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War Blog By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 24, 2008


AN AL QAEDA OCTOBER SURPRISE?

By Ed Morrissey

Is al-Qaeda preparing to disrupt American elections in November, or to influence them through attacks in October?  Eli Lake reports on an uptick in communication seen by some in the intel community during the conventions, instructing cells to prepare for operational instructions.  Rather than specific plans, though, the messages intended to alert members to watch for further instructions:

In the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks on Western targets, America’s counterterrorism community is warning that Al Qaeda may launch more overseas operations to influence the presidential elections in November.

Call it Osama bin Laden’s “October surprise.” In late August, during the weekend between the Democratic and Republican conventions, America’s military and intelligence agencies intercepted a series of messages from Al Qaeda’s leadership to intermediate members of the organization asking local cells to be prepared for imminent instructions.

An official familiar with the new intelligence said the message was picked up in multiple settings, from couriers to encrypted electronic communications to other means. “These are generic orders,” the source said — a distinction from the more specific intelligence about the location, time, and method of an attack. “It was, ‘Be on notice. We may call upon you soon.’ It was sent out on many channels.”

This would fit the AQ pattern.  They recently conducted a successful attack in Pakistan that destroyed the Marriott Hotel, which may have targeted the newly-elected President Zardari.  AQ likes to attack around elections, either before the actual vote as in the Madrid attack or afterwards, as when Gordon Brown first took office.  They succeeded in killing Benazir Bhutto last year when she was widely expected to win a new term as Prime Minister.

They’ve tried to influence US elections in the past as well.  The Kerry campaign believed that an Osama bin Laden videotape released in the final days of the 2004 election may have given George Bush enough of a boost to win re-election, but that seems hard to credit, especially since Kerry had spent most of the campaign blaming Bush for not capturing Osama.  Analysts debate what effect an attack during the last days of this election would have, but it likely would prove a wash.  Those inclined to think that Bush let bin Laden off the hook would already be voting for Barack Obama, and those who think Obama doesn’t know how to keep the country safe would already be voting for John McCain.

What could they do?  Lake reports that counterterrorism experts don’t believe AQ has the strength to conduct a major attack inside the United States now, but they could attack American assets elsewhere in the world.  They could try another attack on an American embassy after their failure in Yemen earlier this month.  American military targets abound throughout the Middle East, but they have had enough trouble hitting those in war zones.  Softer targets may be more attractive to them now — such as Marriott hotels or commercial ventures.

Previous concerns in 2004 and 2006 wound up being non-events, thanks to diligence in our counterterrorism forces and weakness in AQ.  Hopefully, in 2008 the most we’ll see is another videotape of bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri giving the radical Islamist slant on American elections.  Tuesday, September 23, 2008

http://hotair.com


*

THE BAILOUT BEGINS

By Jerry Holbert


Political Cartoons by Jerry Holbert

www.townhall.com/funnies  


*

DEMS THROW IN THE TOWEL ON OFFSHORE DRILLING

By John Hinderaker

The Democrats apparently are abandoning their effort to renew the Congressional ban on drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf.

Is that good news? It's a stunning reversal from what was being reported just a day or two ago, and it can't be bad. But whether expiration of the ban will lead to more energy development any time soon remains to be seen. Maybe they're counting on their friends in the environmental lobby to stop drilling with litigation for a generation to come. But it can only be good that the Democrats are reading the polls and aren't prepared to face the voters as the party that is trying to drive energy costs higher.

UPDATE: House Republicans are trumpeting this as a great victory, as well they should. If they hadn't held their protest in the House chamber and otherwise promoted the energy issue, the Democrats would have gone through with their plan to extend the ban and keep gas prices as high as possible.

One thing I hadn't realized is that the ban applies not only to the OCS, but also to Rocky Mountain shale oil development. Shale oil has the potential to be even bigger than offshore drilling as as energy resource; America's shale oil resources dwarf Saudi Arabia's oil. But it will take longer to get shale oil flowing.

THE LATEST FROM VIRGINIA AND PENNSYLVANIA

By Paul Mirengoff

If recent polls are to be believed, John McCain is struggling in Virginia. A Washington Post/ABC News poll has Obama leading 49-46. Survey USA has it 51-46 Obama. On the other hand, Rasmussen has McCain up 50-48. All three polls cover essentially the same period.

