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Striking at the Taliban's Heart By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 01, 2007

It is one front in the war against radical Islam where the United States is definitely doing well.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the clandestine American information-gathering effort has resulted in several significant victories that could not have been won by bombs and bullets alone, if at all.


And a good example of this is the recent killing in May of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah by US-led NATO and Afghan National Army troops in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. It is suspected that Dadullah, a notoriously brutal but very effective Taliban military leader, was fingered by an informer who passed on information as to his exact whereabouts after he had left his hiding place. For obvious reasons, Western military spokespeople can not comment on how they located Dadullah and whether they paid for the information. But the fact that coalition troops were ready and had prepared a suitable welcome for the Taliban leader strongly indicates his demise was not the result of a chance encounter.


As well, events in Pakistan shortly after Dadullah’s less than tragic end also help prove that the one-legged Taliban commander was delivered into NATO and Afghan government hands. According to Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan security forces blame a subsequent suicide bombing in a hotel in the northern city of Peshawar that killed the owner and several of his sons as well as some two dozen other people on the revenge-seeking Taliban.


The hotel owner, according to Shahzad, was an Uzbek relative of anti-Taliban Northern Alliance general Abdul Rasheed Dostum who may have earlier helped the FBI arrest a son of Dadullah. But perhaps the most important signpost regarding the informer theory was a note taped to the suicide bomber’s detached leg that promised death to all those who spied for the United States.


The hotel bombing then prompted a red alert to be sounded in Karachi, Pakistan’s almost lawless port city, where more revenge attacks are expected against Pakistani officials who have aided the US, albeit for financial rewards, in the War on Terror. Their assistance over the past few years has helped America score successes against al-Qaeda, which established a strong presence in Karachi since the early 1990s.   


After 9/11, it was quickly recognized that Pakistan was an important battleground in the War on Terror. The Muslim country, ruled by a military dictatorship, was host to some elements of that horrific plot and to many of the al-Qaeda leaders and operatives involved. Corruption, political instability, an intelligence agency that is often criminally inclined itself with members sympathetic to militant Islam, as well as weak law enforcement had made Pakistan a perfect place for radical Islamic groups, such as al-Qaeda, to take root. As a result, after 9/11 the American government dispatched FBI officials to the South Asian country where about fifty to a hundred agents hunt al-Qaeda members and other radical Islamists, sometimes in cooperation with the Pakistani intelligence community and sometimes not.


To carry out their manhunt, the FBI agents have built up a network of Pakistani and Afghan informers, including police and intelligence officials, who pass on information for money and even, according to Shahzad, for trips to the United States. Known as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, Pakistan is most likely a gold mine for the FBI’s strategy of developing an effective anti-Taliban and anti-al-Qaeda network of informers. Shahzad mentions that most of the al-Qaeda members arrested in Pakistan the past six years have been apprehended in chaotic Karachi, and mostly after city policemen had supplied the Americans with information for monetary rewards.


Informants have also been responsible for other successes in Pakistan as diverse as the arrest of Ramzi Yuosef, the planner the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was betrayed into American hands by a former close university friend for two million dollars, and for the destruction of a small Taliban military unit in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. The latter action was initiated by FBI informers and executed by the Pakistani army.


American success on this secret, intelligence-gathering front can be measured by the fact that Shahzad notes the Taliban has now turned its sites on the American informer network and intends to eradicate it. Although replaceable, the death of the militarily-talented and battle-hardened Dadullah hurts the Taliban's plans badly. Shahzad notes that the Taliban battle leader had been picked to head the extremist Muslim organization’s spring offensive (named Ghazwatul Badr after a battle involving the Prophet Muhammad) that aimed to capture Kabul with as many as 20,000 troops and drive NATO from Afghanistan. It remains to be seen whether Dadullah’s loss has caused the impending offensive to lose steam or even whether discord will break out among Taliban commanders concerning the naming of his replacement.


But whatever course of action the Taliban now decides to take, one can be sure the well-developed, American informer network will be all eyes and ears.


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Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.

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