last many months.
His tribe, from which he gets his last name, is the most powerful in troubled South Waziristan.
Foreign Militants
Yuldashev and his men sought shelter with ethnic Pashtun tribesmen after fleeing Afghanistan.
Foreign fighters, mostly from Central Asian origin, were pushed out from Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, last March by Ahmedzai Wazir tribe, the second biggest tribe in the region, with the help of security forces.
Some 2500 to 3000 foreign fighters have since moved to Mehsud-dominated areas of South Waziristan and Mir Ali town of North Waziristan.
Most of the foreign militants belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
They fled from their country in the mid 1990s after an unsuccessful coup against President Islam Karimove and settled in different parts of Afghanistan.
They were pushed towards Pakistan's northern tribal belt after US-led forces ousted the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Their leader Jumma Namangani was killed in a US air strike in Kandahar in November 2001.
Tahir Yaldashev, who was elected as leader of the Uzbek militants after Jumma's death, managed to escape Afghanistan after a gunbattle with Pakistani security troops in 2004 near Wana.
Punjabi Taliban
Mullah Nazir commands a militia of some 600 fighters in South Waziristan.
Mullah Nazir commands a militia of some 600 fighters in South Waziristan, comprising tribesmen of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe, which has had old rivalries with the Mehsud tribe.
This group has a limited number of militants and is restricted to Wana but is considered the second influential group in the region because of government support.
Commonly known as Punjabi Taliban, it is believed to have been formed by security forces copying the US strategy adopted in Iraq to counter Al-Qaeda through local Sunni tribes.
Punjab is the most populated of Pakistan's four provinces with almost 50 percent of the total 160 million population.
It is considered the powerbase of the country's politics and armed forces.
Mullah Nazir escaped an assassination attempt in Wana a few months back, which he blames on foreign militants.
Mangal Bagh
This group has been operating in Kyber agency, located some 25 Kilometer from Peshawar, the capital of NWFP, for the last many years.
It was formed by Mangal Bagh, a local who had fought alongside Taliban against the West-backed Northern Alliance and later against US forces.
The group has some 500 militants and is associated with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
This is new group of some 200 militants that shot to fame after the bloody military attacks on Islamabad's Red Mosque in July of last year.
Khalid Umer, the mysterious commander of the group, made headlines after he captured a local mosque and shrine in Mohmind agency, some 50 Kilometers from Peshawar, and named it after the Red Mosque.
Unlike all other militant groups, this group is dominated by "Mohajirs", people who had migrated from India after the independence of Pakistan and settled in different parts of the country, particularly in the urban areas of southern Sindh province.
Umer stunned the newsmen at his first encounter with media, saying he could not speak Pushtu, the language of Pushtuns.
He replied to all the questions in Urdu, the language of Mohajirs.
The majority of his militants do not even know a single word of Pushtu.
Little is known about Umer's background.
He claims he had fought alongside Taliban in Afghanistan and came to Pakistan after the US invasion.
"But we don't know when and how he formed his group?" local sources told IOL.
Security and defense analysts believe that pro-government Taliban are financed and armed by government agencies.
"The pro-government Taliban have no finance problem. They are being fed by the government very well," local sources told IOL.
"However, the anti-government Taliban use every tactic to get finances and arms."
The major such source is Rahdari (corridor) system.
"They provide safe passage to the transporters, and smugglers, who smuggle goods from Iran and Afghanistan to Pakistan. In return, they pay them hefty amounts as taxes," an intelligence official told IOL.
He said smugglers normally use unconventional mountaineer routes, which are almost inaccessible for security forces.
"It's almost impossible for security forces to cover all such routes. If we block one route, they find a new way with the help of local tribesmen or militants, because they don't consider it smuggling. They call it a trade."
The corridor system was also the major source of income for the Taliban government.
The intelligence official claimed the international drug mafia also pays militants to provide them a safe passage.
However, local tribesmen contest the claim.
"This is not true. Yes, they do provide safe passage to goods smugglers but not to narcotics smugglers."
The intelligence official asserts that Al-Qaeda gives money and logistical advice to local militant groups, particularly Baitullah Mehsud.
"Al-Qaeda funds don't always come in cash. They come in different forms. Many Afghan and Pakistani businessmen, mostly settled in the Arab world and harboring sympathy for the cause of Al-Qaeda, are given money to buy high-priced goods like cars. These goods are shipped to Pakistan and sold, often tripling Al-Qaeda's investment," he said.
"The businessmen, with sympathy to Al-Qaeda, take a small cut while the network spreads the wealth among its allies."
South Waziristan is known as a famous route of Afghan trade transit for trade of re-assembled vehicles in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Intelligence sources say different foreign secret agencies are also funding the militant groups.
"They may not know who is funding them, but it is realty that the Indian, Israeli and Afghan agencies are providing them funds, arms and training because they are operating against Pakistani forces," said the intelligence official.
"They are financing militants as they want a permanent unrest in the country raising concern about safety of its nuclear program," he added.
"The tribal belt has become a battlefield for the international secret agencies. I believe this all is part of the Great Game," the official.
"We have proofs that various suicide bombers were trained by Indian intelligence agency RAW at its training camps set up across the border (in Afghanistan)."
Taxes imposed by militant groups are another source of income.
"They have imposed taxes of meager amount on the local residents as they provide protection to them, and are responsible for curbing the crimes in their respective areas