I can't speak for the Commonwealth as a whole, but in the Northern Virginia market McCain is taking a pounding from effective Obama attack ads. Meanwhile, if advertising during Redskins games and selected other sporting events is a guide, McCain is not hitting back. The economy, naturally enough, is the biggest issue for Virginians these days, the Post/ABC News survey found. So McCain needs to get a coherent economic message out (not that I want to sound like a broken record).

McCain no doubt would trade Virginia's 13 electoral votes for Pennsylvania's 21. And McCain isn't doing badly in the Keystone state. The RCP average his him trailing Obama by only 2.5 percentage points. This will increase only marginally when a brand new ARG poll, which has Obama up by 4 points, is factored in.

Jim Geraghty points out that 53 percent of those in the ARG sample are Democrats while Republicans made up only 39 percent of the sample. 2006 exit polls, Geraghty notes, showed the voter pool in Pennsylvania was 43 percent Democrat and 38 percent Republican. Unfortunately, though, the ARG sample is in line with current voter registration numbers for Pennsylvania (available as an excel spreadsheet at http://www.dos.state.pa.us/elections/lib/elections/055_voter_registration_statistics/currentstats/currentvotestats.xls).

UPDATE: The Pennsylvania poll numbers probably do not fully reflect the impact of Talkin' Joe Biden's opposition to the development of clean coal technology (noted by John below).

GOOD OL' JOE

By John Hinderaker

We knew we could count on Joe Biden to cheer up the campaign season. He gave Katie Couric this history lesson:

When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

We're beginning to understand why Barack Obama chose Biden: he was the only potential Veep candidate who knows even less about history than Obama.

Biden goofed more seriously last week when he came out against development of clean coal technology:

"No coal plants here in America." As Jay Cost asks, "Is he trying to lose western Pennsylvania?"

John McCain lost no time establishing a "Coalition to Protect Coal Jobs." Today in Ohio, he said:

One important way that we're going to create jobs here is with the development of additional nuclear power plants and through investments in clean coal technology. We will invest as much as $2 billion a year to develop clean coal technology. America sits on the world's largest coal reserves, and we have to use it and clean coal technology is the best way. ...

"My opponent is against the expansion of nuclear power. His running mate here in Ohio recently said that they weren't supporting clean coal either.

The Obama camp responded with its usual vitriol and its usual lack of honesty:

This is yet another false attack from a dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows that Senator Obama and Senator Biden support clean coal technology. Senator Biden’s point is that China is building coal plants with outdated technology every day, and the United States needs to lead by developing clean coal technologies.

Maybe they haven't gotten around to watching the video yet. Or else they're hoping you haven't.  Tuesday, September 23, 2008

www.powerlineblog.com


*

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

By Lisa Benson


Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson

www.townhall.com/funnies 


*

NETWORKS THROW TANTRUM, DEMAND ACCESS TO PALIN'S MEETINGS

By Charles Johnson

The alphabet networks had a little tiff with the McCain campaign today, when the campaign tried to limit their access to Sarah Palin’s meetings with foreign officials: Sarah Palin Meets World Leaders — Reporters Kept Away?

There’s a battle going on right now over how the networks will be allowed to cover Sarah Palin’s big day of visits in NY with world leaders. ... The networks had arranged for a “pool” camera- one camera to cover the meetings, whose video would be pooled or shared with all networks. Such arrangements are standard when dealing with intimate high-level meetings between leaders and candidates. But typically, along with cameras, there is an editorial presence— at least one print reporter, one TV reporter and one radio reporter is standard. Today, the McCain campaign had said it would allow only one editorial person inside. Now, the campaign is saying it wants only the camera inside with no editorial presence. All of the networks are objecting. Stay tuned.

The networks have voted to BAN any use of the photographs/video in protest.

12 Noon update:  Word has come in that a CNN producer WILL be allowed to accompany the camera at these meetings.  This issue appears to be resolved.

Meanwhile, the networks are having no trouble getting access to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’ll be Larry King’s special guest on CNN tonight. Retch.

NAOMI WOLF BRAVELY SPEAKS TRUTH TO THE PALIN POLICE STATE

By Charles Johnson

Our unhinged rant of the day: a new article by feminist nutbar Naomi Wolf (last seen at LGF praising the religion of Islam for keeping women submissive) at the ever-loony Huffington Post: Naomi Wolf: The Battle Plan II: Sarah ‘Evita’ Palin, the Muse of the Coming Police State.

Please understand what you are looking at when you look at Sarah “Evita” Palin. You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state.

You have to understand how things work in a closing society in order to understand “Palin Power.” A gang or cabal seizes power, usually with an affable, weak figurehead at the fore. Then they will hold elections — but they will make sure that the election will be corrupted and that the next affable, weak figurehead is entirely in their control. Remember, Russia has Presidents; Russia holds elections. Dictators and gangs of thugs all over the world hold elections. It means nothing. When a cabal has seized power you can have elections and even presidents, but you have freedom. [sic]

Do people like Wolf really believe this kind of stuff, or are they just working the left wing rubes who eat it up with sporks? A typical comment:

One trillion dollars to bail out the financial institutions? I don’t think so. I think they will use this money to set up their fascist police state, suspend the constitution and declare martial law.

Good grief. Hundreds of comments like that one.

(Hat tip: JammieWearingFool.)  Tuesday, September 23, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com


*

IPT: DAY 2 OF THE HLF RETRIAL

By Charles Johnson

The Investigative Project has an exclusive report from the Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding retrial: HLF Jury Schooled on Hamas Terror.

DALLAS - For jurors in the Hamas-support case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) who likely know nothing about the terrorist group, or about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the first full day of testimony Tuesday was dominated by a lesson in Hamas 101.

Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, and now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, walked jurors through everything from Middle East geography to the Hamas charter to the way non-violent social branches feed the group’s overall terrorist agenda.

The testimony lays a foundation for why the United States outlawed transactions with, and support for, Hamas in the mid 1990s. The five defendants, who lost an earlier court battle to prevent Levitt from testifying, are accused of breaking those laws by routing money to Hamas’ social arms through a series of charities, known as zakat committees, in the West Bank and Gaza.

Levitt, author of the 2006 book Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, discussed Hamas leaders such as Mousa Abu Marzook, the organization’s evolution and its attacks like a December 2001 suicide bombing on a bus in Haifa that killed 16 people in a community that includes Arabs and Jews.
The terrorist organization’s charter was reviewed, including its overall objective of destroying the state of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic theocracy through a violent application of jihad.

Prosecutors then had Levitt explain the connection between the military and social branches of Hamas. “The social wing builds the grass roots for the organization” Levitt said, “and is the ideal mechanism for laundering money for all their activities.”

It also is a recruitment tool by providing services ranging from medical assistance to food and education. Levitt explained that the social network fosters an environment in which children are taught at a young age to look up to suicide bombers. To illustrate that, jurors were shown a video from a Hamas Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony. The video shows children in military clothing, carrying toy machine guns and even wearing suicide belts. Some were dressed to resemble Hamas and Hizballah leaders.

The video seemed to grab jurors’ attention. At least six of them had pens in hand during this video, and one older male could be seen raising his eyebrows and jotting down notes.

On cross examination, defense attorneys challenged Levitt’s expertise, first by casting him as biased toward Israel in the conflict and then by challenging the sources of his research.  Tuesday, September 23, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com

*

PUBLIC DISCOURSE

By Richard Fernandez


Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review believes, after watching a video interview of Bill Clinton on ABC’s The View,  that it does “not suggest he is enthused for Obama.”  That is an understatement. Clinton’s performance is simultaneously an awesome demonstration of his abilities as a salesman and an enduring testament to the shortcomings of his character. The former President took nearly every opportunity to express his admiration for John McCain and Sarah Palin, while confessing — with just the ghost of a sigh — that it was his stern duty to support Barack Obama as a “loyal Democrat”.

And in fairness,  Bill’s less than ringing endorsement followed on suggestions that Barack Obama shied away from choosing Hillary as his running mate because of him.

Walters then proceeded to ask Clinton if he thought the reason Obama didn’t want his wife as his VP was because “he didn’t want you in the bargain.” Ever the politician, Clinton responded: “I don’t know the answer to that. I think he felt more comfortable with another choice. And you have to respect that.” Of course this did not satisfy Walters, who continued to press the issue, asking, “Was it because he didn’t want you along?” Clinton retorted: “I have no idea. If anybody thought that, they were just reading the political press and believing it. I wouldn’t have been in this race if Hillary hadn’t run.”