Taliban govern openly in Nuristan

           soon they will be knocking at doors of Kabul

One month after US forces abandoned outposts in the Kamdesh district in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nuristan, the Taliban are operating in the open, without fear of retaliation.
The Taliban and their commander Dost Mohammed recently flaunted their control of the district to Al Jazeera. Dost, who some had claimed was killed during US and Afghan raids in Nuristan, granted an interview with the news organization from Kamdesh. Coalition forces attacked the Taliban in mid-October after the battle of Combat Outpost Keating and the subsequent US withdrawal. Mullah Abdul Rahman Mostaghni, a district-level Taliban commander, was thought to have been killed in the raid.
The Taliban have created "administrative units and the officials have been appointed," an unnamed commander told Al Jazeera.
"We also established the judiciary department and the commission for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice section," the commander told the news agency. "We are working on providing people's basic needs."
The promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice section will enforce the Taliban's strict, repressive brand of sharia, or Islamic law.
The Taliban also hold "scores" of Afghan police and soldiers who have been captured since the fall of Kamdesh, and claim to have seized large quantities of US munitions left at Keating [see video below].
Local Afghans acknowledge the Taliban's control and say they do not believe the government will return.
"The area is currently under the control of Taliban, who walk freely in the Kamdesh District," a local resident told Al Jazeera. "I do not think that the government plans to regain control over it. The local authorities, especially the security ones, are very weak and cannot do anything."
Last month, the US military withdrew from Camp Keating, Camp Fritsche, and several small, remote outposts in Kamdesh just four days after a major battle that pitted more than 350 Taliban fighters backed by al Qaeda and members of the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin against platoon-sized forces of US soldiers and Afghan police. More than 100 Taliban fighters, eight US soldiers, and seven Afghan police were killed during the fighting.
The Taliban entered the perimeter of Camp Keating's defenses, and damaged three Apache helicopter gunships, according to ABC News. Several Apache pilots were said to have been shocked by the scale of the Taliban assault. Most of Keating was destroyed during the battle.
The US military shrugged off Taliban claims of victory and said the closure of the outposts was part of a planned withdrawal.
"In line with the counterinsurgency guidance of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, ISAF commander, ISAF leaders decided last month to reposition forces to population centers within the region," the US military said in a statement released in October.
"Despite Taliban claims, the movement of troops and equipment from the outposts are a part of a previously scheduled transfer," the military continued. "The remote outposts were established as part of a previous security strategy to stop or prevent the flow of militants into the region."
Northeastern Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan. Map from the Asia Times;
The Taliban mocked the US after the withdrawal from Kamdesh.
"This means they are not coming back,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in October. "This is another victory for Taliban. We have control of another district in eastern Afghanistan."
Clearly, the abandonment of Keating and other outposts has ceded territory to the Taliban.
"Make no mistake, this is a setback," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. "Somehow, some day, we are going to have to fix this. Until then, the Taliban has an uncontested safe haven in Nuristan."
Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders operating in Pakistan's tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, and in the Swat Valley, have described developments in Nuristan as positive. The US withdrawal has allowed Taliban commander Qari Ziaur Rahman to reorient forces across the border in Pakistan and open new fronts while the Pakistani Army is focused on South Waziristan.
Al Jazeera video of the Taliban at COP Keating

Musharraf approved Blackwaters terror operations in Pak

Former Pakistan Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg has claimed that ex-President Pervez Musharraf had given Blackwater the green signal to carry out its terrorist operations in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta.

He said that Blackwater was directly involved in the murder of Benazir Bhutto and Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri.

It is pertinent to note that the foreigners affiliated with the notorious private military contractor Blackwater, whose security company Blackwater was later renamed as Xe Services LLC, arrived in Islamabad during the first week of November.

A wave of fear and insecurity has been felt among residents of the sector due to alleged presence of operatives of Blackwater and the late night movements of suspicious foreigners and some locals clad in suits.

According to frightened residents of the locality, there was fair amount of activity between 11 pm and dawn.

The Nation quoted some residents as saying that that one of the alleged operatives of Blackwater was seen manhandling a local for having a post-dinner stroll.

According to the New York Times August 20, 2009 report by Mark Mazzetti, the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired contractors from the private security contractor, Blackwater USA, as part of a secret programme to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al-Qaeda.

It has also drawn a controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating licence, the report said.

The newspaper report said that despite publicly breaking with it, the State Department continued to award the company, formerly known asBlackwater, more than 400 million dollars in contracts to fly its diplomats around Iraq, guard them in Afghanistan and train security forces in anti-terrorism tactics at its remote camp in North Carolina. - ANI