‘No idea’, ‘loyal Democrat’: wonderful phrases all.  Politics is one profession where it is customary to say what nobody believes, least of all yourself, in the interest of keeping your lips moving. Friendship, like outraged surprise in the public life, is sometimes as genuine as a three dollar bill. Nobody seems to mind, so why should you? Maybe there are benefits to being in politics, but one of the consolations of living an ordinary life is that nobody marries you for money or pretends to friendship for gain.  Monday, September 22, 2008

http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez


*

The devastating bombing at the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Islamabad on Sept. 20 has prompted the Pakistani government to talk tough on taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas. The latest attack, which killed more than 50 Pakistanis and foreigners and wounded more than 270, is being described as "Pakistan's 9-11." But US military officers and intelligence officials interviewed by The Long War Journal are concerned Pakistan does not have the capacity to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda in their safe havens in the northwest.

Over the past three days, senior Pakistani leaders said military operations in the tribal areas would intensify. Anonymous sources told the Pakistan press that major operations would be launched today. No such offensive has been detected. The governor of the Northwest Frontier Province said operations would continue for the next five months.

Military offensives in the tribal agency of Bajaur and the settled district of Swat have been underway since the summer, but these operations have taken on a new meaning since the Marriott attack. The ongoing military operation in the tribal agency of Bajaur has been described as "a tipping-point for Pakistan's internal security" by Dawn, Pakistan's premier newspaper. The Bajaur operation has "created a surrender-or-die situation for the militants and a now-or-never moment for the country's security forces."

The military is fighting a determined force in Bajaur. US military and intelligence sources have long told The Long War Journal the Taliban and their allies have organized into military formations capable of fighting at the battalion and in some cases the brigade level. Pakistani officials have confirmed this with the latest fighting in Bajaur.

The Taliban "have good weaponry and a better communication system (than ours)," a senior Pakistani official told Dawn. "Even the sniper rifles they use are better than some of ours. Their tactics are mind-boggling and they have defenses that would take us days to build. It does not look as though we are fighting a rag-tag militia; they are fighting like an organized force."

While the operations in Swat and Bajaur have helped tie down the Taliban in Pakistan, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal, but until the Pakistani military is able to conduct concurrent operations throughout the entire Northwest Frontier Province, any success will be limited. “If the Pakistanis fight this operation piecemeal, it will change little,” a US military officer said.

Neighboring agencies and districts serve as safe haves and vital elements of the logistical chain for Taliban operations against Pakistani forces while the fighting is ongoing. The Taliban have continually shown the capacity to regroup in neighboring tribal agencies and districts after bleeding and demoralizing Pakistan forces and then withdrawing. The Pakistan government and military's propensity to sign "peace agreements" only provides the time and space needed for the Taliban to regroup.

In order for the government to defeat the Taliban, military operations will need to be carried out concurrently in the tribal areas and the greater Northwest Frontier Province. Current operations are focused on Swat and Bajaur, but the Taliban remains strong in the neighboring agencies and districts of Dir, Mohmand, Malakand, Buner, Shangla, Kohistan, and Dir. North and South Waziristan and the southern agencies and districts serve as the Taliban's strategic reserve.

It is unclear at this time if the Pakistani military has the capacity or will to fight throughout the entire northwest, a senior US military officer told The Long War Journal. Pakistan said it has deployed moor than 100,000 troops to the region, but these troops have had little effect on the security situation. The Pakistani military will be hesitant to redeploy more forces from the eastern border with India to increase the reserves needed to fight the Taliban throughout the province.

And, as always, the morale and will of the Pakistani military and intelligence services remains a serious question mark. Elements of the Inter-Service Intelligence are known to openly support the Taliban and al Qaeda, and portions of the military are either sympathetic to the Taliban or unwilling to fight their countrymen.

While the tough talk against the Taliban and al Qaeda is welcomed in Washington and Western capitals, US military and intelligence officials worry we will see more of the same from Pakistan: ineffective, uncoordinated operations that do little to put a real dent in al Qaeda and the Taliban’s capabilities. Past operations against the Taliban have only proven inneffective.

“The Pakistani government can say what it likes, but unless the Army is willing and capable of fighting an extended battle, it won’t amount for much,” a senior US military intelligence official said. “The wildcard is Pakistan’s military.”

A look at the state of the Taliban and Pakistani military operations over the past year in the tribal areas and Northwest Frontier Province:

Map of the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Hangu is the latest district to fall under Taliban control. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts; purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.

Bajaur

The most intensive fighting in Pakistan is occurring in the tribal agency of Bajaur. The fighting began in early August, when Pakistani forces launched an attack to dislodge the Taliban from strongholds throughout the agency.

The military has made little progress in the operation. A Frontier Corps convoy was ambushed and routed in the Loisam region. The military later claimed it took control of Loisam and other areas, but heavy fighting is ongoing throughout the agency. Khar, the administrative seat of Bajaur, is still contested.

The Pakistani government claimed the operation in Bajaur is targeting "foreign militants, including Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs" and not Pakistani tribesmen or Taliban forces, Daily Times reported. But the military has since claimed more than 700 Taliban fighters have been killed during the fighting.

Leaders from the Salarzai and Utmankhel tribes have formed Lashkars, or tribal armies, to fight the Taliban and have had limited success. But the powerful Mamond tribe is still siding with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Bajaur is a stronghold of Faqir Mohammed, the leader of a radical Taliban group. The agency also serves as al Qaeda's command and control center for attacks in northeastern Afghanistan.

Pakistan intelligence sources claimed Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, and Faqir were killed in strikes in Bajaur. But both Yazid and Faqir have since appeared on videotape.

Swat

The military began operations to clear the Taliban in Swat in November 2007, and are still fighting tough battles in the settled district. The operation began after Mullah Fazlullah, the local Taliban leader, took over the region. The military claimed it would clear the Taliban from Swat by mid-December 2007.

After a half a year of brutal fighting, the government negotiated a peace accord with Fazlullah in May 2008. Fighting restarted in July 2008. The government said the operation would be completed in three months. The time has nearly expired.

The Taliban attack government forces in Swat on a daily basis. Yesterday, a suicide bomber killed nine soldiers. Taliban fighters bombed a power station the day prior. The attack knocked out electricity throughout much of the region.

Swat was once Pakistan's vacation paradise, rich with golf courses, hiking trails, a ski resort, and archeological sites. The fighting has destroyed Swat's tourist industry.

Kohat & Aurakzai

The military and the Taliban have fought pitched battles in the settled district of Kohat and the Aurakzai tribal agency since the beginning of this year. The Taliban took control of the Kohat Tunnel in the winter and had rampaged in the city of Darra Adam Khel.

The Taliban hijacked a military convoy in Darra Adam Khel and seized weapons destined for the military operation in South Waziristan in late January. Clashes ensued as the Pakistani military moved forces into the region to battle the Taliban, but the military backed down and quickly formed a “peace jirga” to negotiate with the Taliban.

The Taliban responded by taking control of the strategic Kohat Tunnel. The Taliban kidnapped more than 50 paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps during the fighting at the Kohat Tunnel. Several soldiers and paramilitaries were beheaded and mutilated. The government retook the Kohat Tunnel after days of fierce fighting, but not before the Taliban damaged the tunnel during an attempt to destroy it.

On March 2, the Taliban conducted a suicide bombing on a tribal jirga being held in the town of Zargoan in Kohat. More than 40 Pakistanis were killed and 40 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his vest in the middle of the crowd as they exited the meeting. The tribal elders were discussing ways to drive the Taliban from the region. The tribes dropped the issue after the attack.

The Kohat Tunnel and the Indus Highway have been closed since Aug. 28 after the Taliban conducted a complex suicide attack on military installation close to the Kohat Tunnel. The Taliban nearly overran the base. The tunnel and highway serve as a vital link between Peshawar and the southern tribal agencies and districts.

The military claimed it killed 50 Taliban fighters in Darra Adam Khel over the past two days, and has fully retaken control of the Kohat Tunnel and Indus Highway.

Mohmand

The Mohmand tribal agency has been relatively quiet since the provincial government cut a peace deal with local Taliban leader Omar Khalid. The Taliban immediately established a parallel government and has continued to support Taliban operations in Kurram, Bajaur, and in Afghanistan.

In the past Khalid denied any connections to al Qaeda or the Taliban. He has since joined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the umbrella Taliban organization led by Baitullah Mehsud that united movements in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Khalid is the Taliban’s representative for Mohmand agency.

Kurram

Kurram is one of the few areas in Pakistan's northwest where the locals have fought the rise of the Taliban. Kurram has a large Shia population that has long opposed the Taliban. Sectarian fighting in Kurram has been intense the past year, with hundreds on each side killed and thousands wounded during heavy fighting.

The Taliban and al Qaeda have used Kurram as a training ground. Forces are sent to the agency to hone their skills before fighting against the Pakistani military or NATO forces in Afghanistan, a several US intelligence sources told The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani military has refused to intervene in the fighting in Kurram despite pleas from the local population.

Peshawar

The Taliban have been threatening to overrun Peshawar, the provincial capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, since late last year. The Taliban control or have a strong presence in the neighboring tribal agencies and settled districts, nearly enclosing Peshawar in a vice.

The Taliban began heavily attacking police and Frontier Corps outposts surrounding the city during the spring, and also began conducting several high-profile suicide and military attacks inside the city proper.

The military upped security and turned the city into a virtual fortress. An operation was launched in Khyber in what was supposed to be an effort to relieve pressure on the city. But the Taliban have continued to press in Peshawar by issuing night letters, threatening businesses, conducting assassinations and bombings, and attacking security forces.

Yesterday, Taliban fighters kidnapped Afghanistan's ambassador-designate to Pakistan in the city of Peshawar. Taliban fighters ambushed the ambassador's car, killing the driver. Today, the Taliban nearly kidnapped Afghanistan's commercial consular official in Peshawar. In August, the Taliban ambushed a car carrying the senior US diplomat in Peshawar. The attack came close to killing the diplomat.

Khyber

The Pakistani military launched an operation to clear Khyber of Taliban elements and relieve pressure on Peshawar in early July. The military said it was directly targeting the local extremist groups of Ansar-ul-Islam, Lashkar-e-Islam, and the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice. The groups were outlawed by the government after a request from the commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

But the operation yielded little success in capturing senior leaders of the Taliban-linked groups. The military even admitted the operation was a show of force only. Haji Namdar, the leader of the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice, was even seen riding with the Frontier Corps to ensure his fighters did not clash with Pakistani forces.

The military signed a peace agreement with Mangal Bagh, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Islam just 11 days after the operation began. All of the 93 supposed Taliban fighters detained in Khyber were later released from custody.

Khyber is now largely under the control of Ansar-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Islam. The military maintains a heavy presence to keep a supply line open for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

North Waziristan

The military has been largely inactive in North Waziristan, but the Taliban forces under the command of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Hafiz Gul Bahadar have been active in attacking Pakistani forces of late. The Pakistani military has been unwilling to operate in the region after suffering a strike of major defeats in the region over the past several years.

The Haqqani Network began attacking military forces after the US bombed a compound run by the Haqqani Family outside of Miramshah earlier this month. The military has responded by launching limited artillery and air strikes against attacking Taliban forces.

North Waziristan has been under effective Taliban control since September of 2006, when the government signed a peace agreement with Taliban leaders. North Waziristan serves as a launch pad for attacks into eastern Afghanistan as well as a hideout for senior and mid-level al Qaeda leaders.

The US has launched multiple strikes in North Waziristan this year in an effort to take down al Qaeda and the Haqqani networks. One of the strikes killed Abu Laith al Libi, al Qaeda's senior commander in Afghanistan, in a compound in Haqqani's tribal areas.

South Waziristan

South Waziristan remains under the firm control of Taliban commanders Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Nazir. Baitullah's forces dealt the Pakistani military heavy defeats in January of this year after overrunning several forts and conducting strong defenses of their tribal areas.

The military honored a cease-fire after a month of heavy fighting in January, and began abandoning forts and checkpoints in the agency later in the year after admitting the supply lines in the region were insecure. The government and military have been reluctant to antagonize the Taliban in South Waziristan, despite the fact that it accuses Baitullah of conducting the most deadly suicide attacks in Pakistan over the past several years.

Hangu, Bannu, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Dir, Malakand, Shangla, Mardan, Chitral, Buner, and Kohistan

The Taliban maintain a strong presence in these settled districts, but rarely conduct military operations there. Some of the largest suicide attacks in Pakistan over the past several years have occurred in these districts. The Taliban appear to be keeping the local populations in line while striking at government targets in the region.

Tribes in Buner and Dir have recently said they would oppose the Taliban and are working to eject them. The Taliban have responded by conducting attacks to cower the tribes. A suicide attack at a mosque in Dir killed 25 and wounded more than 50. Tribal fighters in Dir recently killed three Taliban suicide bombers after they attempted to take over a school packed with 300 children.

But the tribal also oppose the presence of Pakistani security forces. The Taliban have responded violently to such tribal opposition in the past. Without the help of the Pakistani security forces the tribes have little hope of surviving a concerted attack.  Tuesday, September 23, 2008

www.longwarjournal.org




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